A lot of us think we make good partners and collaborators – in business, relationships, and beyond. But are you really a good partner to your team? How do you know?

Partnerships and alliances are as old as human history itself. We’re literally wired for it. Prehistoric folks knew they needed to stick together in order to survive. Today, the scenery has changed, but the mechanics are still the same. We pool resources, differentiate roles and responsibilities in an effort to maximize efficiencies, and leverage each other’s skill sets and aptitudes. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about hunting and gathering or collaborating on a business venture.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Timeless wisdom like this underscores the importance of good partnerships. But, what if we told you that not all partnerships are good? There IS such a thing as a bad match (just ask your ex). If a partnership isn’t on solid grounds to begin with, can an alliance occur? Not easily. How about a collaboration? Maybe…but it’s not likely to be healthy for everyone involved.

Understanding the foundations of good partnerships can help us figure out where we’re setting ourselves up for success, and where we’re spinning our wheels (or worse, creating ridiculous challenges to overcome). Once we understand this, we can make more informed choices on where we spend our time in alliance-building or collaboration. Here are some of the best foundations to focus on when building great relationships, partnerships, alliances and collaborations:

There’s a win-win value for everyone involved. Even if the roles and responsibilities in the group are different, the energy contributed needs to be similar. We’ve all worked on projects where some people put in more effort than others. It’s a terrible feeling for the “over-contributors,” which leads to resentment and frustration. Often, the “under-contributors” don’t even realize there’s a problem until emotions run high and they get called out for being a slacker. Maybe they weren’t trying to be a slacker; maybe they didn’t realize their contributions weren’t on par. Setting boundaries, expectations and responsibility alignment is CRITICAL. Do this early to avoid problems down the line.

There’s a willingness to contribute to shared resources, approaches and vision. When everyone on the team is willing to contribute fully, according to their means and skills, a healthy collaboration can occur. Encourage as much diversity as possible here. Maybe someone in the group has access to more resources, while someone else is a true visionary and can innovate approaches. Are these individuals sharing equally (identically to the other?) No. But they are sharing equitably (fairly and impartially), which is what breeds innovation.

There’s a shared commitment to open communication. No. Matter. What. Forming any type of alliance or collaboration will come with opportunities to grow, both as people and as good partners to our teammates. When Collaboration fails, we consistently see a breakdown of trust and communication over a period of time (generally when unspoken resentments and issues fester). In order to communicate well with your teammates and partners, you have to be willing to invest in learning what makes that person tick. How do they make decisions and share information? What inspires them? What frustrates them? And…most importantly…are you willing to use this knowledge to help nurture the BEST in your teammate? Why or why not?

Show us a successful person, and we’ll show you a lifetime of collaborators, allies and partners that helped them get there. Because there’s no such thing as an “individual achiever.” The magic of creating lasting and successful partnerships, alliances and collaborations isn’t magic, it’s effort. It’s relationship building. It’s shared understanding, mutual respect and a whole lot of fine tuning – all of which take conscious effort. Commit to these aspects and you will find yourself engaged in truly successful endeavors.

Want to learn how to boost the collaboration on your team? Contact us today for a free consultation. Our workshops deliver results.