Tag: Foundations of relationship

Why we need purpose in our relationship

What are relationships for

How far do you look into the future? (photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by stockimages)


“That business purpose and business mission are so rarely given adequate thought is perhaps the most important cause of business frustration and failure.” -Peter F. Drucker

Very same night after publishing this post, my spouse once again asked me: “What is our fate?”. (We are not native speakers, but talk English to each other.) In the following morning that question made me to add here our glimpse into the future, but in the particular moment I managed to mumble: “How would you imagine it?” I tried and succeed in avoiding the question. I don’t always succeed.

“It’s how we make it.” She answers. “I would like to make it just as normal life.” She continues. The life that we had been living hadn’t been that typical so far. We met in Austria, lived in Czech Republic, Finland and now in Denmark to name one detail.

When most of us were still in business school, mission and vision were fashionable. Today you can see them fading into background, where they are consolidating into one. Purpose. The race for efficiency has hit the statement of company’s future too – cut it down into one word.

Like it was the case with mission and vision, the formulation of purpose usually takes place in the top management of the company. Most importantly the purpose of the company eventually sets the long-term direction of the business. Meaningful purpose is also a tool to motivate employees and increase their commitment into the business. It can be also used as a vehicle for building public image of the company.

Purpose requires farsightedness

Before jumping into the purpose of the relationships, we need to understand the governance system of relationships. Earlier we discussed the organizational structure of relationships that lead us into thinking of relationships constituting chairman of the board, woman, and chief executive office, man.

This time we elaborate into one of the elements behind this division: farsightedness. In relationships the idea of direction setting we base on the assumption of difference in the thinking of men and women.

Without putting much scientific research behind of the key assumption, we could easily state that women – in average at least – have stronger, more sophisticated part of the brain where emotions, and also emotional decisions, take place. The part of the brain in question is called limbic brain.

Generally women are also better to articulate their emotions into words. Those words are produced in the neocortex part of the brain. By articulating their emotions into words women talk about future and create pictures of the shared future. Often they also expect men to describe their perception of the future.

Difference of time span

Men often live like most of the chief executing officers. Reaching out to meet the targets of each month and running quarter. Often men are fine with living day by day.

I can’t provide a lot of research to support the statement about emotional proficiency of women. Instead I can base some of it on the numerous observations of the discussions between men. Stories, where men are left numb with women’s request for response to her expression of feelings are typical source of manly humor. A compassionate story told as a joke might also work as a sign of support when a friend has challenges with at home.

Women have deep foresight of the future of the relationship. In business that’s the duty and task of the board of directors. In the relationship woman acts as a board of directors for strategic direction. After all, depending on the country in question local legislation usually requires a company to have an appointed committee for supervisory role, board of directors, and one for management of daily operations, managing director.

Why is purpose important?

What does a purpose bring to businesses and relationships? Famous author of Innovator’s dilemma Clayton Christensen specifies the components of the purpose. His book How will you measure your life (2012) divides meaningful purpose into three components:

  • Likeness: what you want ultimately to be.
  • Commitment: purpose requires commitment to the likeness.
  • Metrics: Progress towards the likeness should be measurable.

In other words purpose will demonstrate the future of the business or relationship to the participants rather than letting them to find themselves from a coincidental situation.  As it is case with work-life well articulated purpose enhances commitment, but there needs to be commitment to the purpose in the first place.

Clearly defined purpose drives the actions towards the first component, likeness, the picture of the destination. Purpose also sets certain metrics for the business and relationships. Against the purpose members of the organisation or partners can evaluate their own progress.

As relationships are small enterprises the roles of the board of directors and managing director are blurred. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that as a chief operating officer man has an opportunity to influence the purpose setting, but ultimately it’s given. Working towards the purpose will eventually build  up the relationship.

In our relationship we have drawn a dusk picture of our future and purpose of our common journey. In crossroads of our journey we often evaluate how each turn matches the purpose.

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Two misunderstandings about business and dating

Business plan

There are two major misunderstandings about successful businesses and relationships. (Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net /  Boians Cho Joo Young)

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do” –Proverb captured from Sri Lankan tea plantage

There are a few common misunderstandings about the fundamentals of entering into relationships and developing successful businesses. We need to unlearn from several concepts taught in business schools all over the world. Before launching a new venture people are taught to prepare detailed business plans, evaluate risks and estimate revenues.

