You’re independent minded, clever, creative and perhaps even hard-working and diligent. You can of course do it on your own.
Yet we all – or at least 99% of us – depend on someone to carry on, to work along with, think through problems, be told by what we’re doing wrong professionally or personally, and just kept sane because of.
Here’s some basics from a of keeping a healthy relationship going – irrespective of who it is with – your spouse who’s bearing the brunt of your absence and mood swings, your co-founder who’s sharing the load, picking up slack and playing the ideal foil, or even a friend who is an honest sounding board in those moments that you are lost, or even that employee who takes on more than the job description needs them to, and is almost your right hand.
First things first – take time out to acknowledge them. You may argue, differ, disagree, but taking cognizance and thanking them for the role they play both in your life and towards the goals you have is not just important, but the right thing to do. Regularly. People like this, and this is often more important than any other reward you can give them.
It might not come naturally to you – but try not being shy about this one.
Pretty much every relationship – business or personal – works as long as there is trust, of course. But the folks who you depend on for sharing responsibilities, dilemmas and anxieties with need a much much deeper shared trust than usual. You should expect being questioned, criticized and even taken down a peg or two – and you can handle this constructively only when there’s an implicit assumption about the right motivations driving the other person, and a belief that the other has the faith about these. Even in your most heated or weakest moments, never bring those fundamentals into question. You can question methods, efficiency, diligence – but question the base motivations an individual has and the relationship suffers immediately.
The ability to have a fierce debate completely openly – without mincing words – and come to a common understanding and way forward is extremely critical amongst people who are bringing a baby up together – whether it’s a real one or a startup.
Whether you’re discussing strategy or schools, pointing out individual shortcomings or two different priorities that clash, reiterating – even vocally, but at least to yourself – why you’re having the discussion and what you want as an outcome helps stay focused on the way forward. Of course, this assumes you do see a positive future together despite seemingly irreconcilable differences right now, else this whole article is moot 🙂
Sharing a Vision
For a while I was formally helping product teams with product strategy; it was amazing how many key stakeholders saw different parts of the elephant and imagined their own products after years of working together!
For founders, for spouses and close business partners alike, it’s important to share a vision. Not just merely understand each others’ motivations and drivers, but actually share more or less the same vision – in terms of what they’re working towards, what they want out of life or the product, what is the level of ambition they’re together comfortable with. If this is missing, it’ll show up in multiple places and times, especially in crunch mode or when the time to pick a direction when you are at crossroads comes.
Relationships need work – we all know that. Yet amidst the daily battles and higher, more immediate priorities, we forget to spend time and energy on those. Here’s hoping that these few thoughts derived from personal experiences help you and those who work and live with you at least a wee bit.
Have a great trip!