I’m so old.

I was in a meeting where people were talking about DTR-ing before they were married. They were laughing about it. I was clueless. I couldn’t help myself, so I sighed, got real humble-like, and then asked: “What’s DTR?” (I’m so old.)

It turns out that DTR means define the relationship. Dating has gotten so confusing that occasionally you have to schedule a specific conversation about what you are doing together – if anything. Seriously people? You are avoiding a conversation about what you are doing together, which may or may not be dating, depending on the emotional/physical involvement which could be the same for both of you, but probably not, but maybe, who knows.

That sounds hard and nerve-racking. I’m glad I never had to DTR. If we slipped and said, “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” in a conversation it was perfectly all right just to call the person out and then “ghost” them.  (See all these cool words I’m learning … I’m so old.)

The more I thought about the conversation, the more I think I like the DTR concept. There are all sorts of places inside your organization where clarity around relationships would increase all the right metrics.

DTRs can be useful when you realize you are expecting more than you are getting or when not knowing starts to be a barrier to growth and success.

The 4 DTRs


Do you know what you do for a living? I mean specifically. If you answer is “put out fires” or “solve problems” then you are incorrect. If you own, run, or manage a team, you need to have the most clarity on what you do, don’t do, and how you have the most impact. Does your team know what you do? If you asked them, could they put 3-5 bullets about your role and how you impact the company?

2. Your business partner

You must have this conversation if you are about to start a business or if you have been in business together for a while. Things can go crazy if you aren’t crystal clear in the beginning. After a company matures, your partnership changes (like a marriage) and reconnecting and clarifying your relationship, your roles, and anything else that isn’t being said, shared, talked out, aired out, and blown out is a detriment to you and the business.

3. Your Team

Does your team have a well-defined accountability chart? The fuzzier the executive team roles (or any team really), the harder it is to succeed. Clarity leads to efficiency, output, productivity, innovation, and most likely more revenue. Want that? Get clear about relationships, work, and accountability.

4. Your biggest frustration (client, employee, or vendor)

Any relationship that is frustrating or that you spend too much time talking, strategizing, meeting about could benefit from a DTR conversation. The more open and honest you are with this client, employee, or vendor the better the relationship will get, or you’ll find that your company may not be compatible with them. Both are OK. Better to get it on the table to figure out if it’s true.

So, when you are confused about your relationships, don’t go around wondering and talking about all the added costs, problems, stress, and trust issues. DTR and gain clarity so you can get back to “Netflix and chill” (Did I use that right? I’m so old).

Dan Cooper
Post by Dan Cooper
April 26, 2019
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free. Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.