Saturday, January 2, 2016
By James Sartain

When we formed CODA Partners, we knew immediately that our company name would include the word partner.  Why?  Because long before there was a CODA Partners we had established a working relationship through which our individual value to our organization was increased by the influence we had on each other’s work, thinking, and expectations.

Hired over 25 years ago by two different senior leaders to perform essentially the same responsibilities for the same population of employees, we quickly realized that in spite of the failure of our supervisors to agree on much of anything, we shared a passion for the work of the organization, a commitment to doing valuable work, and a belief that we could find a way to provide exponentially greater value together.  And frankly, we both wanted to stay working for this organization and be employed.

We knew that if we worked together collaboratively, we could contribute more value to the organization than each of us could contribute individually.  We committed ourselves to structuring and delineating the work so that we both had fully articulated positions through which we could contribute in ways beyond what was expected us individually.

Fast forward several years and we found ourselves at the senior leadership table, having replaced the sparring VPs who initially hired us, but who could never successfully figure out the power of partnership.

Over time we realized our partnership had power because of what we shared and how we differed.  We provided a safe place to express concerns or test new ideas and ways of thinking about problems.  We provided a safe place to hear brutal truths when the situation required it.

We made each other’s work product better by not only serving as each other’s editor and sounding board, but also by offering our own thoughts on how to extend an idea, build an even better solution on what was started, or providing the missing analogy, example, or data to strengthen the argument for change or support for a new initiative.

We made each other’s work better by considering how our efforts could influence or impact, both positively and negatively, the work of the other.  We held each other accountable and did not let the other accept less than quality work or less than thorough thinking before action.  We often lost sight of who started an idea or first proposed a solution as the efforts merged.  And that is characteristic of truly powerful partnerships; being more concerned with the quality of the idea or product than worrying about rights of authorship.  More than the power of support, more than the power of cooperation, partnerships have power because they provide the energy to elevate us individually and collectively, to elevate our thinking, to widen our influence, and to achieve greater results.

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