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Partnering – Support

Andy leaned forward, “now Colin, what is important here is for you to unashamedly milk your contacts. As you start your business you will need help. Your contacts won’t mind helping you.” It’s the advice I was given as I started Everyday Leader and it was right. The support I got from partnering with others was excellent. Practical advice, introducing contacts, feedback on ideas and just words of encouragement. All support that helped write those early chapters. Partnering for support in the early days of something is seen as ok. Like a new plant growing encouraged by the stick in the ground to support it, partnering with others for support as you launch and grow is seen as natural. But is that where partnering for support stops? Or can it be a powerful tool for growth, strengthening or sharing expertise?

How do you view the word ‘support’? For many nowadays, it has developed some negative connotation. Maybe it’s because it is used with competency situations, with phrases like, ‘you need support’. Maybe it’s because support is seen as when something is weak, for example for building work, scaffolding can help keep things upright. There is this sense for some that once you have ‘grown up’ as an organisation then you should be able to stand on your own two feet. But this is selling us short. Partnering for support is not a weakness, but a strength, recognising what will help you bring the better outcome.

If you have ever played a team sport, the support of your team mates is crucial. The impact your ‘supporters’ can have, as many professional teams are discovering at the moment with coronavirus restrictions, can be huge in lifting team performance.

Unless you have a ‘Be Strong’ driver, where it is hard to admit to others that you need help, most of us are quite willing to ask others for help in areas that we don’t feel so experienced in. For example, I am pretty good at most things, but I will talk to my friend Julian if it is something building related or my friend Ian if it is car related. As a result, when I ask them, I have better knowledge, make better decisions and get a better outcome. So, when leading, what are the areas that partnering with others for support can make a difference?

When you need to solve a problem or so that you don’t need to solve a problem

We recently had a website problem. I had tried sorting this with the host of the domain and the website host. After 3 attempts and two weeks later, it still was not working properly. I needed to partner with someone who could talk the technical language and engage the two parties and so I contacted Owen Williams of WestView IT. By the following day, it was all followed up. As a result, we are having further conversations with Owen, as he prides his business on being the ‘IT company you don’t need to call’. Partnering for support so that problems don’t even materialise goes that step further.

Support your creativity

We partner with Ben Land Media, to help us develop our videos and media. Our role is to inspire and equip and we recognise the importance that media can have in that. By partnering with an organisation with expertise in that area they support us to deliver. That, in turn allows us to focus on the content, the delivery of the inspiration, the coaching, the training and the media content, rather than in the production of something that is not our sweet spot. Partnering for support to develop your creativity enhances what you offer.

To market what you do

Sometimes we have to recognise we need support. Talk to any marketeer and they will tell you, that it is people and word of mouth that is the best way to sell your product. Seth Godin talks about finding your ‘sneezers’ who are infectious about what you do. Look at what you do. Who recommends others to you? Partner with them. Thank them, look after them. It will reap dividends as they support and promote you.

When you need a perspective

In our training, we talk to people about getting feedback in the form of ‘3 stars and wish’. Asking others to let you know 3 things you are doing well and 1 thing you need to focus on improving. Doing this as an organisation creates a culture of self-improvement. So, who are your partners for feedback? Who supports you in that way.

As a fellow supporter

On this month’s Leadership Lounge podcast, Owen Williams talked about how he partnered with his competitors. He spoke to them, discovered what each of them had a speciality in, and discovered they had areas that complimented each other. By encouraging one another, they created a stronger alliance to support the work they do and learnt from one another. Seth Godin, in his book ‘The Practice, shipping creative work’ explains that we need to give generously of our craft, that means to our ‘competitors’ too. So, as a leadership development company, we encourage other coaches. We showcase them on our podcast, we comment positively on their social media and we encourage them in their bold steps. When I was a headteacher, I made connections with fellow headteachers, finding points of connection and sharing good practice. In turn they shared back and we created a network of support that has lasted for years and beyond remaining as a headteacher. Supporting others engenders support back. The job is then no longer lonely. You have supporters.

We know that coaching is one of the best ways to gain a supporter. The coach’s job is to act as a guide to help you be the hero of your story. They are not after the limelight. They are there to ask you the questions to help you discover the answers. The coach has the unconditional positive regard that you can find the solution and will question and help you reflect to find it. They are not there to give you the answer or just give you the positives. They are there to ask the critical thinking questions too, to help clarify your thinking. What better support is there than that?

In conclusion

The support of others in your journey of leadership is not a weakness. It is all part of the tapestry that we weave to help those that we serve. Supporters cheer you on and enhance what you do. It makes sense to partner for support. Who supports you? Who do you support?

So, as you consider partnering as support, what are the considerations?

· Who do we know that can help us so that we don’t need to solve a problem?

· Who can we partner with to enhance our creativity?

· Who are our sneezers?

· Could coaching be the support that you need?


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