Careful planning limits action

Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras prove this to be somewhat wrong. Even the brightest idea, carefully described in a business plan, will remain as an idea without execution. Great businesses and the most enduring companies have most often been built on mediocre ideas and pure experimenting. According to extensive research and the book Built to last, first published in 1994, many of the most known American corporations weren’t established on the basis of breakthrough ideas, products or services.

Instead, visionary companies, as Collins and Porras call them, such as P&G, Hewlett&Packard and 3M found their way to success through trial and error. Hewlett&Packard, to name just one, was founded without specific idea of the business of the company. Founders weren’t either certain which products they would make. Of course they did have some ideas, but many of the initial experiments turned out to be failures. Two founders primarily sought to be self-employed and establish their own business.

In Built to last Collins and Porras conclude that it’s a bad idea to wait for a superb idea to appear.That’s how you should feel about approaching a girl, making an unforgettable engagement or just a giving nice gift to your significant other. Have you ever wondered how a regular guy strolls hand in hand in the street with gorgeous woman? How has he got there?

It’s about our misconceptions. In a perspective of relationships, whether they were business or personal, one needs to bear in mind that trying and experimenting is the key forward. If you don’t utilize your chance you won’t ever find out how it would have turned out.

In business school I had a classmate who had a goal to talk to one previously unknown (beautiful) girl per day. Eventually he succeeded to find a girl who was nice too. Unfortunately nobody documented how many days it took. In business sales work follows the same logic. You can enhance your sales work and quality of your leads. But the more sales calls you make the more sales you create. From here we can make a transition to another common misunderstanding.

Charisma is overrated

Second common misunderstanding among want-to-be-entrepreneurs is that one should be a charismatic leader to establish a highly successful company. Collins and Porras prove this also to be a major misconception. To run a business effectively is not required to be an exceptional leader.

For sure CEOs of visionary companies are highly skilled leaders and businessmen in most aspects, but in visionary companies the business is not dependent on the top leader. The leaders develop their company in such a manner that the organizational culture, strategy and systems keep the wheels turning whoever would lead the company. One of the main tasks of the leader is to crystallize the purpose of the company.

This fact provides us support to the fundamentals of building a strong relationships. It’s more about hard work and understanding the dynamics of the relationship than being a perfect person and partner. To understand how and what to work for we need to first understand why relationships exist.

Remain humble – word of caution

The word of caution is about a phenomenon of positive illusion. The illusion is strongly psychological. It creates tendency to see us performing in daily tasks better or more than our peers. Most of the people think think that they are better drivers than others. Statistically that’s impossible. In our profession we often evaluate ourselves possessing better leadership skills than others.

When your spouse tells you that you don’t do any household work, you usually think you contribute a lot. Even if women tend to use such words as never, ever and at all, it’s probably a good time for serious reflection. In relationships it’s dangerous to benchmark yourself to other husbands or wives. Watching the big bunch of reality TV-shows is not going to help either. Stories about celebrity couples living beyond normal life are poor benchmarks.

Again, if you aren’t the most charismatic, borrowing the words of Collins and Porras, husband –  don’t let it bring you down. Letting go of overly positive thinking is good healthy steps to take. Just keep in mind that one does not need to be a superhero and success does not require greatest idea nor a plan. That’s proved by business practice of several great enterprises. The second piece of evidence is me and our relationship, which also started as a result of not that great idea.

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3 reasons why relationships exist

Purpose of relationships

Relationships build on three basic foundations.

“If you don’t know why, you can’t know how” – Simon Sinek, author of business bestseller Start with why, 2009.

Do you have a job description?

Traditional household job descriptions are transforming rapidly. More men consider cooking as their hobby as it not that long time ago used to be somewhat an obligation or even a duty of women. Changing the bulb or lawn mowing might remain chore of men. Although I have heard a woman telling how she likes cutting the grass on the backyard in the sunshine. Nevertheless you can hardly do it in the rain. Responsibilities and tasks of everyday life are traditionally shared, but very often debated about.

Fairly recent study by University of Washington even goes quite far with the results about what happens where the household work is divided equally between man and woman. Their results claim that sexual activity in equal circumstances is reduced.

