Most business people know how easy it is to get bogged down in the minutiae of day-to-day operations. Misalignment is more likely to occur when working with business partners who are often unable to step back and align on the big picture.
Using proven collaboration techniques to achieve your overall goals strengthens your partnership and ultimately helps you, your partners and your clients achieve better outcomes.
A lot has been researched and written about the importance of creating a shared vision. John Kotter of Harvard University is a firm believer in the importance of building a shared vision to drive success. Organizations like PMI even teach how to create a shared vision.
But sadly, shared vision statements are often just empty words on a single page, unattractive. One way to advance your ambitious goals is to leverage proven collaboration techniques…
Here are three of them:
1. Make project planning more inclusive and collaborative
The benefits of collaborative planning in the classroom setting have been known for decades. The National Education Association reports that such collaborations can boost teachers’ creativity while also helping students improve their higher-order thinking skills and confidence.
There’s no reason an inclusive, collaborative approach to project planning can’t work in the business world—especially when it comes to ensuring that all involved partners are truly aligned and focused on a big-picture goal.
Even if a partner already has a clear goal in mind that they want to achieve, involving the partner more closely during the planning phase can help refine the framework and mindset of how to achieve that goal.
Such planning moves can still be decided through a formal procedural framework, and of course, you don’t have to cede decision-making authority to your partners. But by involving partners more closely from the start, you’ll be better able to foster a unified vision, build trust, and foster buy-in from all stakeholders.
2. Facilitate better communication
Communication is the foundation of any good business partnership. Without open communication, priorities and goals can easily change, and the big picture can easily get lost in the details. It takes more than active listening.
As international keynote speaker and two-time TEDx lecturer Elayna Fernandez explained in a recent email conversation, “Active listening is a good start. But effective communication only happens when leaders, partners, and colleagues validate each other. .Validation is a prerequisite to creating an environment of authenticity, vulnerability, and belonging. When your partners share their experiences, thoughts, or ideas, validating them is critical to creating a positive and inclusive environment. Like in our As in our personal lives, this creates a deeper connection and allows everyone to feel cared for, safe and supported, allowing for better self-expression.”
Validating a business partner’s ideas doesn’t mean you have to agree or implement everything they suggest. Rather, it means that you actively recognize the value of their ideas and opinions, even if you end up going in a different direction. This creates a positive atmosphere where everyone is more willing to share their contributions with the team. It also makes it easier to implement constructive feedback, which will keep everyone aligned with your main goals.
With all of this in mind, you should also be consistent in how you communicate. Whether it’s through a weekly phone call or a bi-weekly email, this simple act of communication can have a bigger impact than you might expect.
3. Analyze and share big data
Big goals should have measurable KPIs attached to them. For example, if the overall goal of the partnership is to increase customer satisfaction, there needs to be measurable KPIs to indicate the success of these initiatives. This could include reducing the number of complaints, improving resolution times for customer service calls, or improving review scores for partner products or services.
All partners should aim to provide an ongoing flow of information to help measure the success of their activities and their contribution to the overall goal. Sharing data points related to big picture goals allows for a more transparent analysis of which actions are (or are not) helping to achieve the big picture.
This then leads to a collaborative effort among partners to identify new or improved actions or initiatives to ensure that the overall goals can still be achieved.
You should also use partnership KPIs, which measure the effectiveness and alignment of the partnership itself. Key partnership KPIs might include a partner’s values and level of experience, their level of engagement and satisfaction with the partnership, and whether they adequately fill the scope of work assigned to them.
Surveys and other data-based evaluations will help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of these partnerships—including whether you need to find a new partner that better aligns with your overall goals.
find the true alignment
A partnership that really aligns with the big picture goals makes this a big focus before the project officially begins. By ensuring support and true collaboration from the initial planning stages, facilitating high-quality communication and sharing relevant data throughout the process, organizations can more easily maintain alignment in their activities and goals.
When more open and collaborative alignments emerge in partnerships, all parties involved will trust each other more and be better able to ensure that these ambitious goals actually become a reality.