There is no question that now is a very stressful time. At the same time the rate of change is as slow as it is ever going to be. Going forward the rate of change is growing at an exponentially rate. With that in mind how can you proactively partner with others given limited time in your day. Whether partnering in your firm, with clients, vendors or other stakeholders, this article provides you with 9 ingredients for you to consider for a successful partnership. This can be applied to actual partners in a firm, those that you need to partner with at work, home and in life. The same concerns apply in many areas of our busy lives. The question is whether we actually stop, pause and see where we are going. Here are some ideas for you to consider.
1. A meeting of the minds on vision and values
To reduce your stress and to ensure you are on the same page with whom you are partnering you need to do this first. Determine whether you are on the same page and that you have a meeting of the minds with respect to vision and values. Many firms define both of these terms. Then there is reality. Do they really follow their vision and values? What are yours? Do you align with each other? If you do great. If not, maybe it is not worth partnering with the other party. Give this serious consideration before going forward. What about outside of work. Do you have the same vision and values? Do you want to partner with each other?
2. Agreement of business objectives
When you consider business objectives think about business metrics. For example, market share and profitability are both great objectives, but they can come into conflict with each other. If you are not aligned this can become a problem with a business partner. However, think deeper.
Do you have the same business objectives around customer satisfaction, employee engagement and satisfaction, training and development, diversity, leadership and other objectives? I am aware of a very successful business person that has developed three partnerships by building law firms with up to 20 attorneys. Each time he started with two or three partners. Within 10 years the firm had over 20 attorneys in each instance. At about that time the firm would do something that this founding partner did not agree. For example, in one firm the partners agreed to by a new BMW as a special bonus for all of the partners. This partner did not agree with that decision. In each case his partners agreed to buy him out and he left. That simply was not his mindset. Be sure you have the same short term and long-term objectives.
3. Effective governance and business metrics
Public firms are often stuck in making quarterly objectives for executive bonuses and shareholder expectations as fueled by industry observers. Private firms may or may not be more likely to have longer time horizons and attach incentives to a host of effective governance objectives and business metrices. Do you concur with these? Do these make sense to you? Consider whether you want to stay with these partners long term.
4. An atmosphere of collaborative leadership
Generation Z and millennials have been taught collaborative leadership through the educational system. They expect to see this at work too. Without an atmosphere of collaboration, they are very likely to leave. Hopefully your organization promotes this type of engagement with employees on how they work together, are recognized and rewarded at work. It is no longer a matter of good intentions; it is a way of life to survive. Consensus building is absolutely critical for many decisions in a collaborative environment. Don’t you like to work with others that build on consensus?
5. Appreciating Value Creation
It is possible to coast into oblivion. That is if you and your firm are not continually adapting to exponential change you are by definition falling behind to the competition. So how do you continually explore creating additional value? Firms that encourage innovation and appreciate initiatives by their employees create value on a host of levels. How does your firm appreciate value creation of the team? Of individuals? Of the organization? If you and your partner are not creating more value together than you could separately, maybe you should not be in this partnership.
6. Regular strategic planning
Do you have a strategic plan? Do you put it on a shelf and call it good until the next time you take it off the shelf, or do you really use it? The best firms spend time developing the plan with employees. Clearly defined goals (the big idea), objectives (measurable), strategies (why we do it and how do we accomplish objectives) and tactics (specific activities that are actionable) are key. Consider quarterly stopping for a moment and see how you are doing. What should you stop, start and keep doing? They adjust the plan with some time horizon in mind. For example, every quarter stop and ask, where do we want to be two years from now with what we know today. You can do this with your business plan and your life plan too. You may want to consider your life plan on an annual basis.
7. Trust for mutual gain
Trust is absolutely critical. You cannot go forward if you don’t trust you partner. Once trust has been lost it is extremely hard to bring it back. For this reason, open, honest, frequent communication is key. The communication needs to be straightforward. That is presented with the highest integrity. It is important to be open. Share what you can and expect the same in return. Be accepting of others. Don’t blame others. Don’t blame yourself either. Rather focus on problems by being tough on problems and gentle on people. Be responsible. Do what you say you are going to do. Under promise and over deliver. All of these elements are critical for building trust. Are you trusted? Do you trust your partner?
8. Flexibility to adapt
You and your partner may start off on the same page, but do you have the ability to be flexible and adapt? People grow and change with time. This may happen at different rates? As you consider partnership going forward do you really want to partner with this person? Are you able to adapt as quickly as your partner? Is your partner able to adapt as quickly as you? Make sure you consider this as you initiate your partnership. This can be a killer in the long run. There may different visions of the future. Have you considered your termination clause or a buy sell agreement in a partnership? The time to plan for the divorce is before you marry. Not that you want to have a divorce, but if you consider how this may end (consider initiating something with the end in mind) from the beginning you are much better off.
9. A collaborative competence and mindset
Finally, do you have a collaborative mindset. Are you and your partner of a similar mind on how to work together for the greater good? How selfish or self-interested are you or your partner? Can you and your partner explore what is best for the partnership and give up personal gain for the sake of the partnership? This is key for a successful partnership. As long as you both clearly understand and accept each other that is what matters.
Here are nine ingredients for a successful partnership. Take advantage of The Collaboration Effect® and you will be able to have positive results with all nine categories. The Collaboration Effect® is all about connecting relationships, listening actively, educating judiciously so that you can build bridges for a common purpose. Hopefully these nine ingredients will help you to build a common partnership with others and take advantage of The Collaboration Effect ® at work, home and in life moving forward.
This article from Forbes was my inspiration to write this blog. If you want to read more on this topic for business executives, check out the article.
About the author
Mike is a professional speaker, negotiator and mediator. You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]