Building relationships that last
Global Services director of strategy and engagement Bridget Taylor spoke at the north-west meeting.
One of the certainties of leadership in any organisation is that you will need to partner and collaborate with others to achieve your goals. In local government this applies to almost every service, from children’s services to highways.
In the past 10 years there have been many examples of local authorities sharing services, pooling budgets and creating place- and customer-based teams to deliver better outcomes and save money.
So why do partnerships not always deliver the value we hope for when we start out, and what do leaders need to think about to achieve the potential benefits we all recognise are there? This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the job. Collaboration, in whatever form, will become more prevalent over the next decade so being good at it will determine how successful you are.
In a formal procurement process the focus is always on the ‘hard measures’, with little emphasis on what is seen as the soft issue of relationship management. Yet research suggests that between 50% and 75% of the potential gains of collaboration can be lost through ineffective relationship management.
Poor relationships allow effort to be duplicated and, most importantly, fail to address problems quickly when they arise. It takes focus and sustained effort to build trust and flexibility, and both of these are essential ingredients to any long-term partnership.
As a leader it is important to build a culture that values collaboration and helps people develop the skills required to be successful in that environment. This means understanding your partner’s business or political drivers while ensuring you also look after your own interests. In this way you can develop solutions that drive value for both parties and develop an understanding of the real ‘no go’ areas for your partner.
Encouraging co-location, job shadowing and secondments helps build relationships at all levels. Investing time in formal governance processes can create a forum, not just for progress reporting, but also to air differences and develop some great ideas. The best partnerships are those where you give people the space and security to do that.
Openness and transparency are essential if support for the partnership is to extend to wider stakeholder groups so that everyone can celebrate and share success.
Bridget Taylor, Director of strategy and engagement at BT Global Services
Bridget Taylor spoke at the north-west meeting
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