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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Can You Relate?

Increasingly in our world, large and small organizations are seeking alliances to create and deliver goods and services. At the same time, the failure rate for corporate alliances is in the range of 60% - 70%. An article in Harvard Business Review (Simple Rules for Making Alliances Work) suggests that too much emphasis is placed on strategic aspects of the alliance and too little on building the relationship between people within the two entities on which the alliances ultimately thrive or flounder. The authors, Jonathan Hughes and Jeff Weiss, suggest that a shift in emphasis is required (see graphic).

In the social sector, the importance of alliances is far greater, as is the desire to focus on the important outcomes. Yet, weaving the fabric of the joint relationship is essential. Rebecca Gajda in the American Journal of Evaluation (Utilizing Collaboration Theory to Evaluate Strategic Alliances) states, “Without a basis for trust and healthy inter-personal connections between people, strategic alliances will not have a solid foundation on which to stand. Collaboration depends upon positive personal relations and effective emotional connections between partners. Trust is only developed between partners when there is time, effort and energy put into the development of an accessible and functioning system for communication, and interpersonal conflict needs to be recognized as normal and even expected as the level of integration and personal involvement increases.”

The ability of people to build relationships and trust is linked to emotional intelligence and the ability to navigate differences. The Center’s work in the Leadership Beyond Boundaries effort is very much about helping individuals enhance their self-awareness and interpersonal skills. This is a growing imperative as we seek to accomplish more through collaborations, alliances, and partnerships. In the end, our ability to make grand cross-institutional relationships work rests on the humble ability of the individuals involved themselves to relate and collaborate.

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