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Definitions of "Partnering Intelligence, "Smart Partners," and other partnering concepts
See partnering terminology

First step in building an effective internal or external partnering solution:
Assess your personal or organizational partnering capabilities

Like constructing a building, creating a successful partnership requires using a blueprint or model.
Read about a proven partnering model built on a partnering culture

Partnering Culture

Building a Partnering Culture In An Increasingly Connected World

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Developing partnering cultures is a concept originated by Partnership Continuum, Inc. and was first documented in Stephen M. Dent's book Partnering Intelligence: Creating Value for Your Business by Building Strong Alliances.

We have helped some of the worlds's most successful organizations improve performance, productivity, and effectiveness using our partnering technologies.

After more than almost two decades of research and experience, one thing has become clear to us: partnerships are as unique as the people who create them. Yet, despite the diverse range of partnerships we've encountered, the successful ones all have three attributes in common:

  • They are based on trust
  • They are mutually beneficial
  • They thrive in an interdependent atmosphere

These three attributes are even more crucial today. This is because the number of partnerships and alliances are multiplying exponentially. Partnerships within or outside of your business are growing, living organisms. And like all living creatures, their survival and success depends a lot on the atmosphere they find themselves in.

All cultures start with the individual, but it is the collection of individuals and how they interact that results in what we call "culture."

As obvious as that may sound, a partnering culture has a profound impact on the ultimate success of your business. The norms of behavior create boundaries around what you can and cannot do and what's acceptable and unacceptable in your business. It determines the direction of your human energythe most powerful energy source any organization has.

Leadership Sets the Tone. Regardless of whether your organization is a 150,000-person multinational or a 10-person start-up, leadership sets the tone and style of how people interact with each other. They do this by their actions, not by their words. Employees watch leaders very closely. They rarely forget what a leader does. They watch who is praised, promoted, and criticized. They then mimic the behaviors that are rewarded and recognized.

In today's fast-paced business environment, leaders rarely take time to ensure that they are setting good examples. In fact, in many organizations, leaders deny that they have any kind of influence over people at all. It's easier to blame individuals than to acknowledge that cultural forces have a strong influence over individual choices and that those forces emanate from the top.

How does leadership go about developing a partnering culture? It is important to take a thoughtful and purposeful approach and that they are committed to the undertaking.

Partnering Attributes. The first step in building a partnering culture needs to be taken by the executive leadership. They must move beyond intellectually understanding partnering behaviors into living partnering behaviors. Partnering behaviors are a set of actions that build trust and inspire a sense of vision and confidence in others. We call these six interrelated behaviors the Six Partnering Attributes. When used consistently within the organization, these attributes create the atmosphere that allows the partnering culture to thrive.

To accomplish this, leaders must start with their executive teams. The executives on the team must purposefully decide they are going to behave in an open and trusting manner using the interpersonal skills described in the Six Partnering Attributes and commit to doing so. Then they must hold each other accountable for engaging in the behaviors to which they've agreed.

Communication and Collaboration. In addition to helping leadership set good examples, the Six Partnering Attributes help create a language that enables team members to better communicate with each other. Through meaningful dialogue, language is bonded to action. When language and action form a bond, trust is built, sending positive charges through the atmosphere and energizing the culture.

Consequently, when people in a partnering culture talk about working collaboratively and building trust, each member knows what actions he or she must take to meet everyone else's expectations. Over time, these become behavioral norms that are embedded within the organizational culture itself.

Building a Partnering Infrastructure. The second step in building a partnering culture is to be sure the organization's infrastructure supports the emerging culture. When the compensation structure, for example, is contradictory to expected behavior, people will do what they are rewarded to do. If you want collaborative behavior, you must balance the reward for both collaborative behavior and individual contribution. If you value trust, you must measure trust and reward it. It's not difficult, but few organizations have such measurements in place.

Once leadership has achieved personal mastery using the Six Partnering Attributes, and once organizational structures are in place to support the use of these attributes, employees must be trained on using the Six Partnering Attributes to accomplish their tasks. This creates a reinforcing network and embeds the language deeper within the organization. Ultimately, language turns into action, as the norm evolves into the culture of "how we do things around here."


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