Work with your respective personality and flow, not against it. If one of you is a night person and the other a morning person, having some quiet time in the office at the beginning or end of the day where you can clear out tasks that require more mental focus can be your golden time.
Know your personality, preferences, and strengths and use those to hedge your weaknesses.
The less overlap, the better. Figure out what you do well, what you like to do, what they do well, what they like to do, and divide the remainder up between you. I recommend to the couples I work with to do this concerning household chores, and it becomes that much more important when you’re running a business together. So much of good management is about having the right people doing the right jobs. There are several assessments that can be used to help you find your respective affinities, and the flow this knowledge brings to your business is well worth the investment.
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DROP THE MARS/VENUS MINDSET
One of my pet-peeves is hearing people talk about colleagues and business partners in Mars/Venus terms. “He’s a man, so of course he’s gonna….” or “I’m a woman, so naturally I got upset about….” As an MBTI practitioner, I take issue with this sort of language anyway. There are women that have a more cut-and-dry way of seeing the world and men motivated by harmony in the group.
Another great strategy for not dragging baggage into the office is to always assume your partner had the best of intentions in miscommunications and mess-ups. Finding out what went wrong and devising a strategy to avoid the same mistake next time will go much smoother when Shame isn’t present and everyone feels valued.
SAVE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT HOME FOR HOME
There is nothing more uncomfortable (and unprofessional) than being stuck in a room with bickering spouses. It’s even worse when you’re there to do business. Even if you don’t yet have staff, get into the practice of keeping discussions about home at home. To make sure they stay that way, see the next point.
CLEAR TIME TO TAKE CARE OF HOME
Just like you need staff meetings to sort out business odds and ends and make sure the team is functioning cohesively, you need time to make sure that domestic duties are given the same respect and space. Since what’s pushed down must come up—like a beachball pushed underwater—you don’t want unresolved issues from home surfacing on the way to a pitch when it’s that much more important that you’re supporting each other and all energy is focused on the time at hand.
DEFINED WORK SPACE
Defining work space isn’t just about having a dedicated space in the home to work rather than strewing papers all over the coffee table and kitchen counter, though that is part of it. Workspace should be defined physically, time-wise, and emotionally.
Keeping work in a particular place in the house defines the boundaries that you need to maintain harmony in both your work and home relationship. Keeping a morning routine that defines when work begins, and having an agreed-upon time when work will end not only helps maintain those boundaries, but prevents burn-out as well. Starting the day with a meeting to discuss goals, priorities and possible hiccups for the day’s work means work is focused and productive.
When I first got started coaching as an academic coach at a medical school, there was one thing I recommended to every couple that came through my doors: keeping a regular date night. Upon mention, whoever was in front of me knew immediately the benefit that this would give them, but followed that knowing nod with a flood of excuses.
It is crucial for any couple to have time together as a couple. We all need time to shed all the roles we play—parent, child, PTA member, business person, neighbor, committee chair—and just be ourselves. No duties other than our own humanity. If you’re working together as a couple, this becomes that much more important. It helps you remember who you are and why you’re together. Every couple should have date night, and the more stressful your life is, the more imperative date night is.
You should have date night no less than twice a month. Unless you’re too busy, then you should have it weekly.
CREATE A COMMUNITY OF SUPPORT
We are more isolated than any generation before us. More and more people move far away from family in search of work, our workdays are longer, our vacations shorter, and hand-held devices seem to be pulling us away from one another rather than towards each other. This isolation and the ensuing lack of support can be cited as the root for a myriad of health and social issues.
We used to spend evenings in the front yard, shopped at small, local markets, and talked to people when we were waiting while doing errands. All this casual but repeated contact made building connections happen organically. Now, we have to work on it.
The information age has brought us some tools for connecting with those in our area. Websites like MeetUp.com help us find folks that share our passions that we may have had a hard time finding before. Join a dining club, hiking group, spoon collector society, mystery book club, or anything else you can dream of. Or start a group of your own!
Find a babysitter for the kids. Find another couple with kids about the same age as yours and watch their kids for their date night and they watch yours for yours. The kids will have a great time, and it’s a great way to form bonds that last a lifetime.