The Foundation for a Great Partnership

| | General Leadership
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Great things are accomplished through extraordinary partnership.

Yet partnership can be one of the most difficult levels of relationship to cultivate.

Take a marriage for example.  Marriage is a kind of partnership, yet 50% or more of those relationships will end in divorce.  Then there are business partnerships.  One of the most important elements of a partnership agreement for a legal business partnership is to negotiate how a partnership will end even before it starts.

There are very good reasons for this because partnership, while having great potential upside, is an inherently risky endeavor.

In corporate circles the word partnership is used to describe successful relationships across organizational boundaries.

Partnership is a context for working together that involves a mutual commitment to a shared purpose and to each other.

It is also a level of relationship that is stronger and more enduring than the kind of relationship required to simply work well together and even to collaborate. Although the risk in this kind of partnership may be lower than a marriage or business partnership, there is still risk involved any time you choose to depend on and commit to supporting another at this level.

While the value of partnership is widely recognized, successful partnerships are rare.  This is true whether the partnership is based on a formal legal agreement or simply the equivalent of a handshake because the typical reasons for entering into a partnership are rarely enough to sustain it.

Affinity, common interest, and shared values are typical catalysts for partnership, yet it takes awareness and work to build the foundation for a partnership to be successful.  Unfortunately those initial good feelings and good will ultimately only take you so far.  And therein lies the mistake many people make when entering into a new partnership of any kind – they assume these things will last and are enough for mutual success and satisfaction.  After all, when it feels so right, what could possibly go wrong?  You can probably easily think of a few examples to illustrate the answer to this question.

There is good news though – building the foundation for a successful partnership is actually profoundly simple.

Personally I have developed quite a few extraordinary, enduring partnerships in my life.  Yet I have also failed miserably.  it is through many years of trial and error that I have distinguished what has proven to be 3 essential elements of a great partnership in life and work.

The 3 essential elements for a successful partnership are:

#1 A clear and compelling shared future.

#2 A commitment to the others success and satisfaction.

# 3 Trust in each others commitment to #1 and #2.

It is not enough, however, to just establish these things up front.  If you want a partnership to flourish and transcend the challenges that will eventually threaten the relationship, it is essential that you consistently tend to ALL 3 of these three things over time.  It is sometimes hard work.  It will likely require you to have uncomfortable conversations at times.  For some it may even require great courage as they risk counting on another human being and entrusting them with something that really mattesr to them.

Yet ensuring these 3 elements remain in place can also result in many uplifting conversations filled with possibility.  Ultimately doing the work to cultivate a successful partnership creates the opportunity to exponentially increase the difference you can make and impact you can have where you work and live.

What do you think?  Is there something else you believe is essential to a great partnership?  What have you learned from your experience with partnership?


Copyright: yuran-78 / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

Peter Simoons   |   06 December 2014   |   Reply

Great article Susan, and I like especially the fact that you emphasize on designing with the end in mind. However, I feel that there are more steps to take in your #1: “A clear and compelling shared future.” This is about building the foundation for a partnership and it should include the strategic rationale (is a partnership the right answer for the problem I am trying to solve, or the opportunity I see?) and a partner selection (is this partner the right partner for me?).

Indeed #3 will be hard work, a partnership between organizations needs to be managed constantly to keep it healthy!

Susan Mazza   |   12 December 2014   |   Reply

Thanks for taking #1 a bit deeper Peter. You offer some essential questions. One of the biggest mistakes in partnership can be entering into the wrong partnership for the wrong reasons to begin with!

  • The Foundation for a Great Partnership | Mindfu... 05 December 2014, 05 December 2014

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