We’ve all done it. We’ve all banged on about Relationship Management and collaboration. Many organisations have appointed people to specific Relationship Management roles. Others have shared the responsibility between many. We’ve created stakeholder maps, engagement strategies and ‘man-marking’. We’ve created processes, standards and technology solutions.
As people fully commit to collaboration we are delighted they’re no longer questioning the benefit of deep and genuine collaboration between organisations and that the debate has moved on from “Do we need relationship management?” to “What’s the optimum way to manage relationships?” But before we accidentally manage our key relationships to death, we now want to ask: “Is it time to move on and start thinking about relationship leadership?”
Management is all about doing things right but if it is over-used it can be energy-sapping and imply a lack of trust. “At times, we are more concerned with metrics than real achievement… we spend a lot of time ‘weighing the pig’ rather than feeding it!’”
When you are leading it’s no longer about you and your individual actions. It’s about the actions you inspire in others. Ask yourself “Who do I want to be involved and what do I need from them? What do they need from me?” Leadership sets the vision, creates the culture and inspires others to use their energy and intelligence to do the right things for the relationship. For leadership to be most effective, a continuous cycle of Demonstrate – Inspire – Empower – Recognise, is incredibly important.
In order to create a collaborative culture you need to demonstrate collaboration yourself. People quickly see through those people espousing collaboration then aggressively playing win-lose. Genuine collaborators know and say what they hope for and need, while listening intently to the needs and hopes of the other organisations. They then work tirelessly and visibly for the win-win.
We were called in recently to support a contract which was at the difficult stage of “too good to leave but too disappointing to stay”. Business-as-usual was fine but innovation and synergies were not coming through at the rate either organisation wanted. During the research stage we found comments such as:
“There’s not much information about where they are heading and what else they can do.” and “We don’t get a sense of what success looks like for them. It feels guarded about what their objectives of the relationship are.”
When you lead, you inspire others about the future you want to create. When supporting new partnerships try starting with the key leaders from each organisation talking about their hopes for the relationship, how they’ll know when it’s successful and why they’ve chosen to work together. Then encourage everyone to share their hopes and ambitions for the contract.
The most inspiring messages are rarely about metrics. They are often about customer experience and excitement, about becoming unique or world-class, about meaningful service and mutual success. The most successful relationships keep these key messages alive throughout the lifespan of the contract.