When it comes to partnership, we commonly say things like ‘it takes two to tango’. While this saying might seem to make sense, it can be quite misleading. For instance, does it mean that you cannot create a partnership with someone who is resistant to the idea? Or do you need to wait for the other person to be ready to partner with you to begin the process? In reality, partnership, be it in a personal or professional context, is a way of Being that begins with a choice that you make. This article reveals how partnership can lead to outcomes far beyond anything you could ever hope to achieve on your own and two critical factors required to create effective partnerships.
In Ashkan Tashvir’s book BEING, the author provides us with some insight into how we can relate to partnership as a way of Being as opposed to a label that binds two or more people together. He writes:
Partnership is living from the viewpoint of being in union with other human beings, an entity, person, team or organisation in the pursuit and fulfilment of a common purpose. It is when you are available to join with others who may share the same values, goals or commitments to create a disproportionate outcome in comparison to what each of you could possibly achieve alone. Partnership is the state of confluence where you embrace others and are available to influence each other. It is when you choose to powerfully collaborate and empower each other, irrespective of circumstances.
Let’s consider a tangible example of partnership in action. A few years ago, I met with a new coachee who was resigned and stuck in her life and had given up on having a future that would inspire her. In our discovery session together, we uncovered that she wasn't the only one who felt this way. Her husband had also lost his spark for life. They missed having adventure and challenge in their lives and had both become disillusioned with their careers. While their relationship seemed okay on the surface, they had been less patient with each other in recent months. She was losing her temper with her husband and their children for little or no reason and was angry with herself, as this was not how she was committed to being with her family.
My coachee was visibly frustrated and upset; this wasn't how she thought her life would turn out. She felt helpless, convinced that nothing would change. I encouraged her to take on the coaching and let her know that we weren’t going to give up and would work through this together. At that moment, our partnership was created. We now had a common objective, and we both cared about the outcome. Importantly, I also cared about her.
Over the next few months, we gradually explored different aspects of her life. The first area we considered was her work, which she believed was the source of much of what wasn’t working in her life. She had developed a habit of working late most days and resentment had crept in. We explored what was missing. She determined that she was responsible for the long hours, as rather than raising the matter with her manager or asking for support, she had kept silent, year after year. When she became present to the cost of her resentment, she could see that partnership was missing.
As the coaching progressed, my client’s resignation waned, and she became bolder, more confident and visibly energised. Although nervous, she assertively initiated a conversation with her manager about her workload and its impact. Over the next twelve months, they worked together, looking at what was driving the unsustainable workload, and, in the process, completely transformed their relationship, effectiveness and results. Things were shifting, and she was beginning to get excited again.
While the situation had improved at work, things hadn’t changed at home. The routines were the same, and I could still hear an air of resignation in my client’s words. I stuck with her and challenged her to consider what it would be like if she created partnership with her husband, much as she had done with her manager at work.
My client accepted my suggestion, and over the next few months, she and her husband actively worked on rebuilding their partnership together. They began to dream again, and they got excited. They got present to what was important to them and even included their children in the conversation. That’s when they created something they would never have dreamed of individually: a family business, a whole new adventure.
Partnership has transformed my client’s life and the lives of her immediate family members. It has changed how they live and their relationship with each other. They have built new friendships and a new supportive community. They have explored things they had never imagined possible. In short, partnership as a way of Being has changed who they knew themselves to be.
I recently caught up with my client, and she is not the same person I met a few years ago. She is full of life, and she and her husband are a vibrant, happy couple, related and engaged with each other. They are full of ideas and excited about the future. They have their mojo back! And it all started with a promise we made as coach and coachee to transform her relationship with partnership as a way of Being. I supported her in her transformational journey, and she then chose to bring partnership to the other people in her life as well.
Two key factors for creating effective partnerships
Here are the key factors I have found work most effectively when it comes to creating partnerships in my life and the lives of those I partner with. The first factor is care. I choose to care for my clients and the matters that are important to them from the moment we agree to work together. Most importantly, I choose to care about their vision, dreams and what they want to achieve in life.
The second is love. Despite what some people might think, love and care don’t always go hand in hand. For example, I care about my car, so I choose to look after it. But I don’t love my car. However, love is an integral aspect of all my partnerships, including coaching relationships. I choose to first care for my coachees, and then subsequently, I also choose to love them. I choose both love and care. Love enables me to go beyond personal discomfort when supporting my coachees. Coaching is a discovery process, which often entails peeling back some layers to reveal the truth or the heart of a matter, so it’s not always a comfortable process. It is often very challenging and can be confronting. Creating a powerful, loving and caring partnership means that my coachee doesn’t have to do it on their own. We are both on the journey together.
Ashkan also writes in his book, ‘There is true synergistic power in partnership. While mathematically, one plus one equals two, a partnership between one human and another human may generate far more than two units’. When my client embraced partnership as a way of Being, she discovered a whole new lease on life with her husband and family, far more than she could have created on her own. Successful partnerships are intentional and embrace both care and love. Most importantly, they are worth it, because when it comes to our partnerships with one another, one plus one equals so much more than two.