Would You Marry Them? Key Questions to Ask When Building Quality Partnerships

by Jill Foster on October 16, 2009


Make it human, be sure it’s authentic.
When Jill asked me to write a post about building quality partnerships, one essential ‘quality’ came to mind – being human – and more importantly, being an ‘authentic’ human.

Partnerships are no different than the more intimate relationships in our lives; in fact, we often spend more hours and days and weeks with our business partners than we do our personal ones.

So, why do many of us differentiate the two when we approach a potential business partner or project partner?

Moreover, what are the most basic human questions that we should be asking ourselves when we start to consider whether or not a specific person will add value to our work?

Would I marry X?
Whoa! Wait a minute! We’re talking business here, not marriage! I’m not planning on living with X, sleeping with X, attending social gatherings with X, sharing finances with X…Oh really? Actually, you will be living/breathing/thinking/feeling X probably for a good portion of the time that you are working with them, whether that working relationship is face-to-face, on the phone or completely virtual.

Are our values the same when it comes to our work habits?
Let’s face it: no single person’s values are exactly the same as anothers’. But you should ask yourselves if your differences are apt to place a wedge in shared goals for the business or project (or on the other hand, further and expand those goals)?

What assets does X have that I am missing?
How do these assets complement and detract from each other? Some of the best collaborations come from our individuality. For example, X’s strength may lie in the ability to see the bigger picture while my strength lies in the details.

What is X’s degree of experience?
Does it match mine (and visa versa)? No partner wants to feel as though they are doing the bulk of the work or spending most of their time mentoring rather than doing (unless that is the arrangement). Like values, it’s important that experiences compliment and not mimic.
Is X “authentic?”

Authenticity is a term that is kicked around a lot, especially in social media circles. For me, “authenticity” is both about remaining true to one’s character while at the same time and more critically (as Seth Godin suggests) “doing what you promise.”

Cut away the surface noise and what you’re left with is an individual who is truly willing to take action AND responsibility.

Just as customers are increasingly seeking meaning and trust in products or brands, so should we seek the same in people with whom we choose to engage. This concept takes ‘Show and Tell’ to a new level.

Finally, make it legitimate.
A foundation is critical before you can build a partnership. But the walls that go around that partnership are equally essential. In this regard, it’s truly important that partners understand the rules of engagement, the nature of their agreement and the terms for extending or extricating oneself from the project or business.

Thinking of forming a partnership?

The following resources will provide further food for thought:

Liz Scherer 2009-09-11 at 18.03 #2-1

Guest post by Liz Scherer, digital writer and consultant specializing in health/medicine/wellness. She produces Flashfree which brings her closer to her goal to engage, entertain and provide women in midlife with the tools to make informed decisions about their health. In addition to her blog, you can find Liz on Twitter (http://twitter.com/LizScherer) or LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/lizscherercopy).

(Image Hand Shake, iStock, image licensed to author, Liz Scherer. )

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