Every relationship in a business situation does not have to be a partnership to be considered successful. So, when does it make sense to form this special kind of relationship? Over the years, I have decided that if we can say “Yes” to the following five questions, partnership is the kind of relationship we should pursue:

Do we have a shared Vision?

That is, do we have similar images of the future? We don’t have to see ourselves going to the same house, but we need to see ourselves going to the same neighborhood or adjacent neighborhoods. Otherwise, there won’t be enough overlap in our images of the future for it to make sense for us to try to take the journey together.

Is there Interdependency?

That is, do we need each other to get to where we’re going? Can we get there by ourselves, or do we need help from each other? Interdependency is defined here in Stephen Covey terms. That is, it must be “win-win or no deal,” and the relationship must be truly interdependent, not co-dependent. There must be something of value in it for both partners, and neither should be expected to neither subordinate nor sacrifice his/her aims for the other.

Are there Shared values?

Do we share a set of core values or beliefs that we are so strongly committed to that they will inform and guide our behavior day to day, even when we are not watching each other? It doesn’t mean we have to have all the same beliefs, but at the core, we must share a set.

Can we communicate Openly with each other?

There are two parts to open communication: First, we must be able to look each other in the eye and tell the truth as we know it. Secondly, we must be willing to share all relevant information. That is, we must lay all our cards on the table and trust our partner to use the information wisely. This will be a bigger challenge for some of us than for others, but as partners, we owe it to each other.

Is there a shared Responsibility for outcomes?

This means that no matter what happens, we stand up and are counted together as partners. When things go well, we don’t walk into the spotlight alone and claim the credit. Instead, we walk arm-in-arm into the spotlight and share the credit. When things go badly, we don’t point the finger at each other, but we share responsibility and work together to determine what went wrong and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

Can you wear the VISOR by saying “Yes” to these five criteria?

If so, then it’s worth it to put forth the effort it takes to develop this special kind of relationship. Imagine what organizations would be like if everyone made a choice to become partners on these terms! For those who do make this choice, the benefits are truly impressive. It creates a new energy, a new focus, and a new passion for collaboration that is not likely to exist otherwise.

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