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How to be direct with your business partners

Business partnerships only work when all parties are on the same page – which means that success is defined by a relationship built on trust, honesty, and direct communication.

It might be tempting to assume that your relationship with your business partners is purely intuitive – that your chemistry or charisma provides an endless supply of communicative nous.

But the fact is that, when times are hard or your business runs into an inevitable rough patch, you’ll need to consciously make use of the direct communication habits that ensure your partnership survives (and thrives).


Accept critique as much as you offer it

Partnerships are a unique business relationship. You’re all peers – but you’re also each at the top of the ladder. Sometimes, the lines between roles and authority overlap and this can create grey areas.

Of course, being at the top of the ladder doesn’t mean you’re always at the top of your game. You’re going to make mistakes, and you need to be made accountable for them – and use them as opportunities to grow.

The only people who can give you those opportunities are your partners. As such, while you may be a leader more accustomed to dishing out criticism, it’s equally important that you accept the criticisms offered by your partners.

These shouldn’t be treated as admonishments from a superior, but as marks of respect from colleagues who know that there’s always more to learn.

The importance of praise

It’s not all about the criticism, of course. Consciously delivering praise to your partners is easy to overlook, but every bit as important as criticism in a direct and honest relationship. Equally, the ability to receive and accept praise and criticism is a vital part of professional growth and high performance.

Nobody needs persuading that boss-to-employee praise is beneficial – just look at the often-cited 2004 Gallup survey of four million employees which found that workers who frequently receive praise are more productive.

Crucially, however, the same is true of peer-to-peer praise, which – according to the Society for Human Resource Management – can provide a 35.7% boost to bottom lines when compared to manager-only recognition.

Of course, as a business leader, your business partner is your only peer (and vice versa), meaning that instilling a culture of unconditional praise into your working relationship is a vital step on the road to securing results through communication.

Cultures of continuous improvement

These two modes of direct communication – criticism to be gracefully accepted and praise to be deservedly supplied – will, over time, contribute to a culture of continuous improvement.

Reinforcing the positives and sidestepping any repeated negatives are a great way to ensure that both you and your business partners are constantly developing and advancing in ways that benefit your personal goals and your organisation more broadly.

After all, McKinsey claims that a continuous improvement culture can result in reductions in employee absence by 50%, alongside an increase in operating performance by as much as 80%.

According to a separate McKinsey report, however, continuous improvement begins at management level – requiring senior leaders to deliberately change their daily habits.

That’s why taking steps towards direct communication is so vital – not only for the intrinsic advantages of an honest relationship, but for the conscious implementation of a habit that, when achieved with balance and sensitivity, can have huge and positive business outcomes for every worker.

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