The Advantages of Opposites in Partnership

Partnership

When Crystal and I decided to start Project House, we knew we had a lot of the critical core pieces in place:  a shared vision for our company, a common set of values, the desire for a flexible workplace that maximized our skills and experiences, a passion for getting sh*t done, and a strong desire to create valuable connections and opportunities within our community.  What we didn’t know was if our “hey I really love talking with you and sharing a bottle of wine” friendship would translate into a strong Business Partnership.

On the surface, it’s easy to see our differences.  I like people and presentations, face-to-face meetings, thinking out loud, and working with people to learn or solve a problem.  Crystal likes to analyse and synthesize a huge amount of detail quickly and well, she enjoys diving into the budget and numbers, and she is always in action and accomplishing.  We share a curiosity and excitement to learn new things, we like big ideas and making things happen, and we love helping people achieve their goals and gain new opportunities.

Crystal and I have had an opportunity to take part in a number of leadership assessments, and in nearly each area of testing, we score as opposites.  She is analytical, dominant, action-oriented, adept at pulling apart facts, details, and data.  She is confident and assertive, she learns by doing, and she has a high stress tolerance.  I am optimistic, intuitive about ideas and people, social, conceptual, and emotionally self-aware.  I enjoy the unusual, and I learn by experience and through others.  I don’t score as high in stress tolerance or independence as Crystal, whereas she doesn’t score as high as I do in empathy or flexibility.

While individually we are very different leaders, Crystal and I often joke that in combination we are a Whole Brain.   Because our values and our desires for Project House and our team are so aligned, we are able to tackle projects together, often better than we would separately.  Even if we don’t always agree, we have a healthy respect for each other’s strengths and approaches, and our styles generally complement one another very well.  In business, we are stronger together than we are apart.

Chris Klundt said, in his article for Entrepreneur about choosing your startup partner, “in the startup world, opposites truly do attract — by choosing someone completely different from yourself, you can form a force of nature within your company that is strong enough to withstand challenges from any angle.”

Like with any great partnership, we work to make it work.  Here are some of the ways we do this:

  1. Respect and trust. Crystal and I respect each other’s space, skills, talents, styles, strengths, weaknesses, areas of non-interest, and methods.  We learn from each other, we brainstorm together, we discuss and pull things apart and we even disagree, but we always do this respectfully and with an eye on the bigger picture.  We trust that the other always has the best interest of the business, our clients, and our team’s interests at heart.
  2. Independence. We have our own “wheelhouses” within the various areas of the business and in the services we offer, and we share the internal tasks that move Project House forward.  I reach out to new people and attend more networking events, and my focus is on communication, workflow, and onboarding (client and team).  Crystal drives our systems, budgets, tools, technology, and vendors.  I concentrate on our HR services, and Crystal leads pretty much everything else.  We own our own projects, and we have the amount of autonomy we need.
  3. Kindness. We provide each other with true partnership, encouragement, and support.  We recognize that as busy parents, business owners, and wives, there is always an ebb and flow of energy and mood, and we understand what motivates each other.  We check in with each other if something feels “off.”  We know when to be nicer, talk more, or shut up.  We know when a cupcake or a shout-out is required.  Or a hug, once in awhile, if Crystal is willing… 🙂  We know when the other is overwhelmed, and there is no judgment. We have each other’s back.
  4. Laughter. We laugh a lot – at ourselves, mostly, but also at life.  When our backs are up against a wall (deadline, tough project, having to admit a mistake, feeling overwhelmed), nothing helps more than laughing at something together.  We also believe that a sense of humour is an important part of our culture and our brand.
  5. Time together. We set aside time to talk about our company goals, dreams, and plans.  We meet to talk about big stuff and small stuff.  We flex into each other’s areas to gain understanding and generate ideas.  We talk about how we want our business to grow, what we want our clients’ experience to be, how we want our team to feel, and how to get there.
  6. Humility and help. We have an incredible network of great friends and allies, and we reach out to them to ask for support and answers outside of our areas of expertise and experience.  We are open about things we don’t know, and we chase after new ideas and best practices.  We know we’re a young company and we know that we have a lot to learn.  We’re also very happy to share our successes and mistakes so that others can leapfrog on what we’ve done so far.

From one of our assessment reports, which combined our individual results to comment on our compatibility as business partners: “It can be seen from the foregoing that their needs and approach to the workplace are very different.  It is equally obvious that if they can combine their talents they will make a very effective team” “the compatible strengths of this pairing are assertiveness, energy, and a willingness to take risks and act independently.”

Want to understand how to make the most of all of the personalities on your team?  Crystal and I will be posting more about assessments and training in the coming weeks; in the meantime, please reach out to us if you want to know more!

