Agreements Are Everything! Whether you realise it or not, you do everything by Agreement.
I have been greatly blessed for nearly twenty years in business now. For the past few years as a coach and mentor, I have had the pleasure of sharing all of my experience and on-the-job education with other business owners. I have been asked many times what I see as the key to success. Over the years my answers have varied. I found it difficult to isolate even a handful of important factors. In recent times I have turned back to my own introspection and learning and believe I have discovered my one best answer. Throughout my entire career as a business owner and leader, I have shared all of it, and I mean all of it, with one business partner. He and I held our first ever planning meeting over a bottle of aged scotch whisky in his home in a small English town. This was in 1997. We officially joined forces in a legal partnership a couple of years later and now regularly celebrate the toils and spoils of our journey together. We both agree that the mainstay of our combined achievements is the clear and open agreement that we forged at the beginning. This Conscious Agreement meant that we would both do whatever was required to continue together in business, we would never measure or report on our output to each other and that we would share every result equally. While we were certain that our simple agreement would carry us together through thick and thin, we didn’t realise the full significance of this belief until much later.
Despite regular advice from specialists along the way, we resolutely refused to make our agreement into a formal contract. We also refused to write buy-sell documents or anything else that was supposed to ease separation. We took our conviction in our process into every new business relationship. Many of those failed. Some dismally. As we weren’t into asking a lot of questions early on, we never really found out what didn’t work from the points of view of our other partners. We formed our own opinion, jointly of course , and took our new understanding into the next opportunity. What I now realise was happening was that many of those other parties had their own expectations and understandings that formed an Unconscious Agreement between them and us. Their understanding of doing whatever was required without measurement or reporting and then sharing the results equally was different to ours. These unsaid agreements were so powerful, that not even well documented or legally contracted agreements worked as well as the simple one that we held between us. Over the years I have moved between the deficiencies of our potential partners and our own deficiencies being the cause of our failures. It is now clear to me that no one was deficient. We all just held different unconscious understandings of what had been agreed and how that looked every time an unforeseen change of circumstances occurred.
I have heard it said (mostly by my mum!) that it should be much harder to get married and much easier to separate. While I have agreed with her on the surface, I haven’t really understood the depth of wisdom in this belief. Put another way, when we spend more effort exploring the needs of all taking part in an agreement, such as marriage, and in ensuring that the needs of all will be met, we have a much better chance of success. This is the simple art of making Conscious Agreements. When we don’t do this work up front, we are relying on Unconscious Agreements, aka habits or default behaviours to hold us to our agreements. When was the last time you experienced two or more people remaining satisfied based on their habitual or default behaviours?
Another powerful understanding here is that we often have a large number of Unconscious Agreements with ourselves. Our daily routine, diet, body shape, general appearance, and so many other things are mainly shaped by our habits. The typical way to change any of these factors in ourselves is through a change of habit. The process of changing a habit involves making a new Conscious Agreement with our self about how we want things to be in the future. We then practice and improve our new agreement, or habit, until it becomes our new default behaviour. In reality, we rarely do for others what we won’t do for ourselves. It follows then that we can improve our relationships with others by first improving our relationship with our self. In this way, Conscious Agreements will deliver more of what we all want and better results all round.
Whatever your response to this discussion, I’d love to hear from you. Please do feel free to look me up and get in touch.