Maybe it’s because we all want so much to win — and endings threaten us with losing.
Maybe we’re annoyed that we don’t know how to derive any more mutual benefit from a partnership.
Maybe we’re embarrassed about promises we implied and haven’t kept.
Maybe we’re upset that another didn’t live up to our expectations.
Sometimes endings even explode into battles. To describe it analytically, we might say that collaborative behavior diminishes — and positioning behavior accelerates — as the outer edge of a contract’s time horizon comes into focus.
No matter how lucrative the venture may have been for both parties, by the time the end actually comes, it’s common for one or both parties to want to get far away from the other. Counselors sometimes describe bad endings this way: We don’t break up because we’re fighting; we fight because we’re breaking up.
I won’t pretend we can do much to avoid endings. They’re as inevitable as beginnings.
In my experience, we can expand our responsibility around ending relationships by taking the following actions during endings:
A long-standing joint-venture practice of a large well-known chemical company has been to always take on just a bit more than their share of the risk when dealing with a smaller/weaker partner.
Why? 1) Because they have deeper pockets and can afford it, so it isn’t really more risk to them. 2) It gives them privileged access to innovative ideas in the marketplace of entrepreneurism and invention.
Why? Because they are viewed as a “fair” partner to deal with when you are small, hungry, and a bit inexperienced.
Reflect on one or more relationships that were once great collaborations yet ended poorly or in conflict. Use your imagination to revisit the best time of that collaboration. Now, envision a way to use your sense of ownership to craft a more responsible endgame.
Apply this vision the next time you begin a new collaboration — or relationship. I would love you to leave a comment or share your experience with this practice.
Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or relationship) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.
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