Brainstorm the biggest problems faced by any industry and quickly see that no one individual or organization will be tackling the challenges ahead in isolation. Regardless of the progress we continue to make, leaders will always have the opportunity to work with people they don’t know, like or trust (and the ones they do) in order to foster small and large scale transformations.
Why? Because working with other people who have different priorities, beliefs, experiences and resources isn’t easy. And people are constantly changing – which means relationships are dynamic and need ongoing care and maintenance for them to remain healthy and strong.
Just like our body and our mind.
The challenges facing our industries now and in the decades ahead require leaders to leverage partnership synergy in order to accomplish the impossible tasks ahead. Leaders need to master the ability to work across organization, across generations and across sectors, using a team and partnering mindset.
Leaders use many terms to describe the key relationships they invest in daily. They may not call the relationships by the term ‘partnerships’, but refer to them stakeholders, strategic relationships, alliances, steering committees, collective action groups, and many other terms. What matters is that they are key individuals and organizations who make it possible for your organization to work towards fulfilling its mission.
We define a partnership as two or more individuals or organizations who are working together (formally or informally) towards a shared goal. Value-based partnering is about focusing on shared highest priorities, for mutual benefit and growth.
There are three essential partnering skills that will facilitate the success of the partnering efforts of individuals and organizations:
- The ability to track and monitor the performance of each partnership.
- The ability to determine quickly which partnerships to start, keep or dissolve.
- The ability to dissolve partnerships while maintaining respectful relationships.
Skill #1: Tracking & Monitoring Partnership Performance
Surprisingly, most organizations do not have a current or comprehensive list of their formal or informal partnerships. It’s one of the main reasons we developed a partnership audit system to help leaders create a method for organizing their most important and valuable relationships. You can’t assess performance of partnerships that you don’t even realize you have. As a basic guideline, if your organization has more partners than you can count on two hands, its time to make a formal list that can be used to guide more effective decisions by all leaders on your team. Time, energy and resources are scarce in our organizations, so we don’t have wiggle room to waste our resources on relationships that are not producing the results we require for our funders/investors, regulators, board of directors, customers and our communities.
Once you have a list of your key relationships and partnerships, there are two types of measurements to consider. The first type of measurement is the performance of the partnership itself. For example, measures of collaboration among partners, levels of engagement, levels of trust and respect, degree of information sharing, or attendance at meetings. Assess the attributes that make the partnership function successfully.
The second type of measurement is related to the desired outcome of the partnership. This will differ for each partnership based on the purpose the partnership. For example, measured related to access to services, decreased wait times, improvement in patient outcomes).
- You need a priority list of partnerships to evaluate.
- Build on the measurement tools you are already using before creating new tools.
- Only measure what you intend to act on.
- Collect quantitative and qualitative data.
- Determine if the partnership met its objectives, and if so, why (or why not).
Skill #2: Determining Whether to Kick or Keep a Partnership
Fortunately or unfortunately, we have observed a trend of ‘partner accumulation’ in the last 10-15 years. Contributing factors have included changes in the requirements for funding applications (e.g., many requiring mandatory partnerships in order to be eligible for certain grants or programs), forced mergers or integrations, pressure to demonstrate a willingness to collaborate with other similar or complementary service organizations, and a desire to provide more seamless and comprehensive services to patients and clients.
The challenge that leaders often face is that they have accumulated relationships and partnerships in such volume that they: a) may not even be aware of the number of relationships that exist; and b) have not created specific criteria to guide decisions about starting, keeping or dissolving relationships. As a result, organizations have often accumulated partnerships or relationships that are no longer purposeful, efficient or effective. These relationships can be sapping valuable resources from the organization, distracting staff members, and confusing leaders about where to invest their time, energy and financial resources. Having a lot of partners isn’t a bad thing, unless partner accumulation is negatively affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of your daily operations and service provisions.
- Not all relationships need to be active partnerships.
- Make a checklist of the qualities your partners must have to start working together, and in order to keep working together.
- Review your list of partnerships regularly, and compare them with the organizations strategic priorities.
- Make a checklist of the circumstances under which a partnership is to be dissolved.
Skill #3: Dissolving Partnerships & Maintaining Relationships
One of the biggest gaps in partnering skills for leaders is the ability to know when and how to dissolve a partnership effectively, while maintaining respectful relationships and the potential to work together in the future. All partnerships have a beginning, middle and an end. Most leaders find it very uncomfortable to even talk about dissolving relationships, and some leaders even avoid it.
Ending a partnership isn’t a bad thing, it shouldn’t be avoided, and it can be done in a way that maintains great working relationships among the people involved. Ending a partnership that has fulfilled its purpose is important because it provides a clear ending of the partnership activities. The end date gives partners and staff members the permission to re-allocate resources such as time, energy and funding to other emerging priorities. It is also a time to celebrate the success of a partnership, and share appreciation for the team effort and contributions of partners.
Ending a partnership that is no longer fulfilling its purpose, or worse, is causing harm in other areas of your organization, is critical for the wellbeing of all the partners who are involved in the partnership. Staying in a toxic or unproductive partnership over a long-term drains, dilutes and distracts precious resources. For example, this might include partnering experiences such as irreconcilable conflicts, complete lack of trust or respect, with holding essential information, or making unilateral decisions. The partnering environment builds up tension, clouding communication and decision-making, and the ripple effect reaches throughout your organization and community. Staying in a partnership that should be dissolved affects you, your staff, your partners, and the patients and clients you care about.
- Determine the terms and timing for ending a partnership while you are starting the relationship.
- Commit to regular check points regarding the progress of the partnership.
- Have a conflict resolution process outlined before it happens.
- For mandatory partnerships that go bad, find a neutral, third party person who can help get the partners back on the same page. No one likes being stuck in a 3-legged race with a partner they don’t like or trust.
- Make a checklist of the process for dissolving a partnership in a way that maintains a respectful relationship.
Leveraging partnership synergy is one of the most important areas of mastery for health leaders because no one is tackling the challenges of 2018 and beyond alone. The only way we will accomplish the impossible is working together – in teams, across organizations, across sectors, and across generations.
Develop the capacity of your leaders and your staff to start, maintain and dissolve partnerships more effectively.
- Posted by admin
- On September 27, 2017