Partnering for a Change in Perspectives

In your line of work, how often do you work in partnership with someone else? Do you have a regular partner, or partnership team? When was the last time you partnered with someone new on a project or initiative? If it’s been a long time, is that by choice? In my work as a facilitator, partnership on programs is common; as a member of a team of facilitators, we regularly work together to tag team on events or activities, and it is – almost without fail – a tremendously rewarding experience (for me, and hopefully also for my partner!).

Partnering provides a number of benefits for anyone in a growth mindset. One, of course, is the simple addition of another pair of hands to provide logistical support and manual labor – someone else to actually do the work with you. This might evolve into someone to bounce ideas off and think things through together; becoming a thought partner, who can help to plan and provide valuable insight throughout the process. Sometimes, a partner approaches work from a different angle than you do on your own, which – either directly or indirectly – helps you to see your own blind spots. This can be powerful even when you see your partner do something that is routine for you and that you’ve done dozens of times and witness their different approach to it. Sometimes it can be as simple as subtle differences in language or ways of addressing problems that might catch your attention and curiosity as an approach you might want to consider yourself. Micro-mentoring can take place in a short-term partnership; both partners can learn something from the other even in a brief collaboration.

Some of these differences may be more obvious if your partner’s life experiences are different than your own, but you do not need to use the Social Identity Wheel to find a partner who brings something new to your work (and for whom you can bring something new also!). Fundamentally, any partnership can shake up your routines and help you to consider new perspectives.

So how can this idea of short-term partnerships be helpful in your workplace this week?

This Week’s Tip:

Identify – and explore – short-term partnerships in your workplace this week. The nature of your work may or may not give you a lot of autonomy in setting up longer-term partnerships, but it is likely that you have more ability to set up short-term partnerships than you realize:

  1. Reflect on partnerships you’ve had at work, and what you’ve learned from them. These may have taken the form of formal longer-term partnerships or single-session meetings that have never been repeated. What did these partnerships reveal to you about your approach to problem-solving? How were you affected by such partnerships, and are there things you do differently as a result?
  2. Find opportunities for short-term partnerships with people you don’t know well. Starting a new project? Find someone outside of your regular team to discuss it with; ask for their input, and listen sincerely for their perspectives. How can those perspectives help to shape the project moving forward? Is it possible for this person to be involved in the project further? If this would be beneficial to you both, explore the idea.
  3. Offer yourself as a short-term partner. This could be on your organization’s Slack channel or equivalent. Offer initially to meet for an hour to be a sounding board and a helpful second set of eyes and ears. When you meet, try to listen well and reflect back what you’ve heard, and wait until you are invited to add your own thoughts. There shouldn’t be a commitment on either end to extend this partnership beyond this session, but if it’s mutually beneficial, do it!
  4. Allow time for regular reflection. Continue to reflect on what you’re learning about yourself, about your work, and about other people through these partnerships.

Try this out this week and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group – we’d love to hear what you learn about yourself and others as you do!

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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