The third imperative of partnership success is transparency. When we form a new strategic partnership, we become interdependent upon our new partner. That is, our partner’s ability to deliver on tasks and goals will have a direct impact on our ability to deliver on tasks and goals. This interdependence is one of several reasons why transparency is critical to long-term partnership success.
When partners have a healthy level of transparency, they can communicate in an efficient manner. Transparency does not mean that each company becomes an open book, but rather each party commits to effectively sharing all relevant information to support their intended outcomes. This includes having all parties be clear, honest, and timely in all communications.
Clear communications mean the information is complete and succinct. When partners have a full and common understanding of important topics, they can make informed resourcing decisions that support the joint efforts. Clear communications allow partners to act with confidence and not waste time and energy second-guessing or double-checking the inferences that were made.
Honest communications mean sharing accurate information without manipulation or “sugar-coating.” It is important to understand that your partners are constantly adjusting their plans and resources based on the information that you provide. Your partners deserve candid and explicit information, so they are best equipped to adjust their course of action when needed.
Even when you must be the bearer of bad news, you owe it to your partner to share the news completely and accurately. All partnerships encounter mishaps and setbacks. How you handle these situations will either add or subtract the level of trust that your partner has in you and your organization. As contrary as it may sound, you can build trust in times of challenge if you are honest.
Timely communication is focused on quickly providing new information to partners, so they have maximum time to react. It is imperative that you communicate issues with partners in a timely manner. Your prompt communications will give your partners the maximum time to address potential challenges that may lie ahead.
Although it is never pleasant to share undesirable news, each unfortunate message will have to be communicated at some point, and the sooner the better. It has been my experience that communicating unfortunate news early can be seen as a trust builder between partners if the message is delivered in a timely, good-faith effort so that your partner has the best opportunity to pivot and minimize the adverse impact that may be caused.
An important way to foster transparent communications among partners is to agree in your partnership contract to provide specific key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be collected and communicated between parties. The metrics or KPIs should be collected and distributed in periodic reports as agreed to by the partners. The sharing of important metrics will help to maintain performance transparency between organizations.
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