Making Organizations Awesome

Leadership lessons from a motivational listener

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You need a conspiracy

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You want to fix something, change something, build something.

Maybe you’re in a big organization that you want to change, or about to launch your own startup. Either way you have a passion to Make Something Big Happen.

Much advice is directed at you as an individual – how to influence management, how to get venture capital, how to avoid venture capital, how to sell the benefits of your idea, etc. All of that advice may be great. But in my twenty years of watching and making things happen, there is one constant in every success I’ve observed.

At some point, if you’re going to reach scale, you need a partner.

Why is having a partner so crucial?

  1. To keep your eyes on the prize. If what you are doing is truly new and extraordinary, you will face distraction and discouragement on your way to victory. Your co-conspirator will remind you why the Big Idea is so important. She will keep you focused when you’re distracted and motivated when your frustrated. And in doing the same for her, you’ll feed your own passion and commitment.
  2. To save you from your blindspots. As brilliant and amazing as you are, you have blind spots. You’re great at enthusiasm but not the best at follow-up.  You’re fantastic at getting things done but not the best at selling the idea. We all have blindspots, but by definition it’s hard for us to see them in action. Your partner can tell you when to change your style or bring in a different skillset so that you get where you want to go.
  3. To help you decide when to hold tight, & when to let go. The trickiest dilemma in making change is knowing when to be uncompromising and when to be flexible. Is it better to push back the ship date to get that one extra feature in? Should you keep a key creative happy by letting go of that one detail that maybe no one else will notice? Or should you do the opposite? A good partner, if they are not a carbon copy of you, will help you thrash these choices out and learn as you go. Most of us have a general tendency to be either too insistent or too easy-going – try to find a partner with the opposite tendency to yours.

What’s your experience? Are you working on your current project(s) with or without a partner, and how is it going?

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Anastasia

    I’ve worked with partners for decades.

    Adapted a novel for the screen with its novelist. Created an anthology with a fellow editor.

    Everything you mention above is true, and working with the right person makes work a true joy.

    One thing I enjoyed most about partnership was energy that bounced off the work as we passed it back and forth, reinspiring us, and giving us fresh motivation to take it further. Plenty of times if I had been on my own I would have taken it to a point, and let it rest. With a partner there’s no resting period for the work even if there is for you.

    However I’ve also gained most of these same benefits from working with a mentor, a coach, workshops, and mastermind buddies (with varying degrees of dedication and comprehension).

  • eccemarco

    Hi there! thanks for the follow on twitter. On this post, one consideration I feel like chipping in with: I remember a seminar with great facilitators (your colleague Ana was there with me, in Denmark) and one of the hosts shared a story of a conflict. There was a tension between a team of hosts and their client. One of the hosts got extremely frustrated and had to rely on their partners to hold his emotions. That really spoke to the essence of working in teams where these emotions can be held and channeled in a safe way.
    Nice blog! Cheers,

  • ajpape

    Marco – Great illustration, thank you.

    Very happy that twitter connected us via Ana, or I should really say that Ana connected us via Twitter!

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