Working with a business partner to whom one is married does present some challenges over more traditional, business only, arrangements. In an employee/employer relationship, the norm is probably for the boss to say to an employee, “do this…” But, when the relationship is partner to partner, or if the employee wants to suggest something to the boss, the dynamic is different. And, if the work relationship is between spouses or family, another layer of potential conflict emerges. One of the ways I have learned to work with Melissa is to be careful in how and when I suggest she do something new, different, etc. I know she is busy, her schedule is full, but sometimes I have had ideas for new articles for her to write, or speeches to give, or some other work. I know that if I suggest such a thing when she’s on deadline or focused on a client matter, it will go over like the proverbial lead zeppelin, and not the band. Better to find a time for the conversation to be at a time when both parties are discussing business without deadline or client pressures. For me, this means making myself notes of things to discuss. And, it means, whenever possible, to get a start on the idea, flesh out the details or otherwise make it easier for her to pick up from where my expertise ends. For example, we recently began planning a new continuing legal education program. She knows she’ll have to give the speech and write up the specific content. I was able, however, to construct an outline and collect examples of materials to be used in the program. While the program will require her expertise from this point on, I got the ball rolling. So, while I sometimes need to push her to do something like this, it is better when it is done nicely, that is, with consideration of her schedule, frame of mind, and by doing part of the work. This makes the work more of a team effort and one party doesn’t feel put upon by the other. The other factor in all of this is being aware of the need to “push” like this without doing so in front of staff. Doing so can result in a backed into a corner reaction that is never positive!
As David mentions, the timing of a “gentle reminder” or suggestion is, for me, often more important than the actual content of the suggestion. My work requires me to concentrate and focus on complicated matters and the last thing I want is to be interrupted by anyone, including my well meaning spouse/business partner, with a request that usually involves more work for me. On the many occasions when someone has interrupted my work, ruined my concentration, or in musicians’ terms, “killed my groove,” he or she can be sure I will take an almost instant dislike to the suggestion, regardless of its merit. There is a time and place for everything. I appreciate constructive criticism; suggestions for writing articles, speeches, and books; and reminders to call a client, but only if this is done with an appropriate demeanor (after all, I am the boss!) and if the timing takes into account all of the other things I am working on. David usually has good suggestions that help me do my job; other people (for example, employees and vendors), however, rarely think of anything novel that surpasses my expertise. Just as with many other things in life, timing is everything. And the manner in which the “push” is given is also a key to its effectiveness.