Identifying Great Partners

Identifying Great Partners

Over the last year or so there’s a quote I keep seeing repeated

If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.

I can blame one person for that, but I’m not going to do that today.

Partnerships help drive growth when you get brilliant and driven people working toward the same goal. I’ve seen a lot of partnerships do well and I’ve seen a ton more fizzle out into nothing…

How do you know what partnerships make sense for you? Sure, it all starts with an idea. But I think we need to step back even before getting to that great idea.

What makes a good partnership?

A partnership is built on trust and mutual respect of each others’ talents and feelings at a core-level. But you knew that already. Right, but I’ve still seen things fall apart even with a path paved of best intentions. So what gives?

A good partner owns their mistakes and takes action. It’s less about “who’s at fault” and more “let’s get this done.”

Partnerships that endure are also ones that can be flexible. Meaning you won’t always agree with your partner. There will always be back and forth. I’ve seen many partnerships breakdown when disagreements happen.

I believe that conflict, or at least disagreements, are essential to growth. You can’t be polite and swallow your pride, especially if you have a valid point to make. Your collective work suffers from the lack of ideas and iteration. Sometimes people aren’t great at communication. I know, it’s crazy. Right? I had a disagreement with my partner Chris Tolar recently. We had specific details regarding a project we’re working on that both disagreed about. I got frustrated. I didn’t take all my toys and go home mind you, but I did walk away and gave the disagreement some time to breathe.

I came back to it later when Chris reached out and said, “Look, I ended up doing some research and found there were some points where you were right and I was not. However, there’s a few key points that we need to pay attention to that you don’t think we should…” While, for me, it’s not important to be “right” all the time, I appreciated the effort that Chris took to go back and review things. He was much calmer than I was. The point of the story is that you shouldn’t fuck with me on an empty stomach but more importantly that it’s okay to walk away from a disagreement and reconvene later. But I have to highlight that Chris did the “big thing” there and that’s something I appreciate. It’s one of those “intangibles” you can’t always put your finger on.

Partnerships don’t wilt under pressure and they shouldn’t run from an argument. One of the things I learn from my partnership with Chris is that our disagreements do provide a path to growth both personally and professionally.

From our disagreement we built something that is much better than either of us envisioned.

Partnerships should also empower stakeholders.

That sounds generic, doesn’t it? What I mean there is that we, or I, can become control freaks. I’d like to think I’m not, but I’ve caught myself doing that more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve learned a few things over the last couple of years. One is that you have to trust people to succeed and allow them to fail as well. Failure fosters growth, too, you know.

As one of the organizers of a tech event in Los Angeles I’ve learned that you can’t manage all details or people; you just have to trust that the people you’ve chosen to help you out make good on doing what they came to do. Needless to say, many hands make light work.

One of the sites I manage is a dating and lifestyle blog. I recently took on a managing editor. She’s amazing at what she does. I’ve been very slow to relinquish control of key aspects of the site, such as the Twitter account (which I only gave access to recently). As I let go of each key point, I see that my partner-in-blogging has stepped up. She handles inquiries, posts to Twitter and Facebook and I can see the results. Traffic is up, social engagement is up; overall site quality is up. Proof is in the pudding. Partners must be empowered to affect positive change.

At the end of the day, my belief is that a good partner is something who will help you grow and fight with you when it needs to happen but also a good partnership is about trust and the ability to let go of your comfort zone and give up some control.

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