Do you pass the Partnership Test?

Thank you to guest blogger, Katherine Craig, Spearhead Executive Coaching

do you pass the 'partnership' test? The difference between a "partnership" perspective and a "win-win" perspective

do you pass the 'partnership' test? The difference between a "partnership" perspective and a "win-win" perspective

"Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning." (Bill Gates) 

When I'm facilitating the Crucial Conversations workshop we spend some time discussing the difference between a "partnership" perspective and a "win-win" perspective. When you think of the word "winner" what words come to mind? Participants often say the following: champion, leader, and...loser. When we approach a situation thinking the word "winner" the word "loser" isn't far behind. As soon as we think "loser" the brain readies itself for the fight. Fight! Now you are going into a conversation readying yourself for a fight. 

Confirmation Bias 
When you are in fight mode, whatever the other person says or does will be interpreted as taking a stance for their possible victory and your possible loss. This perception is called confirmation bias , and is defined as "the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories." Pause on this for a moment and rethink the concept, because it's important. You will see the other person's every word and action through an adversarial lens. If you are thinking of them as an adversary, how will you behave? Most of us would be cautious at best and go to fight/flight at worst. The possibility of having a successful, positive working relationship diminishes. Opportunities are lost in the haze of the desire to win or survive. 

Partnership Perspective
Now think of the word "partner" and what words come to mind? I frequently hear: friend, collaboration, equal standing, understanding, equal responsibility. There is no adversarial headspace in this perspective. As ever, confirmation bias will swing into action and we will see the other person's words and actions through a partnership lens. Differences of opinion are just that, differences of opinion. They aren't perceived as personal slights and manipulative. Shut your eyes and imagine your best friend for a moment. Do you have disagreements? Are you still friends? Of course you are, because you see yourselves as allies, not adversaries. 

But what if the other person is thinking like an adversary and you are thinking partnership? This is not about "rolling over". You don't do that with your friend, you won't do that at work. This is about functioning as equals. We know that people's emotions mimic each other. It's very hard to argue with someone who is very calm and offering partnership. Change the stakes - be the calm person! 

The Key to Success: Be Genuine 
To be successful at work we need to think like Bill Gates and develop positive working partnerships across the organization. It's often easier to develop positive partnerships within our department than across departments. Other departments have different agendas and priorities. Think how much time you spend butting heads with other departments! Imagine picking up the phone or sitting across in a meeting and having it go smoothly with both of you satisfied. Thinking "partnership" will take you there. 

This is not about manipulation so you can secretly get your way. Our bodies perpetually send out hundreds of messages that are received by the people around us. If you are thinking it, your body is manifesting it and the other person is reading it. They may not know the full extent of what you are thinking but they will absolutely know if you aren't being genuine. Think of people that say one thing when you are sure they are playing you or mean something entirely different - you just know. So when you are tempted not to be genuine in wanting a positive working partnership, ask yourself what you have to gain if you do. 

The Partnership Test
The Partnership Test is easy. Just ask yourself the following: "Am I thinking of them as a partner?" And more importantly: "Am I behaving like a partner?" 

About Katherine Craig: Katherine, architect of innovative tools such as the New Hire Coaching Program and the Physician Coaching and Leadership Development Program, is an executive coach with over 20 years of global experience. She has been elevating individual and team performance, succession planning, performance review, strategy and program development for public and private sector clients in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Katherine holds a graduate degree in Education (Counselling) from the University of Ottawa and undergraduate degrees in Education and Psychology from Queen's University and Trent University respectively and is a Member of the World Association of Business Coaches. She is certified as an EQi® Coach and as a Master Trainer with VitalSmarts' "Crucial Conversations" workshops.

Did you enjoy Katherine's post? Contact Katherine at or phone at (604) 568-4434. Subscribe to her e-newsletter below.