That moment when we stand for the altar and say “yes” to each other, everything is all rosy. We’re all raised with the fairy tales that end with “… and they lived happily ever after”. We don’t immediately think about what to do when it gets rough.
Unfortunately, despite the good start, sometimes the relationship might develop towards an undesired direction and there comes a moment that intervention is required. The couple might decide to break up or solicit help to mend the relationship.
The same happens in business collaborations. The partners see the opportunity, negotiate their collaboration contract and start working together. However, somewhere down the road, things start to get rough. Perhaps the alliance or joint venture is not delivering the results that was expected, misunderstandings are occurring and communication goes sour. The partners are blaming each other for the situation and the relationship is no longer considered healthy.
It might be time for intervention, in order to work towards a proper relaunch of the collaboration. As you and your partner are in the midst of the situation it will be difficult, if not impossible, to take a step back for an unbiased view of the situation. Outside help is required, ideally independent and hired by both partners.
Inspired by Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching methodology, my first step in such a situation is to start with interviewing the involved stakeholders and reading the collaboration contracts. This will provide a good impression of what has been agreed upon and what causes the pain.
The second step is to work the relational issues with the team involved. The air needs to be cleared. This is often easier said than done and a number of intervention sessions might be required before a common ground is reestablished upon which the collaboration can be rebuild.
Then it is time to redesign the way the partners work together in their collaboration. In troubled alliances and joint ventures this is often more about the relationship than about the business opportunity. In my experience, that is also often the reason why many partnerships go sour in the first place: most partnerships are being created purely on the basis of the business opportunity and the “soft elements” of the relationship have not been taken into account. Yet, that’s where it goes wrong. Hence, time to focus on the relationship in the relaunch and that process is quite similar to (re)building a team.
Alliances and joint ventures are often compared to marriages and in a recent engagement I have already been nicknamed “the marriage counselor”. Even though I really like to help you solve your collaboration issues, you might want to prevent them from happening in the first place!
So, if you take one thing away from this article, then think about how open and transparent you communicate in your collaborations. Find what is out there, unspoken, that can potentially jeopardize your collaboration and start fixing it. If you then want to have an outside in view on the issue, feel free to contact me for a call (no strings attached!) with me for a 30 minute brainstorm.