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Posted: November 21, 2011

When two brains are better than one

Sometimes, you need a partner

Todd Ordal

I recently spent a couple of months reading two enjoyable biographies by an outstanding writer, Ron Chernow. I first read "Washington: A Life" about George Washington. While reading that tome, I became very interested in Alexander Hamilton. So I'm finishing "Alexander Hamilton." (And the subject of that one is ....)

You might ask, "Why two months to read two books?" Two reasons. They're my enjoyment books, so they're relegated to airplanes and post-dinner reading. They're also on my iPad®, so I don't know the page count. But I can often read numerous pages without the percentage counter moving, so I'm guessing they weigh as much as a box of bricks!

I slept through high school history - as a matter of fact, I don't recall taking it but must have - so I knew little of Hamilton. He was brilliant! In fact, Washington may have been the father of the country, but Hamilton was the father of our government and economic system.

Like many other brilliant forward thinkers, Hamilton was mercurial, bombastic, headstrong and a very poor loser. (In fact, he was the "ultimate loser" after he had a tiff with Aaron Burr that resulted in a gun duel and Hamilton's death!) Washington, on the other hand, was extremely even-tempered, methodical and in control of his emotions. Together, the duo created our democratic government. However, without Washington's even-handed approach, Hamilton was a bit of a disaster.

Partnerships in business, whether formal or informal, are difficult to create and maintain. However, they can often accomplish great things, as long as:

1. There's agreement on the vision (where), strategy (what) and, to some degree, the tactics (how).
2. The partners agree on what success looks like and what they'll do when they get there.
3. Their values are complementary.
4. Trust is high.
5. The partners communicate effectively and honestly and can have healthy conflict over issues but not attack each other.
6. There's an understanding of the commitment that each will bring to the success of the enterprise and the roles they'll play.
7. There's a clear practice of governance. The partners must have a solid concept of who's leading and who's following. The roles can change, but two, three, four or 12 people "in charge" at the same time is a recipe for disaster.

In addition, in the most productive partnerships I've seen, both parties bring different but complementary skills to the business, and they recognize and appreciate this!

If we didn't have Hamilton and Washington together in the first administration, we might well be singing "God Save the Queen" or "La Marseillaise" at our football games, and the players would use a round ball!

Partnerships can be very difficult, but if they are created in a thoughtful fashion for the right reasons, they can also produce great results!
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Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at,  303-527-0417 or

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Readers Respond

John, Representative Republics suck because we can all vote ourselves money if we belong to a big enough group. By David Sneed on 2011 11 21
"... the duo created our democratic government." A democratic government would suck, because 51% would take away everything from the 49%. We have a representative Republic. By John on 2011 11 21

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