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Partnering - Two heads are better than one

Ross scratched his head. “I just can’t land what the purpose of this company is in a succinct form.” Gemma, his coach, just listened as he talked through how his company started and where he wanted it to go and the challenges that lie ahead. “It’s ok. Let me just ask you these 5 questions.

What is it that you do?

Why do you do it?

Why do you do it?

Why do you do it?

Why do you do it?”

Slowly, they worked their way through the questions getting deeper into the core of his and his company’s purpose.

“That’s it,” he exclaimed. “We’ve got it. I can’t believe it; I’ve never had this clarity before. Two heads are definitely better than one.”

This month, we will be looking at the power of partnering with others in our blogs and the Leadership Lounge Podcast. Partnering has immense power to help us lead others and stimulate innovation. This week we explore how “Two heads are better than one.”


Why should you partner with someone? There is a sense for many, if you travel alone then all the benefits remain yours. Of course, there is some truth in this, but what if partnering could bring you greater benefits? What if working with someone on something could improve your innovation? It could be as simple as talking through an idea. Today, I chatted through a potential project with my PA Chloe, to ask her opinion on it and to help shape it. She sees it from a different perspective and can ask questions or make comments to widen thinking, check perceptions and improve the innovation. Sometimes it can be more formal partnering for innovation too. A project idea you have needs IT support and you don’t have the expertise. Partnering with a web designer or IT support brings the project to life. Without the partnering there are no spoils to gain.

Reducing bias

CS Lewis used the phrase “two heads are better than one,” in 1942 in his essay ‘First and Second Things’, when he said “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.” When we are leading something or creating something, we come at it with personal investment. We see things from our perspective and, although we don’t realise it, we are full of bias when we invent things. When we sit down with someone else and talk it through, they can help us see and check other perspectives. I may think my way of handling this would be great but I may have missed a perspective. So, two heads are better than one, when they help us to get a full picture. The temptation for some, is to surround themselves with people who will give them a ‘yes’ answer. Of course, working with people that you are in tune with can be great for a ‘feel good factor’, but beware of the danger. I have seen first-hand the problem when a leader surrounded himself with people who said ‘yes’ and removed those who showed the slightest dissent. All goes well when that leader has good ideas and makes good decisions, but when they make poor decisions there is no-one to help them avoid the errors and then the organisation takes wrong turns.

Beneficial Partnering

Partnering with people, should be enjoyable. John Heywood used the phrase ‘two heads are better than one” in 1546 when he said, “Some heads have taken two heads is better than one: But ten heads without wit, are as good as none.”

Now, maybe partnering should not full of wit and merriment as there is some serious business to attend to, but there should be a sense that the partnering of two minds brings moments of joy, maybe even some chuckles on the way. Partnering with others, whether an informal conversation or more formal partnership should be mutually beneficial. Both parties should benefit and find themselves improving as a result. You might benefit at different times but nevertheless benefit. I know of 3 associates of mine who regularly meet to discuss and encourage. All of them benefit. In my previous career, I have been part of a headteacher group, each of us benefiting from each other at different points. Iron sharpening iron.

Coaching – two heads

What is your experience of coaching? Maybe it is an exuberant PE teacher telling sports participants what to do. Maybe it is a ‘business coach’ telling someone how to run a business and where to find things they need. True coaching though is far more than this. Coaching is based on an equal partnership where the coach has an unreserved positive regard for the person that they are working with that they have the answer within themselves. A coach’s role is to listen and to ask questions to challenge and deepen thinking. It is to help the person find ways forward and evaluate the first and best steps to take. The power comes in the head of the coach listening, understanding the important issues and asking questions. As a coach they are able to operate in their head outside of the emotional centre as they are not personally involved. Their head helps the other head to consider different perspectives and evaluate them. A coach acts as a ‘guide’ to help you be the ‘hero’. Imagine either continuing as you are, evaluating by yourself, or consider what it would feel like being able to get a wider perspective through questions that a coach can ask you. If you have not tried coaching before, maybe it is a form of partnering that could help you. We recommend you giving it a try. We can help you find a good coach with us or with other coaches we know.

So, what ways do you partner with others? Where are you having conversations that help you see perspectives and reduce bias? Where are you seeking to develop innovation using others? Is coaching something you could consider to help you get richer, deeper decisions? Remember, “two heads are better than one!”


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