The Five Keys to Powerful Partnerships

Partnerships are intentional relationships between two or more people who want to create a future together. That future could be anything from a life long marriage to a business partnership to a short-term project. Your partnerships are among the most important relationships you will ever have. And, like all our relationships, they are vulnerable to misunderstandings, miscommunications, upsets and breakdowns. It's just that there is often much more at stake in our partnerships.

There are five keys necessary to unlock the potential of your most important relationships, turning them into powerful partnerships.

They are:

  1. Practicing "High Performance" Communication
  2. Having a working knowledge of the 5 Stages of Relationship
  3. Using a "Design Model" for your partnership
  4. Practicing "Radical Personal Responsibility"
  5. Committing to using your partnership for conscious evolution

High Performance Communication

Our definition of "high performance" communication is communication that is honest, compassionate, direct and honors the dignity of everyone involved.

Relationships live in language. That means that the quality of your regular, everyday communication determines the quality of your relationships. Your communication is not just the words you say; it is how you say those words. The result you get in your communication with others is determined by your intention. Your intention is the superior force in any communication because your intention, conscious or unconscious, is the "carrier wave" for the words. People will usually respond to the energy with which you say something more than the words you say. Powerful communication is congruent, meaning the words you say are consistent with your emotions and your intention.

Another, often overlooked, part of communication is listening. As the listener, you have the power to influence the quality of a conversation by how you listen. Have you ever been in a conversation in which the person to whom you were speaking was not listening, or distracted, or thinking about something else entirely -like what they wanted to talk about? How did that make you feel? Have you ever done that with anyone? How does it feel to have someone's complete and undivided attention when you are speaking? How you listen to another, especially your partners, can have a direct affect on their self-esteem and their sense of value. The quality of your communication determines whether you feel connected or not.

Have a Working Knowledge of the Five Stages of Relationship

The second key to powerful partnerships is having a working knowledge of the five stages of relationship. The five stages are Attraction, Power Struggle, Cooperation, Synergy and Completion.

The most problematic stages for most people are Power Struggle and Completion. People often ask us if the Power Struggle stage is necessary. Who wouldn't want to avoid power struggle? People don't exactly jump up and down with excitement when they enter that stage, like they might in the attraction stage! The Power Struggle stage is necessary in that it is all about building trust. And trust is necessary if a relationship is to mature. Power Struggle isn't bad, it's just inevitable, predictable, unavoidable and recurrent. That is, it happens more than once in any long-term relationship. Why? Because each time you increase the commitment in a relationship, e.g., investing more time, money, emotion, etc., more trust is required. Whenever more trust is required, you will temporarily revisit Power Struggle.

The other problematic stage is completion. Everything that is created has a beginning, middle and end. And that includes your partnerships.

There are four ways partnerships end:

  1. death
  2. slowly drifting apart
  3. abrupt expulsion
  4. consciously

The first is obvious, as when one of the partners dies. The second is when partners may be separated by geography, time, interests or what-have-you. They find little in common to sustain the partnership. The third occurs with an apparently irreconcilable upset and the partnership is abruptly ended, usually with very bad feelings.

Obviously, the most desirable of the four is consciously, but most people don't know how to do that. Conscious completion involves acknowledging what you have learned from the partnership, what you have contributed to the partnership, making any apologies that might be necessary and asking for and extending forgiveness.

Often, completion is about changing the form of the partnership, as in parents who are divorcing. They will no longer be in the form of marriage, but they will continue to be partners at some level in co-parenting their children. In this case, conscious completion is very important for developing or maintaining mutual respect, dignity and caring in the partnership.

There are particular skills to learn and master for each of the five stages and specific things to avoid. We suggest you download and print out the five stages article and read through the skills for each stage, checking off the ones you know you need to work on. This will give you a personalized curriculum for being able to master relationships and help you to create powerful partnerships.

Using a Design Model

Would you even consider building a house without an architect and a blueprint? You wouldn't get some wood, nails and a hammer and just start putting something together and hope it turned into a house you would want to live in, would you? People do the equivalent with their partnerships all the time. They "believe" it will work out because it just "feels" right. Most people leave the success of their most important relationships up to chance and luck, in the hope that it will turn out. But, of course, it seldom does and then they are left wondering, "What did I do wrong?"

