Promoting Partnership in a Time of Division

I’m on the plane ride home from working at an amazing partner conference.

What I love about a partner program is when those attending really take full advantage of the experience and they actually use their time in the room to really, really partner. In this case, the conference attendees were finding ways to cross sell or to understand how to integrate their products more easily for their clients. The breakout sessions were really about new products or innovations coming out that the partners could sell, and it was also an opportunity for the client host to get direct feedback from those same partners.

Because there were no rules about what I was going to capture, and once the 90-minute kick off was over, I was on my own to find content to fill the 4’x4’ boards I had to draw on. The client had given me the list of countries represented and then a list of words the illustrations could be about. In addition, there was the meetings’ theme Partners Make More _________ Possible. They had provided some colorful cards on the tables for the attendees to fill in the blank and put on my table to help populate the illustrations. But after the kick off, no one remained in the main ballroom, they all dispersed to the 12 different breakout rooms.

While I received about 20 comment cards, there definitely wasn’t enough context or detail on the cards for me to figure out what to draw. So, I decided to pull on my spy outfit and see if I couldn’t sleuth more content out. I dropped in on some breakouts to find out what people were talking about…that helped me understand the client’s services, devices and program, but not much else — like how did real people with real businesses use their stuff? How were partners helping to make things better for that customer?

Out in the hallways, I would buttonhole people and ask them to tell me about their business and share a story about a client success. When they weren’t on the phone, they were happy to talk to me and their stories were amazing. In one hospital system’s ICU, they can now feed the detailing from the patient monitors into the cloud to see if someone is a cardiac risk. Another partner was working with a New Zealand client using drones to monitor crop dryness levels and tell the farmer when it was time to water. I joined partners for breakfast and lunch and these conversations made the visuals come to life. Once I’d finish one illustration, I’d move right along to the next. Pretty soon the conference attendees were engaged and seeking me out to tell me stories and things I ought to include.

What fascinated me most about this entire experience was how far we have come in reaching across the globe. Here were folks from around the world, working together with not much more in common than a client sale, that had grown to know each other, like each other and value each other’s opinions. This is the global thinking we need more than ever during these interesting times. Reaching out and partnering with someone unlike us is a major key to growth and connection.

On the plane ride home, I wondered, how can I form better partnerships for myself? Here are a few things I thought of, see if there are any you’d like to try:

1. Go out of your way to interface with a culture you know nothing about. Research it, know where it is on the map, look for community events where you might meet people from this region and go to one.

2. Watch out for your unconscious bias when you are watching the news, or even observing people out in the world. We find all kinds of ways to “pretend protect” ourselves when there is no threat at all other than our brains’ old routinized bias.

3. Go out of your way to appreciate the things other people value. Let your calendar auto fill with all the world’s holidays, then see if you can find a way to celebrate some of them with your friends and family; raise your awareness to the value of someone else’s traditions.

Partnership is a beautiful thing. See if this month, as we enter into what we experience in the US as holiday, we can find ways to partner here at home and across continents. Model partnership for your friends and family. Our actions will help us appreciate the diverse creative genius around us and around the globe.