It’s not always a LOVE triangle
Two is company. Three’s a crowd.
When they were little, my twin daughters would often want to have a single friend over to play with the two of them. Yikes. Instant triangle.
Sometimes it worked. Certain friends were naturally adept at including everyone’s ideas, and making each of my daughters feel valued and respected.
Sometimes it was rough. The friend would connect more easily with one sister, and those two would excitedly run off to play together, leaving my other daughter wondering what had happened and why her ideas weren’t good enough.
Triangles aren’t just for the elementary school crowd. They happen all the time to adults as well.
In business partnerships, triangles happen suddenly and without warning. The partnership is in sync, working well together and making decisions easily. Then a third person (a new employee, a family member, a key stakeholder) joins the conversation and shifts the balance. The new person aligns easily with one partner, but not the other. Suddenly the first partner has additional support for ideas and decisions. The second partner feels sidelined and angry, but isn’t even sure what happened.
Take my client, Jack.
Jack is part of a two-person management team responsible for multiple retail sites. Last week, during a three way meeting with his boss, Jack made a recommendation to his boss in front of his colleague. His boss had concerns about the recommendation. That was ok – he knew that was a possibility.
Then his colleague offered her opinion on the recommendation. Jack was interested in her perspective – she had skills and knowledge from a previous job that might be useful.
Then she agreed with the boss.
Suddenly Jack felt disoriented. His colleague’s agreement with his boss made him question what he was missing, and left him feeling at risk in ways that surprised him.
Left unchecked, this dynamic could create distrust and distance within this two-person management team. Since their results depend on their ability to be interdependent, trust and alignment are critical.
Jack knew this dynamic was likely to re-appear, especially in light of key decisions that were coming. He decided it was time for an alignment conversation with his co-manager.
With business partnerships, we don’t always get to choose who impacts our partnership. Yet we can be proactive in anticipating how to respond when one of us senses the “odd one out” dynamic at play.
The next time you notice this dynamic with someone with whom you are partnering, try this:
Go up to 30,000 feet (in your head, of course) and look down at the triangle. Ask yourself:
- What do I expect from my partner in this situation?
- What was my partner’s intention?
- What was my intention?
- What agreements would help our partnership handle this type of situation more successfully in the future?
- What this situation exceptional, or part of a larger pattern?
If you notice that there is a pattern forming that regularly leaves one partner sidelined, it is time to have a direct conversation. If you’ve been avoiding this conversation for awhile, reach me here to schedule a partnership strategy call.