How do you approach building successful partnerships across multiple functions?
To build effective relationships (and partnerships), I am a huge believer in a framework called the "Trust Equation". The Trust Equation outlines the elements that contribute to building trust in a relationship.
The Trust Equation framework is:
Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-orientation
Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy ==> Increases trust
Self-orientation ==> Reduces trust
The above items mean the following:
- Credibility is the perception of competence, expertise, and knowledge that others have of you. When you demonstrate a strong understanding of your field and deliver high-quality work, it will increase your credibility as an individual (and improve the trust that others have in you).
- Reliability is about being dependable and trustworthy in your actions. For eg, delivering work on agreed-upon deadlines, and being proactive in your communication on projects/deliverables. When people see you as reliable, their trust in you increases.
- Intimacy is an emotional connection (ie. active listening, empathy, and understanding), and operating with honesty & openness. When you create a space for others to feel comfortable, it will help to increase trust.
- No one likes individuals who push their self-agenda forward or prioritize their self-interest. If you are primarily focused on your own goals and objectives, it can be difficult to build trust with others. On the other hand, if you are genuinely interested in helping others succeed, it can be easier to build strong relationships.
By being aware of the above, this has helped me build strong partnerships with various functions, or to work through situations / relationships where there has been tension. Building trust takes time and effort, but the rewards of strong relationships and partnerships are well worth it.
Please feel free to reach out to me directly via LinkedIn message if you would like to discuss this further.
When there are multiple functions involved in key goals or initiatives, try to make it as easy as possible to share learnings and facilitate connections. Here are three key principles I’ve used:
Be a connector: Look for opportunities to pair cross-functional folks together on a project. Or highlight opportunities where multiple teams may be addressing the same problem in different ways so they can orient around the same goal and reduce duplicative efforts.
Continuous learning: Orgs with strong alignment are great at sharing learnings across the org. We often orient toward sharing wins, but if you can build a culture that promotes growth and learning about what works and what doesn’t...then sharing those learnings across other teams who may benefit.. it will help drive mutual understanding and partnership. For example, make sure Sales is sharing customer learnings with Product and Data is sharing past research with Product and Marketing, etc.
Leverage tools and documentation: Project management tools and shared processes for launching projects, getting feedback, and including the right contributors are key to reducing friction across functions.
Work with a sense of urgency. If a project can be completed quickly (no downstream impacts), then get it done. Those little projects build a lot of goodwill.
Communicate clearly and often. Perhaps that's weekly or monthly meetings to align on current/future projects. In addition to touch-base meetings, I like to use Confluence dashboards to show where a function's work is in-progress so those stakeholders have a centralized place to get simple questions answered.
Don't play favorites. Any stakeholder working with me or my team knows that the same cross-checks will be made for their request as with anyone else's.
Be a resource. Be available for questions. Give insight into the process.
Own your mistakes. If a deployment had unintended impacts on a function, apologize and correct it quickly. If you misquoted a timeline, acknowledge it and work with the function to get the project on track.
Building successful partnerships requires collaborative approach. A few things I always consider:
Understand the Functions: Gaining a deeper understanding of each function and their respective goals, challenges, and priorities. This knowledge helps identify areas of alignment and collaboration.
Foster open communication - Establish open lines of communication with stakeholders from different functions. Engaging stakeholders cross functionally, collaborating on projects, and knowledge sharing sessions to build relationships and enhance understanding of other functions.
Build Relationships - Building strong relationships based on trust, respect, and transparency. Collaboration thrives when there is mutual trust and a shared understanding of each other's expertise and contributions.
Building partnerships take time. But it is worth the effort. Mastering cross-functional collaboration will significantly impact the success of your company and your own career. You will need to take a strategic and collaborative approach to build cross-functional partnerships, investing time into:
- Identifying common goals and objectives: Start by identifying the common goals and objectives that your organization and its partners share. This will help you build a strong foundation for your partnerships and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.
- Developing a clear communication cadence: Develop a clear communication plan that outlines how you will communicate with your partners and keep them informed about your progress. This might include regular meetings, updates, and other forms of communication.
- Establishing clear roles and responsibilities: Make sure that everyone involved in the partnership understands their roles and responsibilities, and has the resources and support they need to succeed. This will help you avoid confusion and ensure that everyone is working together effectively.
- Building trust and collaboration: Building trust and collaboration is key to the success of any partnership. Make an effort to build strong relationships with your partners, and work together to solve problems and overcome challenges.
You find more from my recent article exactly on this topic: "The Best Leaders Follow These 13 Rules of Cross-Functional Collaboration".