What does it take to make a successful partnership? According to Chuck Marohn in his post on Strong Towns this morning there are four elements. 1. LIMITED AND QUANTIFIABLE RISK 2. MUTUAL SKIN IN THE GAME 3. A REALISTIC CHANCE FOR A POSITIVE RETURN 4. A PROPORTIONATE SHARE IN THE GAIN
Chuck is referencing public-private partnerships that make our communities stronger. If you have an interest in the public domain, the post is well written and interesting. I am going to approach the four elements of a personal relationship/partnership lens. I am often asked how my beloved and I had managed 42 years together when we were really just kids when we got started. I often say ” to live happily ever after; you need to work hard every day on being in a respectful, reciprocal relationship.” Some days, it is my job to make her smile, and other days she forgives me when I make her frown. We share the best and the worst of our days with each other and I am learning that most of the time, I just need to listen and hear her. Over the years, we have worked out a rhythm for the daily, weekly and annual tasks that need to be accomplished. We share the load unequally on lots of days, but over the course of time, we achieve balance. So what would Marohn’s elements look like in a personal partnership? 1. Limited and quantifiable risks – In every relationship there are risks. If everything is certain and assured, it is probably failing. Communication helps mitigate risks. What is at stake if an agreement misses its mark because I misunderstood, misheard, or misrepresented my understanding, interest, and willingness? Can my partnership withstand multiple risks at the same time? If I promise to spend more time at home but stay at the office late into the evening four days a week, what are the odds that this will be the straw? Is there an easy to use way to ‘calculate’ the liability and risks. According to Bayes Rule, if I am deciding whether to head home at 5 or stop for drinks with some friends I should ask ” Will J be upset?” If I was going to bet that she would be miffed or angry would I wager $1.00 or $100? My intuition would tell me to place a big bet so I should head home and have a drink with her. If we are considering a major decision that has been discussed and debated, we should be able to use Bayes Rule to improve the odds of success and happiness.
Mutual skin in the game – “A true partnership never allows a situation of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose.” I seem to discover one of these easy to say harder to do quotes every day. At its most basic level, I need to elevate my partner’s needs and desires to the same level as mine. To do that I need to investigate what those needs and desires are. Asking awkward questions and listening to uncomfortable disclosure sets the tone for discovery and in the discovery is a possibility that we can both have our needs met, PS – I hate the concept of compromise because I have only seen it presented as a lowest common denominator. If we can work harder and be more transparent, we can find an as yet unimagined solution that serves both parties fully. Skin looks like honesty, communication, and reciprocity. Both parties need to do their share and graciously recognize the efforts and contributions of the other. Partnerships where one constantly serves and one constantly receives are doomed.
A realistic chance of a positive return – According to Statistics Canada, about 38 percent of all marriages taking place in 2004 will have ended in divorce by 2035. I admit that staying married may not be the realistic chance that some are considering and it may, in fact, be a pretty low bar. I naively believe that all partnerships have a realistic chance at the onset and the chance improves as effort, adaptation, and understanding increase.
A proportionate share of the gain – Gain isn’t necessarily financial or anything as easily measured. I believe, and research supports, that we both are and will live better and longer in our strong commitment to each other and in the ways that we make our coexistence work. Gain might be that one of us shovels walks and does laundry or arranges the social calendar and keeps up to date with friends and family. I can gain time to do stuff I love doing when I don’t need to do ironing, painting or home repairs. I need to make sure that my benefit doesn’t exceed the other person’s by too much or that I am feeling used and resentful about doing more than my share. Whether an intimate relationship, friendship or a more formal partnership, both parties need to understand the scope and accountabilities. We need to be open about concerns and listen to anxiety and unease of partners.
Partnerships certainly aren’t easy, and these four elements won’t maintain or repair every situation, but if you begin with caring and communication, you are likely on solid ground.
Make Today Remarkable for a partner,