Relationships, whether they are in your professional life or personal life, share many characteristics.
Recently, I attended a workshop produced by Sally Starbuck Stamp and Jeff Thoren of Gifted Leaders, who had as their guest, Kathleen Ryan, the co-author with Geoffrey Bellman of Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results.
It’s my contention that you can apply the tenets that make a professional group extraordinary to building a committed, romantic relationship.
According to Ryan and Bellman, the eight characteristics of an extraordinary group include the following. Please note my commentary in italics.
1. Compelling Purpose. An inspiring and shared understanding of why group members come together.
There must be an attraction to a partner on many levels that compels you to initiate a relationship and then to keep it vibrant. As the relationship progresses, you create a shared vision of your life going forward.
2. Shared Leadership. Members take mutual accountability for outcomes and the way the group works.
A relationship is give-and-take and no one can be “in charge” all the time. This doesn’t mean that you relinquish your power. It’s even possible to feel more powerful when you empower your partner with love and support. Additionally, relationships rarely rest at the 50/50 balance. It is the wavering back and forth to attain balance that makes up the fabric of your life.
3. Just-Enough Structure. Members develop only the plans, systems, roles and agreements necessary to help them move forward, but no so much as to be bureaucratic or burdensome.
Although some structure is good in a relationship, for example, defining each partner’s role, it’s not healthy to be rigid in the requirements. A successful relationship flows; one partner picks up the slack without complaints when another is unable to complete a task. Relationships can have a broad structure that allows room for growth, contingency plans, and an ability to adapt to individual situations.
4. Full engagement. Members enthusiastically participate in the group’s work.
Partners must fully embrace their relationship; the relationship is prioritized to the top of the list and each partner brings his or her best self to it. Partners are best friends and set aside other distractions in order to spend quality time with each other. At times, it is also imperative for each of them to subrogate their own needs for the health of the partnership.
5. Embracing Differences. Members see, value and use their diversity as a strength.
While it’s true that opposites attract but may not make the best of partners, some diversity is a good thing. After all, if you were with your clone, one of you would be unnecessary. It keeps the relationship interesting and alive when each partner goes out into the world and brings back a new outlook, a new perspective or a compendium of information to share.
6. Profound Learning. Individual and collective learning exceeds expectations, reaching beyond the work at hand to members’ careers and lives.
Relationships can be breeding grounds for growth. No matter how much you love your partner, it is still difficult to live side-by-side with another person. Compromising, adapting to change, being selfless, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to your love all contribute to emotional and spiritual growth.
7. Strengthened relationships. Trust, respect, collegiality and often friendships grow among group members.
The bond between partners is one of the foundational blocks of all other relationships. If you are content and happy at home, this tends to radiate out and the same attitude repeats itself in your other relationships.
8. Great Results. Tangible and intangible outcomes surpass members’ expectations.
Love, passion, understanding, friendship, respect, humility, honesty, being open to possibilities, and a desire to work at your relationship are some of the integral parts that can produce the great result of having a partnership that is extraordinary.
Ryan and Bellman say that “life is too short to spend time in groups that do not fulfill their promise.”
I say that life is also too short to spend time in a relationship that you set on auto-pilot rather than nurturing it with love so it can grow into a safe haven for partners where extraordinary things can take place!