Better Together

I talk about the concept of partnership a lot, usually within the context of customer service. We want our customers to view us as a partner as opposed to a vendor, or even a service provider. The idea of having a partner moves the relationship past the point of transactional interactions. When customers see us as their partner, the relationship changes. It becomes stronger, more intimate, and ultimately more rewarding. The time we spend with customers, and they with us, is greatly enhanced when viewed as a partnership.

Just as important though, is the time we enjoy with our coworkers. In order to maximize the benefits of working with others, this relationship too should be something more than just a series of transactions. Too often, the people we should be closest to seem to be the farthest away. Silos develop as priorities diverge. Agendas begin to conflict and attitudes begin to sour. Those who should be the closest of partners become adversaries.

Just like customer service though, this is an easy fix. All it takes is an adjustment to the way we view others. True partners have a unique relationship – one that’s defined by the way they choose to interact.

Partners see each other as equals.There can be no true partnership when one person feels they are above, or better than, or in charge of the other. Job roles are different and titles vary, but partners actively position themselves as equal contributors. Whatever the desired outcome, both sides have to work just as hard for a partnership to exist. Imbalance creates tension and resentment. Put aside personal agendas, focus on the goal, and share the load.

Partners solve problems together. It’s easy to spot a partnership. When problems happen, both sides get down to business trying to find a solution. In the absence of partnership, placing blame takes priority.  Partners aren’t interested in who messed up, saving face, or protecting territory. True partners are interested in fixing what’s broken, learning from mistakes, and improving processes so that everyone moves forward faster.

Partners celebrate mutual success.There’s no chest-thumping in a partnership, but there is a lot of finger-pointing. “See my partner over there? That’s the hero, not me.” When you truly partner with others, it becomes difficult to tell who made the biggest contribution. Everyone’s sleeves are rolled up. Everyone’s hands are dirty. And everyone sees what they’ve brought to the table as just something a partner would do. When you look to celebrate what your partner brings to the table, there’s a whole lot to get excited about.

We want our customers to partner with us. We want them to stick around for a long time and get just as much benefit from the relationship as we do. Perhaps the first step though, lies in examining the health of the existing partnership we’re asking them to join.