Note: This article is excerpted from
Building Business Acumen for Trainers: Skills to Empower the
Learning Function and is used with Permission by the Publisher,
Copyright 2006 John Wiley & Sons.
In this two-part article we will explore 10 strategies for building
strong partnerships within your organization. Part one covered the first five strategies. Here in part two, we will cover strategies six through 10.
- Seek to be an integral part of every functional area.
- Be proactive.
- Reduce administration.
- Streamline standard offerings.
- Get to the executive table.
- Support partner activities.
- Establish liaison roles.
- Align T&D with corporate communications.
- Celebrate successes.
- Reinvent the partnership.
6. Support Partner Activities
Our partners are involved in a multitude of organizational
activities. We will not be directly involved in all these
activities; however, many of them will provide us with
opportunities to show our interest and support. It's a simple
truth: people are more likely to support people who support them.
Supporting others is a good way to strengthen our relationships and
encourage a spirit of community. We need to be aware of our
partners' activities and, without diverting too much time and
energy from our major initiatives, find ways to demonstrate
loyalty. If it is not always clear how to support your partners'
other activities, ask them. It's likely that they will have some
good ideas. Maybe you can act as a sounding board, be a guinea pig,
be an early adopter, or act as an advocate for what they are doing
throughout the rest of the organization. Don't forget, however,
that there may be political dimensions to supporting a partner's
activities. So however we show support it needs to take such
dynamics into account. We wouldn't want to alienate another partner
or different part of the organization. There are times to take a
strong stance, but we need to be shrewd about avoiding turf wars or
getting unnecessarily involved in other people's political
machinations. Besides, remember that our goal in supporting partner
activities is to nurture our relationships. Here's a general rule
of thumb: if our support creates more negative energy than positive
energy, than we should find a different activity to support.
7. Establish Liaison Roles
Staying in sync with our partners requires a good communication
strategy. Diplomacy offers us a good metaphor. Think of T&D as
a diplomatic core and each functional area it supports as an
embassy. We need to post an ambassador in each functional area.
These ambassadors are people from our T&D team who act as
trusted confidants and who are instrumental in building strong
ties. They play a liaison role by shuttling information back and
forth between T&D and its partners. These liaisons can also be
influential in negotiating critical aspects of the partner
relationship, such as priorities, strategic planning processes,
project deliverables, and communication interfaces. It is their
responsibility to know the pulse of T&D's partners. Treat this
post as a rotating one. Select a term length that makes sense for
your organization. In my experience a year is a good length. Move
people in and out of the role. You want as many of your people as
possible to build relationships with your customers. Although in
the short run this may appear to weaken or compromise the potential
strength of these relationships, in the long run you are
cultivating a greater number of relationships. This will serve to
diversify the support you receive from your partners, increase the
depth and diversity of your knowledge of them, and create more
shared history with them. You also gain more perspectives, and you
do not have to be concerned that a partnership will diminish if a
key ambassador leaves the company. You want to avoid having to
start again from square one.
8. Align T&D with Corporate Communications
Corporate communications needs to be one of our closest allies.
This functional area is an essential partner. From a philosophical
point of view communication and learning are inextricably
connected. Without communication there is no learning.
Many learning and performance interventions look very much like
communication strategies. The tools and processes of corporate
communications are vital assets to us in T&D. Why reinvent the
wheel when we can leverage the assets of corporate communications,
particularly its ready-to-go infrastructure, for reaching out to
the organization? We have a wonderful opportunity to make sure
communications are saturated with learning. In this way corporate
communications benefits by having a partner who understands how to
transform communication into learning.
If you do not have a strong relationship with corporate
communications make it one of your first priorities. As with any
partnership we need to learn the partner's cultural landscape. The
individuals in corporate communications have a different way of
viewing the world. We will benefit from a healthy dose of their
perspective. They know how to grab people's attention and
succinctly transmit information. People have even less time for
digesting corporate communications than they do for traditional
learning so we have a lot to learn from this area. Start your
efforts to make corporate communications a partner by making it a
central part of T&D. Invite individuals in this area to be
contributors. Seek their advice and they will begin to do the same.
Natural synergies will emerge. As each group becomes more aware of
the other there will be more and more opportunities for
9. Celebrate Successes
Our success is our partner's success. When we celebrate our
successes we elevate our partners and generate a positive focal
point for the entire organization. Because the work we do is
achieved through collaboration, it is critical to exhibit public
signs of appreciation and recognition of everyone's efforts. People
are energized by celebrating achievements. Our partnerships will be
strengthened by focusing on the positive. It also becomes easier to
learn from experience and identify opportunities for improvement.
Our partners are less likely to point fingers at us for aspects of
a project that may not have gone as smoothly as everyone had hoped.
Instead, we become better equipped to enter into a depersonalized
dialogue where accountability is not an issue because it is shared
jointly. These dialogues are a wonderful way for us to grow in
knowledge, increase effectiveness, and create opportunities to
share lessons learned.
Celebrating successes allows us to bring visibility to T&D and
reinforce our importance to the organization. If actions speak
louder than words, then results speak volumes. The best way to sell
T&D and encourage others to seek us as a partner is to share
stories that celebrate our successes. Let these stories be
authentic ones. We are not in the business of advertising, and we
do not need to hawk the get our partners to tell their stories of
working with us, we will secure our role in the organization. Look
for creative ways to build celebration into project methodologies.
This is another good place for corporate communications to help us.
Go beyond the obvious methods of sticking endorsements of courses
on T&D's intranet site or in printed collaterals. As genuine as
these endorsements may be they fall into category of advertising or
"spinning." Everyone is saturated with such messages. By
themselves they do not go far enough in promoting our value to the
organization, and they do not enable our partners to celebrate
10. Reinvent the Partnership
The survival and continued relevancy of a partnership is contingent
on our resolve to reinvent it. Partnerships are relationships. They
are living, breathing entities that need to be continually nurtured
and renewed. If we are not constantly investing time, energy, and
creativity into our partnerships and thinking about ways to improve
them they will become stale and irrelevant. By itself, no amount of
processes, procedures, or even successes is going to permanently
sustain a partnership. Staff changes, shifting priorities, and
modifications of existing tools and processes or introductions of
new ones are just a few of the sorts of things that can influence
the characteristics and longevity of a partnership. Think of a
partnership as possessing an almost infinite number of variations
and configurations. Be guided by what is necessary and not by what
is familiar. By treating partnerships as a two-way street rich in
dialogue, we can discover new ways to optimize how we work with our
partners. In this way the partnership will never exist as an end
itself. It will always remain focused on bringing value to the