Role Dilemmas: Stay in your lane

I chuckled to myself when I started reading Wasserman’s chapter on Role Dilemmas: Positions and Decision Making. My mind ran backwards to when my ex-husband, Larry, and I owned a Recording Studio and Sound Production Company. I realized that I had a manager instead of a marriage. We got married for the business and tried to disguise it as matrimony. I was the writer and Larry was the producer. We were partners, but he was really the CEO. The company name MooreHouse Productions, bore his name, which became my married name. I was the CFO. I remember selling my second car to invest in the first CD. I believed that my financial and creative input was just as valuable as his leadership and production input.

Wasserman states that team assignment of top positions quantitatively boils down to three factors: commitment, idea origin and capital (human, social, and financial). (121) I contributed the financial capital. Larry weighed in heavily for the social capital. We both gained human capital as we grew the company. The original idea was his and we both were commitment to his vision of making music. Even as I write it out, it seemed pretty equal. I made decisions about money and he made decisions about music. We had clear roles. The problem was that I wanted to change lanes. There were times he made decisions that were contrary to the financial plan and advice, but he didn’t want the financial role. He could just decide not to follow the plan. And yes it was quite frustrating. My changing of lanes didn’t have cost value. As a writer there was some musical instrumentation that I would hear and relay that sound or instrument when presenting a song. This type of input was welcome. But if I did not do that up front, it appeared that I had no musical input. I remember plenty of disagreements about staying in my lane as a writer and that I was not the producer.

We had control versus wealth dilemmas. We tended to lean on the control side, which Wasserman points to less stability; whereas wealth motivation brings more harmony because founders are making decisions for the greater good of the company. (141) He was correct, we wanted the same outcome, we just began to speak a different language and since he was the husband and it bore his name, he had the final say.

Avoiding conflicts became inevitable for the company and for the marriage. When I look back, there are many things that should have been handled differently on both sides, but the truth is we butted heads like the rams on the insurance commericial. Dissolution was inescapable as well. Separation of duties and respecting those decisions are necessary, but it’s not always easy to stay in your lane when you believe that you have just as much input because of your output.

Wasserman, Noam. (2012) The Founder’s Dilemmas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

2 thoughts on “Role Dilemmas: Stay in your lane”

  1. Great story and thanks for sharing your relatable dilemmas to this topic! You hit the nail on the head about how avoiding conflicts becomes inevitable for close partners. I went into business with my mother toward the end of undergrad and the consequences weighed heavy on my entire family as the business grew and each decision we made ultimately affected the way my family lives. While she wanted to maximize profits on the island where we live, I wanted to maximize growth to other islands. In a way I can relate to what you wrote and I think the best outcome of our founding dilemmas is the valuable lesson we learned in retrospect.

  2. Hi Michelle,
    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your in depth examples of true life role dilemmas within your previous company. The division of each position, producer and financial controller, is interesting to hear how one path can cross over into the other’s path, which make me more cautious in my future ideas. Information is power, thanks for sharing!!

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