This entry is about familiarity, trust, and collaboration. I’m due to write a post or so about my wife and I who are coming up on a big anniversary. There’s certainly a lot of common ground here, but this week I’m talking more about business and personal trench battles than lifelong soul-mates. I’ve worked with some of the same people for a dozen years and I seem to keep coming back in contact with some individuals in particular. This is partially due to our mindsets – our personal DNA – and partially due to our areas of interest. If you combine enough of the two, you get common dimensions of achievement and direction.
Given that Wikipedia states that first marriages ending in divorce last about 8 years, working with someone the better part of a dozen years as peers is seems pretty significant in the scope of my life. There is a very small hand-full of people whom I’ve had this experience with and it’s lasted over varying job roles, a major acquisition, shifting market dynamics, reorganizations, and heaven knows what else. There’s a bond of mutual respect and familiarity that lets us continue to reconnect whether we’ve talked with that person months ago or just the previous week. Somehow these are intangibles of my job that keep me engaged and coming back for more.
I’m writing from a huge user conference and I’ve bumped into a couple people who exemplify these relationships for me. One is a sales manager with whom I’ve worked with and talked strategy over a long period of time. Over the last few years, our organizations have separated us but we still talk fairly often. When we worked together, we would bounce ideas off each other often while knowing that we’d come up with the best solution without much disagreement. We went through a number of tough cycles with a huge amount of mutual respect that helped pull us through and make us successful. We’re also fans of opposing football teams and get to alternate giving each other monopoly shit. When we get together these days, we marvel that our kids have aged the same number of years and are growing up. Each time we talk, we’re taken back to common experiences and know where we each should go over the next couple years. Touching base like that is a terrific way to both stay grounded and remember what we can do to continue to grow.
A second person I’ve been working with is more a mirror image of myself. We both work deeply with the same products and business plus see similar trends at our company and in the world at large. I’m on the East Coast; he’s out of LA. I’ve got a shaved head; he is an advertisement for hair care products. We have both worked with the same or similar customers and have brainstormed about how to best solve problems. At one point over the last year, I tried to join him in his branch of the organization. It turned out that he moved into the one I’m in. Either way, we’ve been major influences in each others’ careers and have jointly seen ourselves through some significant evolution. We once worked on a long project together where every other day we were either heroes or had the world collapse on us. The result is that I’ve got a brother in arms who I can talk through complicated problems with, talk sports with, and know what his family is up to at any given point.
Relationships like these are very important. There are lots of people I’ve known and respected or admired in my professional life. Having a personal bond with key individuals is a distinct advantage. As much as I love my family and have mental telepathy with my wife, what I do at work isn’t something she’s immersed in. I’m not sure how I’d get through my daily life without her. I’m also not sure how I’d manage my work life without the ability to collaborate no-holds-barred without having people I trust deeply on the job.
I’ve talked about personal brands I’m loyal to. I think that if you really look at your closest personal ties, you’ll find similar values. You’ll also find that you are drawn to others who challenge your viewpoints and knowledge so that you end up a better person as a result.