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Stellar Partnerships

Candid Conversations

Candid conversations

Kids are the most brutal critics. Perhaps that’s why so many people prefer dogs; they don’t care if you’re dressed badly or haven’t cleaned the house, you’ll still get a warm welcome and undying love. My daughter is training to be a teacher and she sees what kids write in their daily diaries. They are startlingly frank about their family’s shortcomings. ‘Dad ate all of the Doritos last night and blamed the dog’, ‘Mum burned the breakfast again’, ‘Aunty Kate drank five beers and fell off her chair’.

Ken Blanchard once said that “feedback is the breakfast of champions”. Whilst it can be uncomfortable, imperfect and occasionally confronting, it is incredibly valuable to get feedback from your corporate partners.

Are you seeking feedback and making the most of the opportunity?

Corporate partnerships are built on relationships and it can be easy to get complacent if they’ve lasted a while. Like a long-standing marriage, you need regular check-ins to make sure things don’t slide. Just because you chat to them regularly doesn’t always mean that you’re on track.

Create ways to test feedback on the partnership with your corporate partner’s staff. You may be offering them great volunteering or engagement opportunities, provided a staff presentation, or included them at a major event. Did you take time to survey them for feedback? Include measures of satisfaction and qualitative feedback like verbatim quotes. Give a summary back to your corporate partner, as they may not realise how much the partnership means to their own staff. Feedback will provide the opportunity to identify areas for improvement or create new engagement opportunities. Even better, leverage the results in your next pitch to a corporate prospect. You’ll be demonstrating the impact they could achieve for their own organisation’s employee value proposition by working with you.

Review the feedback that your corporate partner is getting from customers on social media- both your site and theirs. Can you identify the themes that emerge from the commentary? Does the partnership make sense to an external audience? How is the partnership adding to their relationships with their customers and stakeholders? Social media feedback can be patchy, but it is quick to highlight any underlying misalignment in the partnership. For example, the Smith Family announced a partnership with BAE Systems to support STEM education for kids. They received a barrage of criticism about the misfit between children and weapons manufacturers. The partnership was quietly shelved.

Conduct a regular discovery session with your partners to delve into what’s working well and what needs improvement. This is an opportunity for both of you to ensure you’re on the same page and address any emerging issues quickly. Regular check-ins can help you to identify any areas of concern or invite collaboration on new opportunities. Leading the conversation in the spirit of openness and enquiry will elicit more information and commitment than leading with another ask.

Ask for feedback from more senior leaders in your corporate partner, not just the relationship contact you speak to regularly. If your contact is relatively junior, you can risk getting lost in a big corporate hierarchy. Seeking feedback from the top is key to understanding what’s driving the business and whether there are any major shifts that impact on your partnership. You might have a champion that is personally passionate about your organisation, but you need to know whether that enthusiasm is shared by the people that sign off the budgets.

Seeking feedback regularly from corporate partners will yield a host of benefits, including:

  • Diffusing any potential conflicts or misunderstandings before they escalate
  • Deepening the relationship with your corporate partner through greater shared understanding
  • Opportunities to grow and enhance the partnership as you work through feedback together
  • Personal and professional growth for you and your team as you identify strengths and address gaps in performance

Feedback can be uncomfortable, but it is vital to maintaining healthy partnerships. If all you want is endless adoration, then get a dog. If you’d like some honest and frank views on what’s working or not in your partnership, then some simple mechanisms can open up the pathway to a real long term relationship.