How do you partner for breakthrough rather than breakdown: through divisions, violence, trauma, war, hurricanes, floods, fires, and/or earthquakes? What’s the cost of not partnering?

Consider a majestic oak tree beginning to grow by breaking through a tiny acorn, underground, to sprout. It is not always easy and sometimes painful, yet life and growth await on the other side of breaking through. And it takes a combination of efforts including water, fertile earth and sun. What does this look like for us?

I am inspired by how people come together to support and partner with each other, across what might normally be dividing lines, to get through disasters, pandemics, crisis, trauma. Our family has so appreciated the prayers and support globally as our grandson faced three heart surgeries-successful, thankfully! New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner based leadership inspires me, as do the leaders and teams I coach and the coaches I mentor and supervise. 

The leaders and teams I coach are learning to improve their partnerships, both internal and external. From organizations in African countries, to US to Latin America. Despite the cultural complexity of their global teams, they are discovering increased effectiveness, impact as well as more time available as they partner. These leaders and teams are being recognized by their executive and appreciated by their direct reports. The majority of 9 leaders within one organization I partnered with recently for an introductory round of coaching requested additional coaching due to the results, with one’s request for coach training for their leadership team also approved.

How? By developing the following coaching skills, part of a larger set which also are characteristics of a high performing team and provide the necessary elements (water, sun, fertile soil) for development (note: these can also work well in families and communities!):

  1. Creating clear expectations with timelines, accountability, and the understanding that staff or external partners coming to the leader with a challenge will come prepared with potential solutions rather than relying totally on one leader to solve it.  Sounds simple, and in our rapidly changing VUCCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Culturally Complex, Ambiguous) world can easily become blurred. This shift from relying on one leader to solve everything frees up a lot of the leader’s time to focus on fulfilling their organizational vision, once it is established.
  2. Asking, “What do you want to achieve? How can I best support you in that?” Near the beginning of coaching, mentoring and coaching supervision sessions I ask, “What will be of greatest value to you, your team, your organization and stakeholders today?” which creates the session goal, followed by measures for success (how will we know when we achieve this?), followed by tying it into the bigger picture. Leaders who want to further develop their employees ask these questions during reviews and check in meetings and also seek to understand their external partners’ positions.
  3. Asking, “How does this tie into vision?” Most leaders know the power of a clearly communicated, inspiring vision for their team and organization. It is also a powerful question for leaders to use with employees who are impatient with their advancement and/or not fulfilling expectations as well as a way to keep conversations with externals focused. The stated intent: “I want you/our partnership to succeed.”

Note: these partner based coaching skills sound easier than they may be, as we discovered getting through our grandson’s surgeries, despite all the planning, preparation and support, it was emotionally and physically exhausting! They need to be combined with listening, a commitment to development, the leader’s capacity to share power, taking the cultural context into account….For example, cultures have different approaches to timelines and scheduling, some are looser and others more exact. These differences can vary by country or region as well as generational. Our workplaces are culturally diverse in many ways.

I believe and find hope in seeing partnership as what moves us from what feels like a breakdown or a painful breaking open to breakthrough. I see partnership as shared power, leading to peace. Peace through partnership is an essential part of my vision, “unlocking all potential so all can live in prosperity and peace,” and at the heart of who I am and how I coach, write, work. I am thankful to be a coach, a partnership profession.

What is the cost of not partnering? “60-80% of all difficulties in organizations come from strained employee relations,” Zeynep Ilgaz, “Conflict Resolution, When Should Leaders Step In?” Forbes, May 15, 2014 These difficulties can be magnified during (accumulated) stress and with global differences.

“…our mounting global problems are in large part the logical consequences of a dominator model of social organization…hence can not be solved within it. …through new ways of structuring politics, economics, science and spirituality we can move into the new era of a partnership world.” The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler, Harper Collins, 1988. Thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, we are moving away even in the use of language from “master,” a power-over term related to slavery.

Your turn, partners! I want to hear from you! How do you see the world: breaking down or breaking through? What do you see as contributing to breaking through? How can we maintain a sense of partnership even when there is no disaster, or when we grow weary by the accumulated disasters, divisions and conflict?

Leaders, unsure of how to partner for breakthrough within your team, organization, community, with external partners, particularly with cultural differences? Apply for an Unlock Potential Strategy Session with me.” Since I started coaching with Marilyn, I have reached all my short-term goals. She has an instinctual ability to draw out the essential element that I truly must focus on. There is no room to waiver and my energies as well as hers are focused on my next best step to the top. She is a fabulous partner.” Suzanne Nance, Global Health Promotion Coordinator, author, the first American woman to accomplish the Explorer’s Grand Slam (mountain climbing).

Coaches, join now, only a few available openings for our Coaching SUPERvision Group! “My time of supervision with Marilyn helped me explore new ways of being fully present and more attune to the needs of my clients. Her encouragement enabled me to better examine and address my own insecurities and expectations and helped me move toward a growing confidence in my ability to a serve my clients well. Unmasking my own misperceptions and exploring new perspectives, I have a renewed sense of joy and ease in the executive coaching space.” Mark Goeser, MA, ACC

You are invited to explore our latest reviews, podcasts, programs, and publications.

To our success and partnerships!

Marilyn OHearne, MSW, MCC, LLC; Master Certified Coach, International Coach Federation 913-327-0611

Unlocking potential, prosperity and peace with leaders, coaches and their organizations through CQ Leadership & Team Coaching, ICF Mentor Coaching and Coaching Supervision

PS When I feel like the world is breaking down rather than open, my hope and energy increase when I focus on  vision. The vision of an equitable nation and world where all can reach their potential and live in prosperity and peace. And when I see the number and diversity globally of those speaking up for solidarity and systemic change, hear some positive examples of this and consider how I might contribute. When I speak of peace, it goes beyond lack of war or destructive conflict to an inner peace that comes with living a life that is true to values and vision. It also conveys a harmony that comes with oneness or unity with others and spiritually. Focusing on our vision of our grandson growing into a thriving adult rather than fear of the alternative has been helpful throughout his surgeries.

Originally published September 11, 2017 and updated