Collaboration in Partnerships – what does it really take?

collaborationWhat is collaboration in partnerships?  For some organisations this is only an arrangement actually described as such with external stakeholders like joint ventures, affiliates, products, initiatives, specific projects, multi-agency working etc.

Although don’t organisations have partnerships with others internally in many different contexts?  If the definition of partnership is ‘an arrangement in which parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests’ – surely this applies others – staff, boards, contacts, customers, investors, communities?

I am proud of myself this week as one of my new year’s resolutions was to be more honest in my partnerships, especially where there were things I’d like to change or express my dissatisfaction about.

As you may have read, before Christmas I had a number of events where I’ve been disappointed because different people I’m working with hadn’t kept their word.  I’d experienced this in many different forms – a supplier, a colleague and new collaboration.  So I decided my NY’s resolution was to be honest about this and ask for what I wanted instead. 

I had 3 of those conversations this week and WOW!  First of all I noticed that this really was working in partnership for me – having an open and honest interaction.  I felt in my bones that this was me upholding my personal integrity.  And this was not just about me expressing my dissatisfaction, but being purposeful about how I wanted to change things going forward.   Afterwards I felt extremely empowered.

So I wonder, how else are partnerships meant to evolve and meet their purpose?  If we cease to get what we want from the partnerships or are dissatisfied with outcomes or process, what are the options?  I’m not sure how any partnership can grow if we avoid being honest about what is going on for us.

We can of course bumble along hoping it will change, getting resentful – maybe even endeavouring to change the outcomes by being sneaky or deliberating sabotaging something or someone.  Where’s the personal integrity in that?  To me this is role modelling dishonesty and certainly not building trust in partnership with someone.

For me what made a big difference in my conversations was first of all being clear about my purpose – and also acknowledging that this was going to take courage on my part.  It was highly likely I was going to be nervous of what the reaction might be (I am human after all!).  I was also clear about not getting into blame – but instead asking for what I wanted to change so we could move forward.  Even if that looked very different to what I wanted.

 What are your main challenges in partnerships?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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