Unilateral Decision-Makers in a Business Partnership: Style #3 of 4

Unilateral Decision-Makers are initially attracted to what they perceive as one another’s equal competence, independence, and productivity. These are typically seen as complementary skill sets which advance their business. When this relationship is working, they each feel energized, supported, and trusting of the work, the relationship and the business future.

Parallel Play

Having characteristics of entrepreneurs, these owners are focused on making their vision a reality. They each tend to have take-charge and in-control personalities. As a result, a major defining characteristic of Unilateral Decision-Maker owners is that they make decisions independent of one another. Often this is done with the best of intentions, assuming they will be in agreement, but without consciously taking their partner’s feedback into consideration. These Unilateral Decision-Maker individuals may appear to discuss, check-in, or consult with one another from time-to-time, or even on a regular basis. What they may or may not be aware of, is that they are working on parallel tracks. They really haven’t shared their thoughts, feeling, or made decisions together. They assent to one another’s decisions because they don’t disagree.

Taking Things for Granted

Now this separation of duties is necessary, and even important, for role definition, task assignment, and ultimate accountability to get things done. When this relationship style is working smoothly, these business partners feel like they are working “together.” In reality, they are unconsciously simply working “next to” and sometimes even “around” one another. They may or may not keep one another informed of their individual decisions on a consistent basis, and when this relationship feels good, it’s because they feel no need for input. Or they feel no need to give input. They are simply supporting a decision or action their associate has taken.

Business owners who end up in a Unilateral Decision-Making style often do not realize that it’s working well because of the very fact they
are in agreement. What happens when they are not in agreement? When they discover differences in opinion? When they run into controversy or conflict?


Because Unilateral Decision-Makers fall into this style—meaning it’s not consciously chosen—when something arises, causing unexpected disagreement or conflict, they often feel blindsided and at worst, even betrayed. Their individual assumptions about how their associate will respond is challenged. They do not have the capability to work together through to a decision or face challenges together.

Lacking the skill set to work as a team, as partners—which requires they learn a new way of communicating—they either disengage, pushing the disagreements under the rug, or they end up in heated repetitive arguments that go nowhere.

A fallback position is blaming one another for any problems that arise, which may eventually pervade an entire working relationship.

Without a mindset and skill set to work through differences as a team, owners in this relationship style often think privately about ending their working relationship. This negative attitude toward one another can trickle down to their employees, causing further confusion especially if employees feel caught in the middle or are inadvertently feel the need to take sides.


As is true in any relationship, learning a new way is important for the individuals and for the business to get unstuck. Outside help
to shift their interpersonal mindset, paired with a new set of skill for discussion and decision-making together is the choice they must face to give up individual control and shift to shared decision-making. Applying these skills, these owners can re-evaluate their core values, consciously face their assumptions, reconsider what they want and need from the relationship to decide if it is aligned with the business objectives.

Typically these business partners desire the same outcome, they want the same things. They want what brought them together in the first place. So they need additional tools and skills to help them balance areas of independence, with a partnering need for interdependence that facilitates the end results they desire.


Dr. Jan Hoistad

Business/Career/Executive Coach, Relationship Expert, Blogger, Author

When a business partnership is going well, it’s great. There’s energy, creativity, productivity. Differences put partnership stability to the test. Coming together as business partners pools connections, spreads financial risk, may increase the employee base, and expand the marketplace. Difference can feel like something resolvable together. But when experienced as threatening, it creates disconnection. If there is out-and-out conflict, a business partnership can quickly deteriorate and spread negativity like a virus throughout a team or company. Having the mindset, tools, and skills to navigate together is a necessity for a smooth functioning business and long-lasting partnership.  https://drjanhoistadpartners.com