Clearly, love and/or good intentions are not enough to guarantee success in your partnerships. In addition to those things, you also need a strong measure of education and skill - education about what it takes to have relationships succeed, and skill in standard practices of success. It also helps to have a good coach to help you out along the way in applying your knowledge and developing your practices.

Here is a simple 3 part model we have found to be extremely effective for designing partnerships.

Purpose - Results - Form

First, be clear on the purpose of your partnership. You can get to that by asking "why?" - why are we in this partnership? Purpose determines the direction you are going in. Purpose statements are best kept simple and general.

Then, write out the results you want to accomplish. Those could be feelings, experiences, products or services, depending on the nature of the partnership. This is where you get specific. Results are the "what". Look to see if the results you want in your partnership are consistent with your purpose. If they aren't, then you know you will have trouble down the road.

Last, determine the best form to serve your purpose that will help you achieve your desired results. Some examples of forms of relationship are friends, teammates, business colleagues, business partners, dating, engagement, marriage. Form is tied to the roles you play in your life. Form is all about "how" you will achieve your desired results and ongoingly fulfill your purpose.

Here is an example of what this might look like:

Take two people who are attracted to each other romantically and are falling in love. They start talking about building a future together. If they were to use this design model, they would have deep conversations about the purpose of their relationship. They may decide their purpose is simply to bring out the best in each other. The kinds of results they want to experience in their relationship could include fun, laughter, deep, heart-felt sharing, travel, time apart, creativity, sexual pleasure, intellectual stimulation and community involvement. They would then have conversations about what the best form might be to accomplish those results, given their purpose. One of the important things to remember about form is that form changes. If the couple in our example is having these conversations as the level of serious dating, they may look at "going steady" and being monogamous. Or if they are further along in their relationship, they may consider being engaged. All of these are forms, and they change over time as commitment deepens and trust is developed.

Practicing Radical Personal Responsibility

Here is something that is very important to understand. Upsets, disagreements, misunderstandings, miscommunications and breakdowns are inevitable, predictable and unavoidable in your partnerships. Now, why in the world would we say something like that? What about positive thinking? Just look into your own experience. Haven't you had upsets and disagreements despite your best intentions and despite your positive thinking? Unfortunately, good intentions and positive thinking are not enough to avoid or prevent upsets and misunderstandings. They are a fact of life in human relationships at this stage of our development. What is really required is a new way of interpreting these events. And that requires the knowledge and skill necessary to truly use them as opportunities for healing and spiritual growth.

It is extremely important to have a mutually agreed upon, pre-determined means for handling these things when they occur. If you wait to see how you resolve your upsets when you actually have them, you will be setting yourselves up to lose and possibly making the situation even worse.

Now, the fourth and fifth keys work closely together, so we will talk about both of them here. The fifth key is:

Using Your Partnerships for Conscious Evolution

What does "conscious evolution mean"? Simply put, it means that you recognize that your partnerships provide you with a powerful opportunity for your personal and spiritual growth. And you can truly take advantage of the opportunities present in your partnerships if you share a commitment to use your relationship with each other for your mutual growth and evolution.

The greatest opportunities for conscious evolution lay your upsets with others and how you handle them. practicing radical personal responsibility means not blaming your partner or yourself. Rather, you look together to see how you can learn from the upset. This is based upon the idea that you are never upset for the reason that you think, and there is value in looking deeper than the obvious.It is the recognition that most present time upsets are simply an activation of unresolved pain and hurts from the past and that this current upset is truly a healing opportunity.

When you practice high performance communication, when you know where you are within the five stages of partnership, when you are using a proven model to consciously design your partnership to be the way you want it to be, when you can use your present time upsets to help you resolve your unresolved issues from the past, and you and your partner have an agreement to be allies with each other in that process, then you are practicing conscious evolution and living in a powerful partnership.

© 2006 Paul and Layne Cutright - All rights reserved. You may publish this article in its entirety and with the authors' resource information intact.

The Importance of Creating Environmental Partnerships with Your Vendor and Suppliers - Being Green

Building green partnerships with those you do business with is the key to creating the most environmentally friendly meetings possible - each and every time. Working with others is a daily undertaking in our industry. We interact with and do business with our co-workers and management, numerous vendors and suppliers, sponsors, our clientele and often with other organizations and meeting planners when we produce our events. Each individual or company we deal with has an integral role to the success of our event which mean, each should be on board when it comes to being environmental and sustainable. By collectively striving for the same results and goals, we generate binding and lasting partnerships with those we work with. The same type of partnership applies when we are talking about greening the meeting industry.

