Redefining Partnership

peter senge_shared visionWhen you hear the word “partnership,” what does it really mean to you? And what does it mean for your business partner?

All too often I find individuals and organizations are not on the same page with a foundational definition of what they mean when they toss out this term. And this causes mistrust and misalignment of intentions, and almost inevitably, outcomes. For example:

  • I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard suppliers proclaim, “When I hear the word ‘partnership,’ most of the time I find that means my clients want me to start giving them all kinds of things for free.”
  • In one workshop I recently hosted with procurement executives, they felt that when a supplier talks about a “being more strategic” it’s basically a code word that means they want access to their data and their end customer data so they can use it against them in the future.
  • And of course, there are the hundreds of operational executives who roll their eyes when they are told by their legal departments that “you can’t call your strategic suppliers ‘partners’ because that is a technical legal term that puts you at risk.”

The next time you hear the word “partnership,” stop and ask those in the room to define what they really mean, and why they have those views. In doing so you mind find yourself on the way to beginning a highly collaborative relationship that turns into a bona fide win-win partnership—just by creating a shared vision of what you mean.

Image: Peter Senge: Shared Vision by Jullan Kuckllch via Flickr CC

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