Unilateral Decision-Making Partners

Unilateral Decision-Makers Typically Function Like Roommates in a Business Relationship

In business partnerships, 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. This is also a common default relationship style among independent, educated, highly ambitious couples, who are sometimes couples in business together, running a home and an office together.

When this business relationship is working, each partner typically feels energized, supported, and trusting of the work, the relationship, and the business future. It’s fun!

Parallel Play

Having characteristics of most entrepreneurs, these business owners are focused on making their vision a reality. They each tend to have take-charge and in-control personalities. When doing business partner coaching or consulting, I note that a major defining characteristic of the Unilateral Decision-Maker business 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, or requesting it. These Unilateral Decision-Maker business partners are individuals who 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—especially if the business is progressing successfully.

Taking Things for Granted

When coaching business partners on the development of their business, such separation of duties is necessary, and even important, for role definition, task assignment, and ultimate accountability to get things done more efficiently. When this business partner relationship style is working smoothly, these 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.

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.

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 partners with a Unilateral Decision-Making style “fall into” this way of relating—meaning it’s not consciously chosen—when something arises that causes unexpected disagreement or conflict, they often feel blindsided and at worst, even betrayed. Their individual assumptions about how they would expect their partner to respond is challenged. They do not have the experience of working together through to a decision or facing challenges together.

Lacking the skill set to work as a team, as “partners”—which requires they learn a new way of communicating—they either 1.) disengage, 2.) push the disagreements under the rug, or 3.) they end up in heated repetitive and circular arguments that usually go nowhere. Coaching such business partners has a focal point of communicating toward resolution. This is done by training them in both a “partnering mindset” and offering tools to come to decisions together.

Lacking the skill set to work as a team, as “partners”—which requires they learn a new way of communicating—they either

  1.  Disengage and stop communicating about important topics.
  2.  Push the disagreements under the rug and act as though everything is okay.
  3.  End up in heated repetitive and circular arguments that usually go nowhere.

Without business partnership coaching, a common fallback position is to blame one another for any problems that arise. This may eventually pervade an entire working relationship—and a company from the leadership on down.

Without a mindset and skill set to work through differences as a team, owners in this relationship style often think privately about ending their partnership or 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 inadvertently feel the need to take sides.

As is true in any relationship, learning a new way is important for the individual partners and for the business to get unstuck. Outside help from a skilled coach for business partners, to shift their interpersonal mindset—paired with a new set of skills for discussion and decision-making together—is the choice they must face to give up individual control and shift to shared decision-making.

Guidance from a coach experienced in working with business partners, and applying the necessary tools and skills, can help these owners re-evaluate their core values together, consciously face their assumptions, and reconsider what they want and need from the relationship to decide if it is aligned with the business objectives. In that new context, they can begin to work together better with a whole new set of skills.

My long-time experience coaching many unconscious Unilateral Decision Maker partners is that they really want to have a solid partnership relating style. Typically these business owners—be they strictly business partners or couples in business together—ultimately 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.

With expert guidance from a business coach for business partners (with skills in life coaching for business and personal relationships if a couple,) these business partners can make the shift into the final style of relating and become very successful The Big Picture Partner Relationship Style 4/4.

Read on! 

This article is part of a series describing 4 Business Partnering Styles that can have an impact on you and your business. 

Refer to the article published here to get a broad overview of these approaches. The first relationship style can be found here: The Dominant—Non-Dominant Relationship Style #1/4.

Then I explore The Difficulties of Business Partnerships With Undefined Roles # 2/4 and the ramifications of this relationship approach.

Today’s article focuses on Unilateral Decision-Makers #3/4.

The final article in this series will explore the Big Picture Partnering approach #4/4.



Dr. Jan Hoistad