I recently came across some notes I had scribbled following a discussion many years ago with a senior, wise and incredibly successful C-suite leader and this quote caught my eye:
“It’s impossible to get great advertising without treating the Agency as a valued partner. It’s impossible to get great products without creating a partnership with R&D. It’s impossible to get great sales results without creating a partnership between marketing, sales, and the channels. It’s impossible to get great anything without positive internal and external partnerships.”
Of course, this makes great sense! Big breakthroughs and progress can’t happen in silos. Working collaboratively with partners within an organization as well as with external partners is the key to effectively addressing business issues. Positive partnerships generate a kind of positive energy that can fuel growth, address deficits, and inspire creativity. Developing positive partnerships that are aligned on values and goals enables complementary strengths and expertise to flourish and ensure success.
What can leaders do to ensure their organization supports and benefits from positive partnerships?
Leaders lead… therefore, they aren’t generally doing the hard work themselves. Leaders need the people and teams they work with to produce great results. They need their people, teams, and partners to be engaged and enthusiastic, and committed. They need positive partnerships.
For a leader, these positive partnerships need to start in the C-suite and with other company leaders. These relationships are critical and need to be built before they are needed. And positive relationships need to extend well beyond leadership ranks. Senior leaders need to take personal responsibility for the quality of their teams’ relationships. A few ways to do this include:
Clear expectations: Senior leaders should clearly and consistently clarify the expectations they have for how their people and teams treat each other and their partners. They don’t have to agree with every decision, but they must support decisions once they are made. And they need to hear the concerns of their partners and address those concerns.
Routine feedback: Senior leaders need to clearly address positive and negative behaviors when they observe them or hear about them. Lionize the good stuff! Address the bad stuff! Actively coach and mentor.
Institutionalize good partnering: Good partnering should be an expectation and great leaders need to measure it both day-to-day as well as overtime. On a daily basis, it is important for marketers to be trained in delivering immediate and effective feedback. On a longer-term basis, Senior leaders also need to:
- Internally, assure that the personnel review process includes peer input regarding teamwork
- Externally, make sure your agency relationships have a 360, bi-directional feedback process
None of this is all that hard as long as you make it a priority and it needs to be a priority because:
It’s impossible to get great anything without positive internal and external partnerships.
Steve Boehler, founder and partner at Mercer Island Group, has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Nokia, HP, Microsoft, Sprint, Nintendo, Abbott Laboratories and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.