I admit it: I’m not the best “manager.” Want an operations head who can supervise office-supply requisitions while keeping the account books balanced? Get someone else. I’m strong at marketing, sales, and “the vision thing,” but not management.
How have I thrived in the corporate world? I’ve had (among other things) some amazing partners, lieutenants, and teammates.
Marcus Buckingham — an executive at the Gallup Organization who wrote the business books First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths — lays down a general principle that’s a good tool for picking a partner: “Capitalize on your strengths, whatever they may be, and manage around your weaknesses.” I’ve always recognized my weaknesses, and I’ve managed around them by grabbing people who have the strengths that I need.
For instance, I work with solid operations officers to run my offices while I’m out bringing in business: Susan Torzellini at Deloitte Consulting, Peter Rogovin at Starwood Hotels, James Clarke at YaYa Media, and Jim Hannon at Ferrazzi Greenlight.
Not everyone can hire a COO. But you can find a collaborative partner, and you should.
I’m an ultra-aggressive guy bustling like a blast furnace to spark relationships and fire up leaders. But some people aren’t ready to do everything that I recommend. Fortunately, my partner at Ferrazzi Greenlight — Dr. Mark Goulston, author of
Get Out of Your Own Way at Work — is all about helping them get ready by removing the mental habits that block them from succeeding. While I build and polish the techniques of relationship building, Mark explores the vast continent of the soul and hunts for fresh insights into character and personality that help enable my outreach.
How can you find a collaborative partner who fits you as well as Mark fits me? Hunt for someone who’s on your own level but isn’t competing with you.
In Hollywood, for instance, actors often team up with directors or producers. Take director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro. Their collaborations have produced classics such as Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Cape Fear. The two of them inspire each other upwards to greater and greater work.
So: if you’re in communications, look for someone strong at researching and analyzing data such as your customers’ population demographics and income profiles. If you’re in a highly specialized, technically complex field like cybernetics or real-estate law, find someone to present your work in ways that non-specialists can understand. If you’re a salesperson, make friends with an expert on manufacturing and production, or a whiz at distribution and order fulfillment, because only with their help can you honestly offer your customers terrific products and service.
You and your partner shouldn’t be complete opposites. Don’t settle for someone who has great skills but doesn’t understand your side of the business. You want to mesh together smoothly, not stumble and grope in confusion. Learn as much as possible about each other’s work, jargon, and concerns. Hang out in your potential teammate’s office, and invite him to visit you. Try doing each other’s tasks from time to time.
Some of your skills can even overlap. For instance, I’m a good writer, and I guess I could have written Never Eat Alone by myself. So why did I bring in another writer to collaborate with me? My co-writer, Tahl Raz, had a lot of the same skills that I did, but he added a talent that I wanted: a gift for nearly poetic cadence and storytelling. Plus, he pushed me to think more thoroughly.
While you and your partner should have different skills, your attitudes should be as close and tight as the fingers in a fist. Whether you’re lobbying the boss for bigger budgets, inventing new profit centers, or launching your own corporate empire, get a teammate who shares your ambitions.
Mark Goulston and I take different approaches, but we’re both passionate about our goal: enabling us to develop relationships that create success and happiness. Bill and Hillary Clinton have had their differences, as the whole world knows, but they fight for the same causes. From Lewis and Clark to Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, the most successful teammates agree on a goal and head straight toward it. Even if one of them is managerially challenged.