Have you ever been optimistic about a budding partnership with a person or organization, only to find yourself bitterly disappointed when the partnership broke down or became too toxic to continue?
The trouble with partnerships is they can easily transition from productive, enjoyable, and profitable ventures into toxic, psychologically draining, and financially costly nightmares for you and your business!
I’m sure that you’ve experienced some kind of toxic partnership in your life, whether in a business venture, working with peers, or in a romantic relationship. Here are a few signs of a toxic relationship that you might recognise:
· Inequality – putting in more time/effort/quality/resource without additional rewards.
· Lack of listening – not feeling heard and great ideas going to waste
· Disrespect – oblivious insensitivity or intentional neglect/insult
· Deception – the intentional omission of information or barefaced lies
· Avoiding conflict – painfully keeping the peace leading to resentment
· Passive aggression – active resistance or hostility without direct cause
So whether you’re bringing a business partner into your start-up ‘baby’, asking a friend to help you organize an event, or looking for the crucial fourth singer with the bad-boy image for your boy band, there are some strategies you will need to use to ensure you avoid a dreaded toxic partnership! Here they are:
1. Grow your own self-awareness
Partnerships by their nature involve more than one party, both having an effect on each other, whether they realise it or not. It can be hard to admit sometimes that we have contributed to a toxic situation (even if through our initial inaction – avoiding conflict). We must examine our own behaviours and see things from other angles, before confirming the narrative that ‘they are wrong’ and ‘we are right’.
Action Tip: Get a coach or speak with someone who doesn’t agree with everything you say/do.
2. Ensure transparent and positive communication
Communication is key in any relationship. With a partnership, you should be looking for ways to easily share information with each other. Whether this is via project management software, weekly coffee meets, or Zoom calls, ensure there is transparency on progress.
Action Tip: Schedule regular updates or checkpoints and go out of your way to recognise your partner’s positive contributions.
3. Seek out partners who share similar values
Values are the things most important to us, or to our business. When your Values are questions, trodden on, or ignored it hurts the most. Wherever possible, you should be seeking to work with and surround yourself with people who share similar Values to you.
Action Tip: Know your personal and business Values so you can live by them (visit www.pathboss.com and take my FREE Values survey)
4. Clarify roles and responsibilities
Regardless of how formal or informal your partnership is, agreeing up-front who will be doing what and to what end is critical to avoid toxic behaviours later on. Even if you’re organizing a birthday party you need to know who is buying the cake and who is going to hire the magician.
Action Tip: Always ensure roles and responsibilities are written down at the start of a partnership (even if it’s just in a group WhatsApp chat).
5. Ensure there is accountability
Accountability will vary drastically according to the type of partnership in play. In more formal, long-term partnerships there might be financial consequences for underperformance. In an informal, friendship-based partnership the minimum you should expect is an apology and a will to improve. Avoiding difficult conversations here unleashes all kinds of potential for toxic behaviours.
Action Tip: Ensure any failure to meet the agreed standards is acknowledged.
6. Earn each other’s trust
When partnerships are formed, trust is often assumed. But the truth is that trust is very fragile in the early stages of any relationship. Any evidence we see naturally accounts for a large percentage of what we know about the other person/business. Agree to ‘overshare’ at the start of a partnership to ensure everyone is seeing things the same way.
Action Tip: In the early stages of a partnership, agree to actively share progress and results.
So go ahead and find the right partners in business, and be the right partner for others. As the African proverb says:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”