From a high-level perspective, alliances & partnerships can be seen as relationships established between organisations to reach a particular goal that one of the parties cannot (easily) achieve alone. At least that’s the definition! When taking a closer look, I would argue that alliances & partnerships are relationships between the people involved. Without these personal relationships alliances & partnerships can never be successful. Isn’t that the case with any business relationship? Even though established to accomplish a business goal, business is more person-to-person rather than business-to-business.

Built on a foundation of trust, it is communication that determines the success of our relationships. Our communication defines how we are being perceived and how well we are understood. Communication is both about the message and about the carrier. In other words, it is about what we communicate, how we communicate it and what tools we use to communicate. 

The what, the how and the tools influence each other in communication. Recently someone complained to me how awkward a client was when communicating, his directive style in email irritated her and hence her response was also a little tense. She had experienced similar situations with this client before. While on the phone, the client displayed somewhat direct and blunt behaviour, but thanks to the interactive character of a phone call, at least messages were easily understood. The use of email (the tool) combined with the directive style of the client (the how) influenced how the message (the what) was understood, and as such email clearly was the wrong tool to use here.

Communication is the cornerstone of alliance success and simultaneously is also the cornerstone of alliance failure. In alliances or partnerships experiencing difficult times, the root cause of the problems most often lies in communication – or the lack of it! Initially, people tend to communicate often, both transparently and clearly. As relationships mature and those involved start to feel more comfortable, communication fades to less frequent intervals. A common situation is when people start to assume that the partner is on the same page as them and therefore understands what is going on. However, while making that unconscious assumption, people seem to forget that the partner is still working for another company, with another culture, strategy, goals and interests. 

Good communication is about intention and behaviour.  It’s also about transparency and proactive, open and honest sharing of information that needs to be shared.

In every relationship, communication should be a point of constant attention. Communication is about people, information, and personal interests. People all communicate in a different way, depending on their personal style and also on their mood and the circumstances they are in. Communication is a two-way street, so don’t be shy to ask for clarification if ever in any doubt. In life, and certainly in alliance relationships, communication is essential, so don’t let it become an illusion of communication!

What Have I Been Reading: Today’s Superpower – Building Networks: 7 Mindsets Principles to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World”* by Mikel Mangold

Why Is It Relevant? In this book, Mikel Mangold describes how building networks can help create solutions for every kind of challenge. Networks can be seen as next level alliances, including multiple partners, organisations and people. The book describes 7 principles to establish these networks, illustrated by many of Mikel’s personal experiences.