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01.05.2000 Feature Article

Effective Human Relations In Partnerships

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By Ken Ntiamoa, MBA, Toronto It is commonly observed that the few businesses operating in our community are very small indeed - Mom and Pop African Grocery Shop, one-owner Hairdressing Salon, Bookkeeping Company, Body Shop, a Mechanic Shop or even a Lawyer's office. We also know that such businesses, generally, do not thrive, especially after the owner passes on. Our community is not known to pull resources - human and financial - together for the general good. Even on the continent, we exhibit the same problem, while foreigners dominate our stock markets. In some of the other communities, many people are able to come together to form reasonably large organizations, by contributing capital and sharing the responsibility of running the company, while assuming the risks associated with running any enterprise. Cursory discussions with business owners in the African community have unearthed a perennial problem - the propensity for partners in our community to fight or argue and thus break up the business or partnership. This article discusses the principles of human relations and how they can be applied within our community.
THE STORY OF THREE LITTLE BIRDS An ancient African story tells of three birds that formed a singing group. The littlest bird has a very small voice and cries "TINTIN, TINTIN." The medium sized bird has a medium voice and cries "TANTAN, TANTAN." The largest bird has a deep voice and sings "TIKIDON, TIKIDON." The birds would gather together and do their song - "TINTIN, TANTAN, TIKIDON; TINTIN, TANTAN, TIKIDON." They made such beautiful music together that the children gathered around to listen to them and feed them. They had plenty to eat and were a happy bunch. Soon, the biggest bird became swollen headed and conceited. "These children come to see us because of me. Without me this group is nothing." he said boastingly. An argument ensued with each bird claiming that the group depended on his talent for their daily bread. They split up. The next morning the littlest bird went alone and started singing, "TINTIN, TINTIN, .TINTIN." No one gathered around and no one fed the poor little bird. The next day, the second bird went alone and sang "TANTAN, TANTAN, TAN." Again, no one stopped to listen. The largest bird then said to them, "You see, so it was I that made all the difference." He went by himself and sang in his deepest voice he could muster - "TIKIDON, TIKIDON, ..TIKIDON." To his amazement no one stopped either. He also went home that day hungry and very disappointed. The three birds decided to sing together again. So the next day all three went together singing, "TINTIN, TANTAN, TIKIDONTINTIN, TANTAN, TIKIDON." All the little children in the neighbourhood gathered around, cheered them on and fed them.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE A famous African by the name of Dr. Aggrey who lived in Ghana in the late 1800's said that, "You can make music by playing only the white or black keys of the organ. However, you can make better music by playing both the black and white keys of the organ." The Bible is probably the best teacher when it comes to human relations. "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst." God is present in harmonious relationships. When two people come together to do something positive, there is always an invisible third force helping and urging the two along. There is an African homily that says that, "One man cannot take counsel all by himself." Two is better than one and yet coming together brings about so much human problems. Many of the problems in organizations, associations, churches and businesses stem from relationship difficulties at the top between two partners, the President and the owner or the President and his vice. Even the simplest form of co-habitation brings about problems - a man and his wife, a younger and older brother, two friends or roommates. An African proverb rightly states that "Two trees have to be close together to rub together." Whenever two people are involved in doing something together, there is bound to be friction.
TIPS ON HOW TO RELATE IN GROUP SITUATIONS We have to be vigilant and anticipate potential relationship problems, whenever two or more people come together for any worthwhile purpose. This vigilance may be the only way we may hope to ward off any potential problems. As a guideline, the following warning must be studied and applied on a consistent basis. 1. Make God the head of your business. Dedicate everything you do to God. Pray together every morning. Partners who pray together stay together. 2. Be cautious, be alert, watch for potential problems and avoid them. 3. Watch your words - not only what you say but also how you say it. As the saying goes, "It is not what enters a man that defiles him, but what proceeds out of his mouth." 4. Put your partner's interest first. Avoid using "I" and practice using "We" in your speech. 5. Avoid arguments. 6. Very early in the game, draw up a flexible but fair partnership agreement you can live with for a while. Re-visit the original agreement six months, then a year later to address any oversights, omissions or unforeseen problems that have cropped up. No agreement is cast in stone. 7. Don't plan on being richer than your partner. 8. Don't start another project by yourself or with another person without your partner being involved unless you are a silent partner. 9. Seek first to understand. If your partner breaks one of your rules, patiently find out why. Maybe, there was something wrong with the rule in the first place. 10. Set aside time to talk with each other - both business and personal stuff. 11. Recognize that your partner's business is your business, his problems are your problems, and his joys are your joys. 12. Watch what you say to your wife or husband or friends about your partner. 13. Find a good mediator or consultant early in the partnership to mediate any impasse. 14. Little things are the big things in relationships. Show appreciation. Say thank you to a partner for a job well done even though it is his duty to do it. Remember to say "Please" before you give instructions. 15. You must let your partner know where you are at all times. If you are going to be late, call in. If you have a car problem or a family emergency, call and let him know. 16. Forgive, forgive and forgive some more. 17. Be the first to say, "I am sorry." Recently, a man and a wife had an argument. The wife said, "Since we got married, you are the only one who always says, "I am sorry." "That tells me that you are the one who is always in the wrong." The man said to the wife, " Maybe, it is time you said, "I am sorry for a change." 18. Watch your pride. Do not allow your pride to get in the way. Be humble. 19. Don't tell the world that without you the company cannot function, even if it is true. Don't say that you are the brain behind the company. Don't allow your friends to convince you into believing that you are better than all your partners are. Remember that, "the brain is useless without the neck" an African proverb. 20. Trust - trust your yourself. Trust your partner absolutely. 21. Don't be greedy. Don't take the lion's share. Don't cheat. 22. Listen to your partner's point of view and incorporate his ideas into your decisions. 23. Don't pass on blame. Don't say, "I told you your idea will not work." 24. Avoid suspicion - "What is this guy up to?" 25. Beware of negative minded so-called friends who will concoct stories to try to destroy you and split you up out of envy.
CONCLUSION In conclusion, I would like to draw on Paul's letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2 Vs 3 & 4.
Vs 3: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.
Vs 4: Do not merely look out for your personal interests but also for the interests of others.
Thank you and may the God of Africa bless all of us.


Ken Ntiamoa
Ken Ntiamoa, © 2000

The author has 18 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KenNtiamoa

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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