In 2013 I took this photo just outside of Cirueña in Spain, while on my way to Santiago de Compostela. This walk, also known as the Camino, comes back a lot in my work.

Sometimes people ask me what a photo of a landscape has to do with alliances. And if they don’t ask it, I often ask them myself what they think this photo has in common with alliances. Here are two similarities that often come forward:

Careful with your steps
Walking 900 kilometers through Northern Spain is simple: every day you simply put your feet forward and in the end, you will arrive at your destination. However, as the photo shows, the roads on the Camino can be rocky. Thus you need to carefully place your steps; a misstep could result in an injury that will be slowing you down, or worse, it can even force you to stop your Camino.

In alliances, the road to success is often covered with rocks and potholes as well. They might even be less visible than on the roads of the Camino. Therefore, you need to place your steps carefully to continue on the road to alliance success.

Be prepared for the unknown
While you progress on your journey the horizon will change. In the photo, you can see that there are at least two different horizons. The first is on the edge of the yellow rapeseed field and the second at the end, where the green fields seem to merge with the blue skies. What we’ll find behind the horizons we can only guess, but we do know for sure that it will look different than we can see from our current viewpoint.

In business, we often try to create detailed plans for a long term. Yet, like the Camino, we don’t know what’s behind the horizon. Competition, economy, difficulties with our partners, these are just a few elements that can force us to change our plans. Maybe we have to take one of the side roads in the business landscape behind the horizon. We need to be prepared for the unknown and the unexpected and we need to be willing to adjust to new information to achieve the alliance success we aspire.

These are just two similarities. Off course there are even more! For example, you don’t “just” walk to Santiago: you don’t just “do” alliances. You need to plan for it, be careful in your execution and be prepared for the unknown. Yet, like walking the Camino, creating alliances will know tough times, fun times and when done well, can and will be very rewarding.

Don’t go it alone
While walking the Camino, we let yellow arrows and guidebooks guide us. People often don’t go it alone: they often walk with fellow pilgrims and some even walk accompanied by a guide. Also in Alliances, it is wise to ensure proper guidance. Consider working with an Alliance Mentor.

Working with a mentor is like an experienced captain working with a harbor pilot to help him navigate through dangerous waters. The pilot brings in his experience and knows his way around. In this case, your Alliance Mentor brings in his experience and will help you navigate your alliance efforts around the dangerous waters of the common alliance pitfalls.

Read more about Alliance Mentoring