- Asking is the beginning of receiving. Make sure you don't go to
the ocean with a teaspoon. At least take a bucket so the kids won't
laugh at you.'
You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself.'
"Collaboration will be the critical business competency of the
Internet Age. It won't be the ability to fiercely compete, but the
ability to lovingly cooperate that will determine success. Rather
than focusing on stomping the competition into the ground, true
leaders of the Internet Age will focus on creating value for their
customers, intelligence and skill in their talent, and wealth for
their investors and shareholders."
James M. Kouzes
You would think that after years of being married, I would have
realized that powerful business partnering requires the same
attention, perseverance, courage and skill as does personal
partnering. However, it's taken me several years to understand and
negotiate the complex process of forming successful business
Research from the Harvard Center for Negotiation reveals that 70%
of all strategic alliances fail because people don't know how to
manage complex relationships which, of course, involve many
My colleagues, Peter Norlin and Judith Vogel, define partnership as
- a successful relationship in service to a specific task...this
collaboration requires the creation of a special interpersonal
connection, [and entails] putting the relationship to work.'
In any collaborative endeavor, there are two streams of activity
occurring concurrently. What's visible 'above the water line 'is
the focus on goals and task accomplishment. This is typically
where people focus because it's easier 'usually less personal,
less threatening, and it's what we're used to doing.
However, it's the invisible stream below the water line that is
equally if not more important. This is the stream of interpersonal
interaction and process ever present in a group of two or more,
which often goes unaddressed because many people have less practice
and ease in this domain.
Yet successful partnerships require self-awareness, discipline and
intention in 'working' the relational issues. Below the water line,
there are two foundational elements that must be explored and discussed
if you want to create high-performance formal partnerships 'the self
as it relates to the other(s), and the identity of the partnership
as an entity.
The latter involves clarifying the business vision, values, guiding
principles and purpose for the business which I'll address at
Working the relationship depends on being able to effectively
communicate about one's self to the other, and depends on several
critical abilities of emotional intelligence: self-awareness,
transparency, and influence.
In the Norlin-Vogel partnership model, people forming partnerships
start to pay attention to three deeply significant qualities in the
other person. These are the status, motive, and competence of the
Competence issues relate to the actual work. It's useful to make
explicit the similar and different skill sets that people bring to
the partnership, and where problems might emerge as a function of
that. A successful partnership is based on the belief and
experience that we can work together in a positive interdependence.
Motive issues relate to whether I experience the 'other' as
trustworthy, and whether I trust their underlying motives for
entering the partnership. Here, the ability of transparency comes
into play for there must be a certain degree of self-disclosure to
engage in mutual exploration built on integrity and authenticity.
Each person must answer the question 'Will I be able to trust this
person as we work together?' Other useful questions at the
beginning of the exploration are 'What is my/your biggest fear
about this new venture? What is the worst thing that could happen?
What compromises are you willing to make to ensure that it does
The third concern that potential partners hold is that of status,
which reflects the balance of power and control that each person
experiences in relation to the other. The core ability of
influence is pivotal here, for each partner must feel that they
have the ability to influence the other, and at the same time, be
willing to be influenced.
Without self-awareness, the ability to consciously develop the
relationship is limited. Similarly, self-disclosure on such deeply
held inner experiences as status, motive and competence becomes
easier and richer to the degree that one is able look at oneself
If you're entering, or considering a new partnership, spend some
time thinking about these issues. While you don't need to put
- motive, status, and competence' on your agenda, find a structure
for the conversation that allows you both to explore these issues.
Your partnership will only be the richer and more likely to succeed
for the intention you put into it.
ACTION STEPS YOU CAN TAKE!
1. For a free list of questions that potential partners can ponder,
send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Partner Questions' in
the subject line.
2. Assessments are a great way to get data and insight into the
strengths you have that you can maximize and at the same time,
learn how to manage your weaknesses so they don't get in your way.
To learn about how our assessments can help you, click here
3. To learn more about executive leadership coaching and how it can
help you get even better results, visit
(c) Copyright 2003. Manya Arond-Thomas, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Manya Arond-Thomas, M.D., is the founder of Manya
Arond-Thomas & Company, a coaching and consulting
firm that catalyzes the creation of 'right
results' through facilitating executive
development, high-performance teams and
organizational effectiveness. She can be reached
at (734) 480-1932 or e-mailed at
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