We seem to be surrounded by devices, books, ideas and apps to help us get as much done in as short a time as possible. Many of these approaches have merit and (sometimes) we do seem to get more done in a day than was ever possible even a few years ago. However, at times we might be forgetting about some old school approaches that can also bring lots of benefits, such as complimentary partnering. And if you wonder what this is: this is where you partner with people who have different strengths and skills to you and with whom you can get through so much more and have more fun with, than if you rely solely on the ‘DIY’, app-powered method.
So do you want to try complimentary partnering? Here’s our ‘how to’ guide to developing strong partnerships at work and in life:
1. Know your strengths and limitations
We can’t be good at everything. We have some strengths and we have some weaknesses. So start by nailing yours – ask for a feedback on what others value most about you (your greatest strengths) and where they see you as needing more support (potential weaker areas). Once you have full understanding of these, make sure you own it and act on it.
2. Understand other’s strengths and skills
Often, we can hold up others as having great strengths and few weaknesses (compared to ourselves anyway). But the truth is that others too have areas where they excel and areas where they struggle. Observe the strengths and weaknesses in those closest to you and start to consider ways you could work together.
3. Show vulnerability – ask for help
This step may be the hardest of all. Publicly accepting that you’re not the perfect all-rounder and that you might need to depend on others, can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. However, if you’re going to build stronger relationships, and get more done, with more fun, you’ve got to be prepared to be vulnerable. So ask those closest to you for help on something where they stand out and you fall down. You might be a poor planner or finisher, you might struggle to reach out to build new connections, miss points of detail, lack the conviction to speak up for what is right. But find the right person to support you and they will be delighted to help – why? Because they get their strengths recognised and they also get to use them, which they love to do!
4. Show courage – offer support
Offer help to others, ask them to draw on your areas of strengths and skills. To do this, you might need to ‘take the risk’ of exposing weaker areas in others so that you can offer help and support. But if you do this sensitively and frame it as something you would love to help them with as you really enjoy that kind of thing, they are more than likely to take up your offer.
5. Beware strengths tsunamis
Sometimes, working with others who have the same or similar strengths and skills to us, can lead to a potential ‘strength tsunami’, where the energy you generate between you is so great that it risks overwhelming the partnership and others around you. For example, two people who are persuasive and decisive may make decisions too quickly and then try to persuade others of the merits of their position. They may be better bringing in others who have a more strategic or common sense view to sanity check their decision. Or just remember to step back and think it through before pushing ahead too quickly.
6. Strengths deserts
At other times, we may become too reliant on one or two particularly important relationships to us and gain great confidence that we can get all we need from these VIPs (Very Important Partnerships). But in doing this, we may miss the emergence of ‘strengths deserts’, where neither partner has the strengths or skills to deal with certain challenges and where we should bring in others to help. So a partnership that is great at generating new ideas and strategies may not be good at planning or communicating this to other. Use others to help with these important areas, to ensure that a new idea has the best chance of fulfilling its potential.
7. Stick with it
This last point is maybe the most important of all. We all know how hard it can be to develop new habits and behaviour.
Strong partnerships take time to develop and you will experience challenges and setbacks along the way. But when you stick with it, the rewards are great – happier friends and colleagues who feel more valued, and getting so much more done without having to do it all ourselves. Remember too to build out a range of complementary partnerships – knowing who to go to for what rather than leaning too heavily on one or two VIPs.