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According to research on work relationships between owners and employees, owner conscientiousness is positively associated with effective employee relationships. CB Insights also reports that tension among teams and investors and not having the right team are two top reasons startups fail.
As a dating and relationship expert, I’ve had a fascination with interpersonal connections since very early in life. This lifelong passion — for which I credit my mother, a couple’s therapist and relationship counselor — has led to many lessons that extend well beyond the world of romance alone.
I’ve cultivated a unique skill for reading beyond the résumé, seeing who people really are and what they have to offer at work or in a relationship. Whether through navigating friendships in college or my work in investor relations, PR and executive research, my interpersonal expertise has proven advantageous time and time again.
Related: The Four Types of Relationships That Can Make or Break Your Career
How to evaluate relationship potential in business and beyond
For over two decades, I’ve worked as a professional matchmaker, a service that is very much on the rise for today’s busy and discerning professionals.
The matchmaking team I have assembled is diverse and talented, with over 100 years of combined matchmaking experience. When onboarding new clients, we ask a whole panel of questions designed to draw out insights on compatibility, goals and patterns ranging from ideal characteristics to deeply held values and reflections on past relationships. Our matchmakers listen actively to such responses, paying attention to tone, inflection, body language and expressions while analyzing for compatibility.
Related: How to Thrive in Your Relationships and Your Business
Business leaders can employ similar strategies to recognize key signs of compatibility in potential workplace friendships and business partnerships. For example, our matchmakers encourage clients to treat new conversations like casual interviews. When getting to know someone, you don’t want to interrogate them, but you do want to show interest. As you seek compatible relationships in business or otherwise, you can take a similar approach with the following questions:
1. What are you passionate about?
Asking someone else about their passions allows you to understand their interests and get a closer look at their personality or lifestyle. Are they multifaceted? What aspects do they like about their job? Do they have a life outside of work?
Answers to these questions can signal if someone works hard and has a good work-life balance. Asking about hobbies and interests is also a great way to find out how people enjoy spending their time. You’ll get a good idea of how busy or laid back they like to be and if that’s compatible with your preferences.
Shared principles and passions also give people something to bond over. It’s no wonder that, according to Psychology Today, mismatched values and a lack of shared interests are among the most common reasons for divorce. If you want a long-lasting personal or workplace partnership, passion will often be a key connection point. For example, Ben and Jerry’s formed in 1978 when Ben and Jerry turned a mutual love of food and a desire for making a difference into a business. When two people hold the same things near and dear, they have something to bind them together.
2. How do you manage your time and energy?
Many partnerships fail due to unbalanced roles. Partners believe they’ve entered a mutually beneficial contract just to find that one party is either involuntarily carrying the load or voluntarily taking on far more than originally agreed upon.
Mismatched time management philosophies and priorities worsen such divides. When you and your partner prioritize the same things — whether it be big projects at work or finding time for date nights or free time in your personal life – you’re more likely to put in the same amount of effort and energy.
Knowing your partner’s energy cycle is also important because tension can arise if you expect your partner to put in effort at the wrong times. Find out their preferred work and sleep schedules to better understand how and when they have energy for work, socializing and other tasks. Compatible energy cycles and time management philosophies can help strengthen relationships. You might also decide the partnership is worth working to find a comfortable balance.
3. Do you have pet peeves or deal breakers?
Ask them what makes them tick. Maybe they can’t stand when people are late to meetings, and you tend to stroll in a few minutes past the dot. Or maybe you’re a big risk-taker, and the other person is quite risk-averse. Know where they draw their lines, and be honest with yourself about whether you fit into them.
Think also about where you draw your own lines or what would keep you from happiness in a partnership. For example, Chip and Joanna Gaines, a married couple who went from running a real estate company to starring in HGTV’s Fixer Upper to building a successful brand, have focused much of their attention on piecing together the right network to support them along their many journeys. As Chip writes in his memoir, he likes “…people who say yes to life, yes to hard work and yes to risk, but who aren’t yes-people.” The Gaines know they want to partner with people who are excited by the same things, but people who simply say yes because they’re told to and don’t ask questions aren’t going to lead their brand to success.
Finding out these make-or-break aspects is important because while small things can build a connection, large things can break that same connection in a personal or professional relationship.
Related: The Top 9 Reasons Why Business Partnerships Fail
As a professional, you know how to create a business plan, focus on a goal and reach it. You know how to juggle meetings at work, and you seek out assistance and expert advice for important initiatives and projects. Cultivating new relationships — whether business partnerships, colleagues or your personal match — can be the same. You just have to employ the same ideas and practices for great communication, vulnerability and honest connection.