It promised to become a warm day, therefore, I started my day early. After about 11 kilometers of walking on the Camino I reached the outskirts of the sleepy city of Cirueña. Everything was still closed, yet I felt it was high time for me to take my first break. So, I sat down at the side of the road and noticed an inspiring landscape right in front of me. I looked for my camera and took a photo. That day I could not have imagined what an important role that photograph would play in the years to come.

Returning from the Camino

After returning from my first Camino to Santiago Compostela trip back in 2013, I have used that photograph in every single presentation, as the opening slide. The reason for that is that there are many parallels between walking the Camino and creating and managing alliances.

The photo shows a landscape with a patchwork of fields in green and yellow, those fields seem to merge  along the horizon, with the blue sky. In the middle of the photo there’s a split – between a sandy pathway and a rocky road that meanders to the right and disappears into the horizon.  

Both walking the Camino and establishing alliances can be seen as a journey with a preparation phase, an execution phase and an arrival, but do you ever actually really arrive? Rather like the endless horizon, both the Camino and alliances leave a lasting impression and can change you forever.

Take Care With Your Steps

Walking 900 kilometers through Northern Spain is simple but not easy. Every day you place your feet forwards, and finally will arrive at your destination. However, the roads on the Camino can be rocky. Thus you need to carefully place your steps; a misstep could result in an injury that would slow you down, or worse, it could even force you to stop your Camino.

In alliances, the road to success is often covered with rocks and potholes as well, albeit of a different kind. They might be less visible than on the roads of the Camino. You work with different organisations, all with different values, cultures and ways of working. Therefore, you need to consider your steps carefully to continue on the road to alliance success.

Be Prepared for the Unknown

While you progress along your journey, the horizon changes. In the photo, 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 merge with the blue sky. What is found behind these horizons one can only guess. The view will surely look different than the current viewpoint and as with journeys and alliances, we must all be prepared to adjust our course when we get there.

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

Don’t Go It Alone

While walking the Camino, there’s no need to invent the road. Other people have established it before and based on that century old information a traveller allows yellow arrows, guidebooks and roadmaps to lead along the journey. The same applies to alliances. There have been many people conducting alliances before. Their experiences and wisdom are collected in guidebooks and roadmaps too, in alliances they’re called best practices and procedures. I teach them in my Alliance Masterclass or provide them as an experienced guide in personal coaching.