How do we go about generating these green partnerships with those we work with regardless of who they are and the roles they play? If it is our desire to become more environmental then it is our responsibility to educate others about our green goals and new practices. So first we must develop our own green foundation and describe what that means in writing and then share with the others we cooperate with.

Building a "green team" with a "green vision" from within your company with your associates is the first and foremost partnership to form. While we depend upon and rely on other people, companies and organizations that we have worked with for years, we must have a solid set of guidelines and standards from within our own companies and organizations in order to ask others to join us in our new environmental direction. The green policies and procedures must come from you first - from the partnerships you have created with your co-workers and colleagues.

Delegate responsibility to yourself or a co-worker to form the green team and begin to establish the guidelines and standards and policy and procedures. Get the buy in from your colleagues and management then share with the others involved in the decision making process and the direct reports. Your environmental initiatives should feel like a natural extension of your current policies and procedures. Keep it simple but make it relevant. It's critically important to engage your entire organization in your initiatives and bring them in on the green vision you have established.

When it comes to creating green partnerships with outside vendors and suppliers and when working with other planners, communication is the key. It is imperative that you communicate with your current vendors and suppliers your new green vision and ask them if they have green initiatives or if they are willing to adopt some of yours. Many may be reluctant to do so because of lack of education and experience. And one of the biggest challenges is the resistance because they believe it is going to cost them more money. To overcome these challenges, you must begin the conversation and be equipped with answers to the litany of questions that are bound to come up. This new way of being and doing will require education on everyone's part. This is a good partnership when you work together as a team.

You can either educate them, ask them to make some changes or find other vendors who will. But the last thing you what to do is lose a good resource because we know how hard breaking in a new vendor and establishing a new relationship can be. So the best solution is to bring people on board and train them if necessary. Some of your vendors may already have green options and without the conversation, you didn't know about them. So ask and maybe together you can come up with solutions and answers. This is how the partnerships between all of your business relationships are established. The winning strategy is to make sure everyone involved with your event is on the same page.

Make your partnerships real and make sure your associates are dependable and responsible enough to follow through. Sometimes this means getting these agreements and policies into the contracts. Do not be afraid to put your green requirements in writing. Negotiate until you are satisfied with the results. We know that circumstances will arise where our green initiatives will not fit into a particular event, but we can come close or compromise. Good negotiation skills and good contracts are imperative at this juncture.

Universities Partnerships Can Benefit Your Tuition Assistance Program

Larger corporations provide Tuition Assistance Programs to their employees and many mid-sized and smaller companies have also added this benefit. The range of assistance runs from a few hundred dollars a year to several thousand. A few companies reimburse employees for an entire degree (with books and expenses) and do not have a maximum cap on the cost. These forward-thinking companies view their Tuition Assistance Program, not as just a benefit, but as a strategic investment.

Your Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) may have been created with several purposes in mind:

o Corporate Benefit. Corporate Benefit is the Number One reason for companies to offer reimbursement for college classes and degrees. Companies recognize the need to add skills, knowledge and education to grow employees.
o Recruitment and Retention Tool. Companies may offer reimbursement as a way to recruit new employees and retain the ones they have.
o Career Development. TAP may be part of the career development plans for employees and may include training, classes or college degrees.
o Outplacement. A few companies will use their TAP program to help employees move to new careers outside the company.

University Partnerships are generally formed between companies and colleges. The colleges may be community colleges or state schools or private universities and the partnership may be with a specific department such as Computer Science, Business, Engineering or Health Care. Or, the partnership may be between the continuing education division or the school and the company.

How will your TAP benefit from university partnerships?

o Schools may discount 10% off the tuition cost if the company allows the school to advertise the partnership.
o Universities offer internships at the company and are a good way to recruit employees with specialized skills and education.
o Universities allow corporations to recruit on campus.
o Universities offer Executive Education and Professional Development certificates and classes to help with career development and retention.
o Universities set up customized degree plans or certificate programs for departmental needs. These programs may be on-site at the company for convenience.
o Universities provide outplacement programs or develop certificate programs for those leaving the company.

Companies use TAP for many reasons-benefit, recruit and retain employees, career development, outplacement or a combination. No matter why your TAP exists, partnerships with universities can benefit your employees seeking education.