“At (fill-in-the-blank company), we really value partnership.” How many times have you either heard or said this? Probably so often that you’re tired of the term.
Maybe you’ve even begun to wonder what partnership actually means. There are multiple ways to define the word, but it comes down to this: a partnership is (at least) two people being in a relationship that is more than just transactional—one person cares about, supports, and provides value to the other and vice versa.
That may sound a bit cold and mechanical. In reality this type of relationship is anything but—it should be warm and vibrant, helpful, and committed. Before you begin wondering…yes, I’m talking about a business relationship. Who says we can’t care about and support each other in business?
What led me to this topic for our blog? I’ve seen several social posts and participated in conversations recently where this “partnership” relationship was being discussed. As the business world moves faster and faster and demands grow by the day, trusted advisors are needed more than ever. From my vantage point I see researchers and strategists in corporate positions who are genuinely seeking support and advice from their peers and, more importantly, from those of us in agency-side roles. So, specifically, what should this “partnership” look like?
Here are 5 key characteristics of a true partner and how they apply to strategy and insights professionals.
- Trustworthy: You have no doubt this person will do the right thing; you have faith they will make a positive contribution to the work you need to accomplish.
- Honest: He or she tells you what you need and what you don’t need; they actively communicate good news, and they don’t hesitate or hold anything back when they need to deliver bad news.
- Creative Thinker: Never an order taker, this person contributes ideas and raises issues you hadn’t thought about; they gently push back and challenge assumptions; they keep both the present and the future in mind.
- Understands Your Business: He or she asks thoughtful questions, totally engages in conversations with you and your colleagues, invests their own time to research pertinent issues, and has relevant experience.
- Consultative: This relationship is in no way transactional; the person digs deeply to provide the information you need to make the right decision; they see the unseen and deliver meaningful business recommendations; they are focused on the business outcomes toward which you and your stakeholders are working.
When you are exploring new business relationships or choosing a provider for an upcoming engagement, ask yourself if the agency you are considering possesses these characteristics. It can sometimes be a long, difficult road to identify and develop great partnerships, and it will take some time and investment on both sides. It may even require patience. In the end, we are all looking for caring, supportive, and valuable business relationships with heavy doses of warmth, vibrancy, and commitment.