 

Learning To Say No

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What is it with my constant need to say yes to everything that comes my way? Volunteering at the school when I know I have no time…. Taking every project that comes my way even though I am stretched to the max…. Saying yes to coffee with someone that I simply cannot fit into my schedule right now. Are there others like me out there?  I seem to have a need for busyness and stress.  I know this to be true about myself and have had assessment test results tell me just as much.  So perhaps I come by this need for speed naturally…?  I recently participated in an EQi (Emotional Intelligence) assessment and one of my top 3 skills as a leader is “Stress Tolerance”.  Who knew that was even a leadership quality to strive for.  I hadn’t really thought about it that much, but when I ponder the size and scope of my to-do list, I see that it’s true.

The thing is…I totally burn myself out some days and truly end up shitting the bed as a business owner, mother and co-worker.  I realize that, in order to do a good job, I need to learn to say no.  It just feels wrong…  So how do we find a way to say no and still feel good about ourselves?

The reality is that I actually work much more efficiently when I have a zillion things to do or when I’m under a tight deadline.  It’s when I don’t have enough to do or don’t have the detail I need that I don’t work as well.  Knowing this about myself, and understanding that I crave a heavy workload, I tend to seek it out.  The catch I think is knowing when you’ve gone too far; there is a tipping point and it’s often very hard to see ahead of time.  Everything will be going along smoothly…and then one small detail goes off the rails and my seemingly perfect façade crumbles in a matter of seconds. I become a raging woman over the teensiest thing that, in the grand scheme of things, is truly no big deal…but you know how the saying goes…it’s the straw that broke the camels’ back.

This might be a blog without any solutions, because I have not yet found a way to catch myself before it’s too late.  I automatically react to opportunities by stepping forward, putting my hand up, saying yes, and agreeing that it can be done within the deadline that has been set.  There might sometimes be a little voice in the back of my head saying, “hang on a sec”…but I normally just brush off that little guy and plow ahead.  How do I learn to listen to that little voice? I have not found a way yet, but I think awareness is definitely a first step.

What’s more, I know what the ramifications are when I say yes to too many things: I end up failing.  I either don’t finish the project on time, do a poor job of it, or worse, I end up failing my children by taking my stress out on them or not being there for them because I’m having to scramble to deliver work.  I hate myself when that happens.

One of my daughters went through a really hard time when we came back from our summer trip this year.  This normally very outgoing child was withdrawn, shy and extremely anxious about us leaving her for the day.  I wanted to take her to camps so that I could get to work, and she would have none of it.  She would scream and cling to me, and my initial reaction was that I just needed for her to stop acting up and go to camp for Pete’s sake! The trouble was, my reaction made it worse.  What she needed was my love and compassion and time, and I couldn’t give those to her because I had to get to work and deal with all of the backlog from being away.  The end result of course was just a mess on all fronts.  Her anxiety was not decreasing, mine was increasing because she wasn’t letting me leave her, and I was torn between taking her home with me and leaving her behind screaming so that I could go handle some client issues we were facing. End result:  She was unhappy, I was unhappy and our client was unhappy, and nobody won.

We have come through okay in the end.  My daughter is now happily going to preschool.  By the end of the summer I had pulled together a solution that kept her closer to home so she didn’t feel as anxious and that still allowed me to get some work done.  In retrospect, perhaps I should have handled the whole thing differently…but hindsight is 20/20 right? It’s a constant juggling act (and sometimes battle) as a parent between work and our children.

Many of us place a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform at a high level and to give as much of ourselves as we can to everything we do.  I guess the trick is to spot the warning signs, recognize our full plates, and learn to course-correct when we might be heading towards disaster.   I’m trying hard to learn to say no to certain things.  Learning to say no to meetings with people that really can wait, learning to schedule work for upcoming slower periods rather than saying yes right away and jamming it in, and learning to not volunteer for every position that the school needs filled (that one is a fail for this month! I’ve signed up to co-chair the games for our Halloween Haunt as well as our school brick fundraising initiatives…sheesh!).

Of course this is a work in progress and I hope that my family, friends, clients and co-workers can all understand that I’m doing my best and that I am only human, so I won’t get it right every time.

 

I’d love to hear from you about how you say no.  Get in touch with me if you’d like to share your comments or wisdom!

 

 

Happy Chocolate Cupcake Day!

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Client Spotlight: Chipperfield Physiotherapy

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This month we are showcasing marketing cards that we designed for one of our clients, Chipperfield Physiotherapy, in order to help this local company reach a wider audience. We worked with the awesome team at Chipperfield Physio to highlight their diverse areas of expertise as well as their unique business model – as both an in-home and in-clinic service, they are able to be flexible and meet the needs of their clients at a variety of locations.

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We sourced photos that highlight the diverse age range of Chipperfield clients, and, because Chipperfield Physio is also able to meet with Cantonese-speaking clients, we created a second marketing card translated into Chinese.