Many would question the methods and validity of the study, but the results and the conclusions are intriguing. The authors of the study do not wish to jolt the equilibrium and alert wishful men about unhappy marital life, if the chores at home end up one-sidedly divided. To understand the meaning and foundation of the relationship, it might be useful to look how does a daily life look like.

While editing this text, I am sitting at the writing desk and simultaneously downloading holiday pictures to a memory stick. Meanwhile my spouse is preparing us a dinner. After the tasty meal I usually fill the dishwasher and clear out the kitchen. You know the story. These duties have developed over time.  Neither one of us is unaware what to do, I might forget a step or another in the process, tough. But I will be reminded.

To avoid quarrels about the roles I have spoken about our job descriptions with my partner. Literally. First I made up this concept and topic as a small joke, but it evolved into a serious discussion. Eventually it has reduced pressure, when both are aware what is expected in the household.

What kind of rationale do the roles in the relationships have? Do these foundations provide insight to why relationships are formed? To maneuver in often turbulent relationships, whether in business partnerships or in marriage, one needs to know which factors hold the relationship together. What are the driving forces behind relationships?

In their brick-thick textbook Strategic Marketing (2003) David Cravens and Nigel Piercy present a fundamental model of the foundation of every partnership. The foundation consists of three elements: opportunity to create additional value, gaps in resources and capabilities and turbulence and diversity of environment. They determine the emergence and strength of every partnership.

Relationship has to add value

One of the most fundamental reason for a partnership is the opportunity to create additional value. In the very end it’s all about  giving more than taking away. The business thinking is often neglecting partnerships as a way to create additional value. Through partnerships businesses can enter new markets, develop their market position or reduce cost base. Typically companies enter new markets for example by joint ventures or distribution partnerships.

For instance, by entering into a relationship man and woman can access reduced costs by consolidating living expenses. Men can enter a new market position by jumping out from a bachelor era to a family life. A position which women often look forward to. In private life marketplace around individuals is changing.

In late twenties and early thirties one can easily notice the increased amount of marriage and baby photos in Facebook. You or your friends with children meet other people in the same state of life. They have got similar stories to share and same problems to solve. By enabling adaptation to changed market conditions the relationship creates value by enjoyable social life.

Relationships support and complement

A partnership has a solid foundation when the partners have supporting and complementing functions and capabilities. This foundation is clear when we look at, for instance, the relationship between a manufacturer and a distributor. Product development and production are key business functions of the manufacturer. Distributor on the other hand has the logistic and sales capabilities that support manufacturer’s business.

In business competition and capabilities determine market roles. In relationship gender directs (or pushes) us to natural specialization. Wait a moment! Is it natural and gender specialization? Luckily, I have observed, it’s often the one who enjoys cooking, who can be found holding the scoop.

In not that modern times the differences in resources and capabilities were a highly important factor. They affected our genetic evolution during thousands of years. The caveman theory builds on these differences between genders. Reflect on your own relationship for a moment. In which areas are you stronger in your everyday life at home? How about your spouse, what is she most enthusiastic about ? This way you can start revealing the diversified capabilities you complement each other.

Today, many tasks are divided by the extent of enthusiasm for a daily chore. If cooking is a passion for my partner, I possess the skill and a will to change a broken bicycle tyre. Unfortunately there is no need to change the tubeonce or twice per day to have balanced amount of household activities.

Often my balance sheet carries big burden of short and long term debt. Flowers, serving the senses for beauty and scent, often make up the difference, more often I find myself ironing a high pile of clothing.

Relationship needs to smoothen your journey

Diversity and turbulence of the environment is the third foundation for business partnerships.When supply of components fail and delivery times lengthen, the manufacturer relies on the distributor that balances product availability. Turbulence of the marketplace is reduced and together manufacturer and distributor are stronger. There’s a clear need for strong partnership.

Marital relationships have the same function of smoothing the journey in life. The older you get the more you will seek for security and you tend to value stable family life. Relationships also provide support in the modern corporate life, where jobs are cut in the name of reorganizations and enhancements of competitiveness.

What can we learn from all the above? Three foundations are key drivers to establish a relationship and hold it together. By viewing the major decisions in life through the foundations one can avoid placing basic requirements in jeopardy. Relationships require value creation from both sides, supporting and complementing capabilities and reduction of external stress.

If the fundamentals are at risk so is the relationship. Flowers once a month will not do the job.

(photo courtesy of scottchan / freedigitalphotos.net)

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