Finding Success with the Perfect Partner

I attended a conference last week in Chicago and heard a speaker say that, “one of the secrets to life is finding the right partner.” Now, this was a bakery trade show and not a marriage encounter, but either way, the concept resonated with me. At the same conference, a retired brigadier general in the USAF, a fighter pilot for thirty years, referenced the concept of a “wing man” – a trusted partner who is there to call you out on mistakes before they get lethal.

For me, when I heard the quote about finding the “right partner,” my mind immediately referenced my marriage of almost 30 years (note to self: late April – do not forget) and how my success in life is so rooted in having her as my partner (note to self: failures are your responsibility, not hers). However, whether it is a business partner, tennis partner, or a partner in almost any venture, having the right one is critical to success.

So this brings to mind the benefit of getting exposure to more potential partners. Whether it is marriage, a project, or a tennis match, the more potential partners you have, the more potential you have. Some people – successful people – excel in the recruitment and development of partners and it is a trait in which I have a lot of room for improvement.

For those who excel and are successful at it, in my mind they have excelled at both the art and the science of it. The art lies in the development of the potential relationships, while the science is in making something out of those relationships that benefits both parties.

In the end, it is all about getting more out of life’s efforts. Life is more complete with friends, partners, a spouse. It is said that President Reagan had a sign on his desk that read, “It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” Selflessness and humility are two of the rarest, yet important commodities in our society; they do open the doors to potential overall.

The USAF pilot who presented also drilled us on the importance of regular and consistent debriefs after each sortie. The motto was, “It’s not about who’s right. It’s about what’s right.” He noted that the debriefing was nameless and rankless. To make that point, outside the debrief room was a Velcro board where each pilot stuck his name badge and stripes before going into the room. The significance of that should not be lost. Those patches are the soldier’s, airman’s, sailor’s, etc. military identity. They surrender that when they enter that room because they know it might result in a correction that could save their life.

So the application here: first, find a great partner, spouse, wingman; then surrender yourself to the mission of the partnership and together, go accomplish great things. It is one of the most rewarding and liberating experiences to be able to share success with others who contributed to that success.

The underlying moral here is that we accomplish more as a team and as a team that is more focused on collective achievements, rather than individual accomplishments. That is where we all want to be, right? So focus on the objective, work together as a team to achieve it, debrief always along the way – all the time, and celebrate success with the whole team.

That sounds like fun. That sounds like a great place to work. I’ll have been with my wife for 30 years this year, and the same company for 36 years, and I still have a lot to learn about partnering and relationships. 

But, I do love this journey of a lifetime I am on.

“Would you take a new prospect into this customer's plant or offices to show off your partnership? If you can't get a good reference from this account – or if you aren't willing to ask for one – you need to re-examine the relationship.”

Robert Miller

“I firmly believe that success lies in the combination of both talent and business savvy, and that the magic comes through partnership between both.”

Delphine Arnault

“A major reason capable people fail to advance is that they don’t work well with their colleagues.”

Lee Iacocca