“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”– Charles Darwin
It’s what we take from both the wins and woes that enable us to best understand how to fend off future failures and sustain success. The one consistent lesson always comes back to people: The right people make you. The wrong people break you. This applies to any enterprise and experience.
It doesn’t matter what we do, where we do it or how well we create a product or offer a service. We don’t succeed without the right people on our teams. I have come to believe that to survive and ultimately thrive we must effectively create ‘partnerships’ with everyone around us, from family to colleagues to society in general.
Connecting with Others
The word partner conjures up many connotations, such as collaboration, equality, teamwork, trust, alliance, support and reliability. These are qualities that we look for in both personal and professional relationships. Here are six principles I have learned that helps us to connect with others:
1. Honesty Matters
It’s the best and only policy when communicating with a potential customer, client, colleague, employee, supplier, distributor, contractor or even an industry rival. And it’s the same policy whether we’re speaking face-to-face, across the board table, or via email, text, video or any social or digital platform. We must be honest with our audience, our mission and ourselves. Effective leaders are honest in order to invoke trust and respect from their team and anyone they encounter. You never know whom you will have to rely on or turn to in the future. Nobody forgets and forgives dishonesty.
2. Message Matters
Leadership requires many qualities, including focus, passion, confidence and integrity. But success depends on our ability to effectively, honestly, and directly communicate our message. The digital age makes it easier than ever to get our message out immediately via myriad platforms. But we can’t lose sight of our goals and our message, which must be consistent and clear. It requires an ability to communicate every step of the process to everyone we meet or may meet. Direct communication leads to direction, meaning the path we set as a leader. Nobody wants to follow someone with a muddled message.
3. Inspire and Influence
The most successful leaders are able to inspire and influence everyone from their executive team, employees, customers, clients, partners, investors and people outside of their enterprise and social circle or demographic. Communication is key for inspiration. People connect with those who show their ‘human’ side. Leadership success can quickly inflate egos and alienate people, including those who are most critical to our ongoing ability to survive and thrive. The best and brightest will be toppled if they can’t inspire and influence other people. It takes a person with a positive, honest, forward-looking attitude to inspire and influence the people involved in building and growing enterprises and communities.
4. Think Ahead
No matter how successful we are, we won’t continue on that golden path if we stop anticipating what’s next. We need to surround ourselves with forward-thinkers. A single team member that’s complacent, lazy or rests on his or her laurels can send everyone involved on a downward spiral. We need to make sure our people are ready for any changes, including the most unexpected, even unprecedented challenges, which have become the norm in a rapidly changing global marketplace and society.
5. Create a Community
Like any community, a healthy business ecosystem must be nurtured to achieve long-term and continual success. As with any secular, social or other organized community, a sustainable ecosystem is the structure we form around us to get through the bad times as well as the good times. It’s that environment that allows us to partner with differing individuals and groups who bring unique perspectives and skills. All this enables collaboration, whether it’s with our neighbor, our C-suite counterparts or people across the world. This is what I focus on every day within my own organization and with everyone I encounter. We must always be open to inviting new people into our extended enterprise.
6. Think Long Term
‘Partnership’ is an integral part of the long-term pursuit of mutual fulfillment. All parties must remain committed to the same goals and collaborate to achieve those goals by adhering to sound and established principles, as long as those fundamentals are working. Each partner must be agile and recognize any changes that require a shift in focus in order to stay on track for the long haul. Everyone involved must recognize how he or she contributes to the greater good of the partnership itself.
Why Rely on Others? A true partnership is a mutual investment. A relationship. A voluntary collaborative agreement. We no longer work in an era where we’re trying to make everything as efficient as possible; rather, we’re trying to be more agile, more innovative, to move quicker with our iterations. This means that we need to work together.
Partners work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task while sharing risks, responsibilities, resources, competencies and benefits. It’s a voluntary collaborative agreement that must evolve to meet the needs of everyone involved.
The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) asserts that 80 percent of outcomes can be attributed to 20 percent of the causes for a given event. To achieve more with less, one needs be selective, not exhaustive.
Leaders must strive for excellence in the few key areas they can master, rather than seek good performance across many. We need to focus our own resources on what we do best to create a sustainable competitive advantage, while relying on the resources of others for the rest.
Power of the People. It doesn’t matter how smart or savvy we are when it comes to technology, product development or any single skill. Nobody succeeds in a silo. Whatever we venture — personal, professional, philanthropic, political or private – we must remember the people involved in and essential to our success. Learn from our own mistakes and mastery, and learn from the people around us: those we admire now and those we may learn from just by listening. We never know whom we may inspire or influence, or who may inspire and influence us. Today’s stranger may be tomorrow’s partner.