With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it brings to mind the questions and comments I often experience about working with, or in my case, having a business with my partner, and it provides an opportunity to think about some of the key communication skills required to work closely with any colleague, let alone someone who is also a wife, husband or partner.
Back to those questions and comments… Quite clearly they depend upon personal experience and result in some people saying “you’re so lucky to work with your partner and get to spend all that time together, working on the same goals”. Others voice a completely opposing opinion with questions like “Oh my goodness, how do you manage to spend all that time together without killing each other!”. A very common question is “So, what do you talk about in the evenings?” or “I bet your conversions over dinner are pretty dull!”
A more relevant and valuable question we both get asked is “How do you manage to leave work issues behind at the end of the day and successfully separate work life and issues from home life?” In many ways, it’s the over-used ‘work-life balance’ question but with some major differences. It seems that some relationships thrive on the time spent apart, focusing on different things, whilst others thrive on the time spent together.
My own experiences of working with my partner have led me to the following conclusions about how to make it work. You might take these as my tops tips:
- Recognising and working to strengths
- Separating work from home
- Regular catch-ups and reviews
- Sharing and supporting
Part of the brand and part of the strength of the business is the partnership itself, so it should be rejoiced, exploited, maximised and developed. It can’t be about two separate people and why should it be. It’s more about “the sum of the total being greater than it’s parts” so achieving unity is key to success. Whatever we discuss privately, we represent ourselves and the business with absolute unity whether to our staff, our clients or any other stakeholders we engage with.
Recognising and working to strengths
Having talked about unity, we also have to accept that we have different talents and strengths, so we must be honest about what they are and play to them. This presents a great opportunity to be more fully rounded as business leaders – for one partner to fill the gaps of the other, for one partner to defer to the other where they will be better placed to resolve an issue or exploit an opportunity. It mustn’t become wrong to accept a weakness on a given area and defer to where the strength lies.
Separating work from home
Possibly the most difficult of all is the ability to leave things in the workplace, no matter how stressful – to switch off work mode and switch on home mode or family mode or maybe even fun mode! Partners have to agree how this is going work for them. Ultimately, they need to agree to challenge one-another when conversation turns to work issues during home time. We have found that we need to put regular catch-up slots in the calendar so we can always refer to the next catch-up slot as the opportunity to discuss and move forward.
Regular catch-ups and reviews
As mentioned above, regular and scheduled catch-up slots in the calendar ensure that there are plenty of opportunities to discuss issues and move opportunities forward. Catch-ups don’t need to be formal as such – the formality comes from sticking to them and using them well. Agendas are valuable to drive efficiency but time should also be given to caring, sharing and supporting one-another in developing that ‘unity’ we mentioned earlier.
Sharing and supporting
There is a terrible disease which creeps into businesses without people realising, and when the realisation occurs, the journey back to good health is often long and damaging. It’s the ‘silo’ disease and when people play to their strengths or agree a division of responsibilities, they are inviting the disease into the business unless the dangers are recognised and handled with care. partners in business need to be particularly aware of the dangers and make sure that part of their communication and regular catch-up meetings includes discussing and agreeing how they are sharing what they are doing to make sure they are working towards the common goal and completing one-another. they must also talk about how they can support one-another and support each other. Overlap is fine. Interdependency is fine. In fact, almost anything is fine as long as it doesn’t result in boundaries, borders and silo’s.
How are you making it work?
Sehrish Raza – Xceeda Group