Reflections on Partnership

The awesome thing about really good partners is that, together, they provide a balance of skills and energy….a complementary, balancing energy.

Complementary”  –  supplying mutual needs or offsetting mutual lacks; completing.

The idea is that there is synergy (more than the sum of the parts) when complementary efforts come together for common purpose.  I take this to mean that the parties (two or more) must take the time to reach a consensus (at least a general agreement, preferably unanimous) of purpose which can be clearly expressed (my preference, in writing).

When a partnership (or one of the partners) is faced w/ a negative opportunity (some people call them problems), that’s when this complementary skill set and the synergy can make the biggest difference.  What’s likely to drag down one of the partners is, hopefully, less likely to draw down the other partner(s)…..which means there is someone still focused on the upside.  That upside partner is going to be better able to add perspective, offer actual solutions or tactics in a forward-seeking direction, than the partner most affected by the negative opportunity.

So how do we reconcile this w/ the fact that most of us love to be around people who are pretty much like ourselves?  That preference makes it ever so much more likely that the partners we choose will not really be bringing complementary energy to the partnership.

Let’s focus on the commerce-based partnerships in our lives:  our employers, co-workers, business partners, vendors, suppliers, financiers, customers, advisors, etc.  And, for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to ask you to think of your family unit as a commerce-based partnership too.  Families are business and commerce too because they earn money, purchase things, create and influence in their worlds, use resources, and even produce some sort of positive/negative energy out into the world.   Now that I think about it, what isn’t a commerce-based partnership??

In order to be really effective, partners should probably have a very clear understanding of their own skills and the skills of each other partner….and their respective vulnerabilities.  This basis should provide are more secure foundation for success=seeking and problem=solving.  I liken it to the need for a skilled tradesman (carpenter, plumber) to be well aware of which tools are in the tool box and when they are best applied.  The more thorough this understanding and the related ability to use them well, the more quickly, automatically, and effectively those tools can be implemented.

Seems like the same is true in partnership; perhaps you’ve experienced it before.  You and your partner are suddenly faced with some negative opportunity and, without even a spoken word or glance, you each take swift and appropriate (probably different, but definitely complementary) actions.  Because you both are so clear about your shared purpose and so clear about your respective skills, you are able to swiftly move forward more powerfully than either of you could alone.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that most of us too often don’t even realize that we are in a partner role and have a partner responsibility, and we don’t also too often don’t notice with whom we have partnered.  Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you move into a new neighborhood.  Well, you’ve just ‘agreed’ to become part of some partnership about which you likely know little or nothing.  Imagine if this new neighborhood was in a whole new country!

Let’s say you just took a new job.  Now you have partnered with a company, with a boss, with co-workers, possibly with shareholders and bankers and lawyers and customers and vendors, most or all of whom you will never meet.

In almost all experiences in life, we come to them with our own (often meager) understanding of who we are and what skills we offer (or withhold)… we show up rather unaware.  And, we show up w/ even less understanding of the other partners – sometimes not even understanding that they are our partners, and most assuredly with little understanding of whether or how our skills are complementary and little or no deep agreement on shared purpose.

Isn’t it amazing that we ever get anything done well??

What got me thinking about this topic is a recent discussion I had w/ someone I consider a dear friend, a business colleague, and a fellow journey-er on the adventure of life.  We share a common interest in the amazing opportunity offered by the direct selling/network marketing industry, but we also commiserated (feel or express sympathy…maybe I should say ‘whined’!) about our mutual frustration of how to ‘lead’ in that environment.  We’ve talked about ‘partnering’ more specifically on a shared venture, but we haven’t taken any formal steps yet.

So, I thought back about that commiserating thing – how we both fed each other by sharing our mutual frustration – how neither one of us recognized our ‘partnering’ responsibility to stand back from this negative opportunity to see if there was some more positive problem solving that could be achieved.

Of course it’s easy to be caught up in the moment, and it is in its own way a shared bonding experience to commiserate.  But as I reflected back on it today I’m struck w/ how, as connected as we feel, we’ve not taken the time to really look at how we are partners and to become clear, gain a consensus, about what we want our ‘partnership’ to do for the energy of the world we live in.  I think if we’d been clearer about that, our discussion would have gone differently.

There’s an underlying theme here that I realize is not quite so obvious:  compassion (sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it).  Our conversation ignored compassion pretty much, and focused rather fruitlessly on our own distress about the agreed-upon negative opportunity.  In other words, we kind of wallowed and agreed that maybe we should just set stronger boundaries or maybe we should just stop trying, and, besides, that it’s just the way others are – not like us who ‘get it’!  It rather makes me chuckle now when I think about it.  In so doing, we neither served each nor served the others – we didn’t even really acknowledge the others as our partners.

So, now that I’ve got my brain (and heart) pointed in this direction, I’m considering some thoughtful applications.  I’m going to try to think more and more in terms of everyone in my life being my partner.  I’m hoping it will make me more conscious and more responsible about how I behave and I’m hoping it will help me know my partners better and be open to the best possible partners finding me.

And here’s the thought for direct sellers/network marketers:  don’t think of your recruiting as a search for customers or ‘downline’…because these are commodities and not partners, they are actually ‘sales’ or ‘sales people’.  Think of yourself as someone who is searching for partners, not just sales or salespeople.  Seek people with whom you can find consensus of shared purpose and who have complementary skills and take the time to understand each other well enough to work as an effective team.  Realize that leadership is one of the skills; it’s not what puts you at the top of the pile.  Leaders need followers and followers need leaders – otherwise neither gets to be in the role they are best suited for.  Don’t take just anyone as a partner on your team, and don’t partner up with everyone who asks you to join.  Take time to find a good match for yourself….and for the other person….and to negotiate your roles, your shared purpose, your systems for working together.

Every person who gets any of your attention in life is a partner in some part of your life journey.  What would the world be like if we all acted as though that partnership was really, really important to our shared success?  The truth is, that’s exactly the way it works – always.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about this topic!

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