Running a business is difficult. Even under the best of circumstances, it will occasionally stress and test the best working relationships. Add to the mix, owners/leaders who don’t like, trust, or communicate with one another and the results can be devastating.

Unfortunately, I see the situation all too often where one or more of these vital ingredients is missing. It holds back the best companies and threatens the sustainability of the rest.

Like

Let’s start with liking the other owners/partners. To be honest, you don’t have to like one another to be successful. It’s great when that’s the case, but being best friends isn’t a prerequisite for being a successful team. However, you do need to like what one another brings to the table.

The strongest teams have very complementary skills, talents and ideas. The skills, talents, ideas and the resulting benefits are what you need to like. When you happen to like one another, it’s easy to see the positives they bring along. However, when you don’t like someone, you will likely have to look harder to find what they have to contribute to the cause. But, do it. It’s worth the effort.

Communicate

If effective communication is important to any relationship, it is critical amongst the ownership/leadership group. Nothing can be communicated effectively to the rest of the organization until it has been communicated effectively within the very top level. Not sharing honest opinions, not being willing to address the “elephant in the room”, not contributing to the discussions that will lead to critical decisions, and not speaking with a unified owner/leader voice are all inexcusable.

Trust

Trust is the most critical of all. I would argue that lack of trust among owners/leaders is an organizational cancer that if not addressed aggressively, will bring the eventual demise of even the best company. At best, it will result in every single decision being over analyzed, challenged, and critiqued to the point that its diluted result will have very little remaining contribution. When the rest of the organization sees the lack of trust at the top level, they will either be forced to pick sides, or even worse, no side at all. Trust at the top is key to harmony throughout.

Leading through crisis

These are the challenges in ideal situations (and how often are things “ideal”?). Now think about how it would affect you during times of organizational stress. What happens when you are threatened by an aggressive competitor, when your clients/employees start to leave, when new clients aren’t materializing, or when the ink is red?

Experiencing a crisis like one of these will absolutely expose the current situation. If you are a strong, cohesive team, the crisis will make you even stronger and bring you even closer together. However, if you are a loosely aligned group of individuals who don’t really like one another, can’t communicate effectively, and mistrust one another’s intentions, you will likely find that you are fighting amongst yourselves more than you are fighting the common enemy.

I don’t know about you, but when (not if) I find myself facing one of these stressful situations, I want to make sure I’m facing the situation with people whom I like, trust, and with whom I know I can communicate effectively.

And remember, none of those happen by chance. These are team characteristics that have to be built and maintained every day.

Photo by Nils Rinaldi.