Understanding the unique talents of your partner is the first step in improving your work together. But to grow a partnership and produce even greater results, we need to do more than just know each other's strengths.
People are different, and people need one another to achieve greatness, but simply naming and appreciating differences doesn't always set you on the path to productivity. Years ago, Don Clifton introduced me to the concept of measurement, and this applies to partnerships as much as it does individual success. Counting, rating and ranking progress can help you grow your partnership. I know. It worked for me.
A number of years ago I co-chaired a committee. From the beginning, I could see that my partner and I did not appreciate what each of us brought to this particular committee. I would ask him for a quick response. Rather than respond as I would, he would just sit and think about it. From his facial expression, I could tell he did not appreciate my approach.
On the other hand, when he would suggest to the committee that we approach an agenda item with some caution, I immediately broke in and said, "We have an agenda to complete, and we should move on." He could tell from my facial expression that I was not pleased.
I thought he was a bit of a slowpoke, and he thought I recklessly prioritized action over consideration. We had a few personal meetings about the situation, and they always ended with us feeling frustrated, seemingly agreeing to disagree, while honestly just noting our disagreement. In the meantime, committee attendance, participation and action lessened with each subsequent meeting.
Fortunately, my partner and I decided to take the CliftonStrengths Assessment. This instrument afforded us a framework and common language for what we thought were simple idiosyncrasies.
We shared our Top 5 with each other. To my surprise, my partner had a wonderful talent known as Deliberative. I learned that what I deemed as slow was, in fact, a fantastic ability to think through all the risks of a situation before proceeding. He began to appreciate my Achiever, not as a desire to charge ahead no matter the cost, but as a responsibility to set the pace of productivity.
As we looked at our other themes of talent, we began to see where we were alike and different. In a short time, the awareness, appreciation and celebration of our unique Top 5 led us to a fuller and more robust relationship.
Then I recalled Don Clifton teaching me to "count, rate and rank" my performance. I decided to test Don's guidance in the setting of our committee work, considering the following prompts to move our partnership beyond difference and into performance:
- What can we count that matters to our goal?
- Who are our stakeholders, and how can they measure our effectiveness?
- How do we describe excellence, and how far are we from that on a 1-5 scale?
- What clues to our progress can we track more intentionally
- What are you (and I) paying close attention to as we define our success?
First, I used a Likert Scale (1-5) to ask committee members to rate the work of our committee. The scores indicated that the group felt more productive because of the co-chairs' positive relationship.
Next, I asked a series of open-ended questions to the committee to rank the most important priorities. Each member stated to a different member that they noticed my partner and I seemed to get along better, and that, because of our improved relationship, committee members felt they were accomplishing more.
Then I began to count how many agenda items we covered, and I found that our committee was getting through more agenda items and feeling more engaged as a group over time. I even counted the number of members absent or late, and those numbers improved.
No, the committee did not always see eye to eye, and we had our struggles. Yes, my co-chair and I had to work hard intentionally to keep the relationship positive. Knowing our CliftonStrengths themes began a language of appreciation, but the commitment to measuring performance was what changed our effectiveness.
When you count, rate and rank, your conversations become less about style and more about how to use your best to improve outcomes.