The portrayed fantasy of the hero tycoon, Murdoch, Welch, Bond and Trump, iconic figures in their own right is a portrayal of the individual above all, and at all costs. This is a dangerous myth which is metastasising and will lead us down a vicious spiral of despair.
Ten helpful strategies:
1. Assess each other’s strengths and capabilities and understand each other’s idiosyncrasies and work at accepting many.
2. Decide on who the Leader is and if there is a separation of roles, who leads what. Remember a Leader is also a follower. Gandhi’s words resonate here. ‘ There go, my people, I must follow them for I am their Leader’. In Atlassian's case, they had a separation of roles for the dual CEO’s. Mike taking charge of product management, design and strategy, sales, and marketing, and Scott focusing on engineering and business operations.
3. Hold the ego at bay. Strong Ego’s can be an impediment to success. The brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambini who inherited India’s largest private sector company split the company in two because of their very public squabbles, both Reliance Industries and Reliance Natural Resources became diminished enterprises as a consequence.
4. Agree on the Rules of Engagement and follow through on them.
5. Work openly at creating a common vision and be open about the tensions. Make sure you are on the same page. Example: NASA lost $125 million when the Mars Orbiter was lost because the engineers from NASA and Lockheed Martin were not aligned - NASA used the metric system and Lockheed Martin used the antiquated English System. The ground crews couldn’t correctly transmit navigational coordinates between labs on Earth. So if your partnership is to survive, make sure you share the vision and translate it in real terms, get granular and work on the details.
6. Integrate around strategic, operational, interpersonal and cultural dimensions.
7. Work on the housekeeping, who is doing what, accountability, responsibility, delegations.
8. Communicate and report back regularly, this builds trust, reduces anxiety and helps with decision making.
9. Agree to Disagree, but champion the decision. For Scott and Mike from Atlasssian, it was important to clarify who made the call if they had two different ideas and which one was being taken out of the room. Debate and managing challenging conversations assists in building robust and resilient relationships. Bret Lord, Executive Manager from the Commonwealth Bank commented to me that a good 2nd in charge needs to have the ability to challenge without fear.
10. Be a Coach to each other.