by Susan Rushing

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Some of my best work experiences have revolved around collaboration and partnership, when I have been able not only to bring my own talents but also benefit from others bringing theirs. Through partnership, I have experienced greater productivity and more creativity, which in turn has led to greater engagement and satisfaction with my work.

For example, a key leader I work with enjoys detailed problem solving. I, by contrast, am always anxious for action and enjoy learning by doing. In the world of banking operations, we are always crafting solutions and growing with the opportunities technology affords. In this endeavor, our partnership has led to some creative problem solving. She helps me seek root causes while I encourage her to try a course of action. It is iron sharpening iron. We challenge, we test, we expand, and we deliver. Knowing we both want the best for ECCU’s members is important. Equally important is that we respect and trust one another in the process.

Research shows that our experience isn’t isolated. According to the Gallup organization, “In the workplace, employees with just one collaborative relationship are 29% more likely to say they will stay with their company for the next year and 42% more likely to intend to remain with their current employer for their entire career, compared to those with no partnerships.” Here, from a recent book titled Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life by Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller, are the eight crucial elements of a successful partnership that Gallup has uncovered from their research (and others’) on collaboration. As you read them, consider this question: How have partnerships—and these elements of them—strengthened your ministry and made your work more satisfying?

 The Eight Elements of a Powerful Partnership

“Great partnerships don’t just happen,” the authors say. “Whether your joint mission is to build a successful company, coach a team, improve the government, do something spectacular for a charity, or any other worthy goal, all successful partnerships share the same crucial ingredients.” When all these elements combine, partnerships become not just effective in accomplishing the mission, but also personally rewarding, sometimes intensely so.

  • Complementary Strengths: Everyone has weaknesses and blind spots that create obstacles to reaching a goal. One of the most powerful reasons for teaming up is working with someone who is strong where you are weak, and vice versa. Individuals are not well-rounded, but pairs can be.
  • A Common Mission: When a partnership fails, the root cause is often that the two people were pursuing separate agendas. When partners want the same thing badly enough, they will make the personal sacrifices necessary to see it through.
  • Fairness: Humans have an instinctive need for fairness. Because the need for fairness runs deep, it is an essential quality of a strong partnership.
  • Trust: Working with someone means taking risks. You are not likely to contribute your best work unless you trust that your partner will do his or her best. Without trust, it’s easier to work alone.
  • Acceptance: We see the world through our own set of lenses. Whenever two disparate personalities come together, there is bound to be a certain friction from their differences. This can be a recipe for conflict unless both learn to accept the idiosyncrasies of the other.
  • Forgiveness: People are imperfect. They make mistakes. They sometimes do the wrong thing. Without forgiveness, the natural revenge motives that stem from friend-or-foe instincts will overpower all the reasons to continue a partnership, and it will dissolve.
  • Communicating: In the early stages of a partnership, communicating helps to prevent misunderstandings; later in the relationship, a continuous flow of information makes the work more efficient by keeping the two people synchronized.
  • Unselfishness: In the best working relationships, the natural concern for your own welfare transforms into gratification in seeing your comrade succeed. Those who have reached this level say such collaborations become among the most fulfilling aspects of their lives.

What’s your experience. How have partnerships made you and your ministry more effective?

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