Time Does Not Heal Partnership Wounds Unless…
There is Treatment First
Time doesn’t make things better when there is a partnership dispute. In fact, even a minor disagreement will usually evolve into a more serious difference if the parties all time to pass without dealing with the issue at hand. Unlike personal relationships, business partnerships don’t have the emotional investment. I’ve never heard someone say that they ‘love’ their business partner. Yes, there are different kinds of love, but I think you get my point.
The first thing to get straight in your mind is what constitutes a partnership dispute. Most of us are reluctant to call a disagreement with our business partner a “dispute”. I accept that. But if there is tension around any decision, treat it like a dispute. By that I mean you must treat the difference seriously and you must act quickly. Don’t waste time trying to push down the difference of opinion as “not really a big deal”. That will often cause the little difference to ferment into a bigger deal. Treat your differences as important and deal with them. There is no shame in dealing with an issue before it gets to be serious.
The second thing I recommend doing is to get clear on your position. What do you want from the situation? Rank what you can and cannot accept. Write them down so that you can be clear when having discussions with your partner. Encourage your partner to do the same. Arguments erupt when people sit down to talk without being clear with their position. Their partner makes a statement like, “I think it fair if we…” and trouble starts. When parties sit down to talk with clear talking-points, emotions can be deducted and the focus can be placed on the issues.
Once you have your position outlined and ranked, then you can start discussions. Hold on to your most important objectives and compromise on the less important details. Following this process you will not lose sight of those important points that brought you to the table in the first place. Too often, negotiations go sideways over a minor issue. That little thing can keep both people from getting what they want. If clear on the big items, when little ones pop up, they won’t throw you off.
And that brings me back to the point. Don’t delay talking about an issue for any reason. If you feel even the slightest stress, that’s a signal that it’s time to act. Having your goals will make reaching an agreement far easier.
Finally, and this might seem self-serving, but I must; use an outside party to moderate your discussion. If it feels tense, having an outside party look for nasty little personal shots or over-reaching demands, can keep things on track all the way to conclusion. An outside party can offer solutions that you and your partner, or partners, haven’t considered.
Chris Reich, TeachU