Whether we like it or not, the reality of being able to get something accomplished may well rely on negotiating a strategic alliance with the ‘other side’.
Certainly in the current political landscape a number of democratic parliaments around the world are so finely balanced (e.g USA, UK, Australia, Ireland) that they cannot function unless politicians work hard to create and manage their political alliances. The danger for the parties is that either one or both may be thinking (but not saying) that they are under time urgency and only want a short-term alliance for quick political gain.
Internationally, negotiating successful alliances between countries (for example on Climate Change) arguably are critical to our global survival. Usually building bridges between nations has more of a long-term focus.
In the business world, the list of alliances between companies pursuing specific opportunities includes joint ventures, licensing arrangements, technology agreements and a host of other negotiated dealings.
Signing Contracts or Building Trust?
Commonly, when finalising the alliance negotiation, parties sign some kind of formal contract to lock-in commitment. This may be sufficient for relatively short-term transactions. But as time goes by, most of us discover that the officially signed contract is not a substitute for informal understandings. And it is an unwillingness to implement these ‘understandings’where alliances start to fail. This converts into the most common reason cited for why alliances fail: lack of trust.
What do we mean by ‘trust’? An easy answer is that trust is the confidence of being able to rely on the other party to act as they say they will.
So what do we need to do to ensure our alliances work?
The following suggestions are extracted from a paper that was selected as Best Practice by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals:Building Trust in Strategic Alliances: enabling greater value, Joe Kittel. While they focus on negotiators involved in business alliances, they are good tips for everyone.
Tips for Making the Negotiated Alliance Work
1. Openly share perspectives – paradoxically it is often best to start with the most difficult, the most vexing problem you can see. A willingness to fearlessly examine the ‘elephant in the room’ can be abold move which empowers the alliance. Be willing to unemotionally examine as much detail as feasible.
2. Neutralize the problem– notice that as you build sufficient trust with others involved in the alliance – as you start to thoroughly examine a difficult problem – the magnitude of that problem is lessened in the process.Often just openly and thoroughly sharing perspective, without negative emotion,eliminates most of the problem. Done right, this reduces the negative emotions linked with the problem, which often is the problem.
3. Find the opportunity – as the problem gets neutralized, as negative emotion is removed, we begin to see the other side of the situation. It has been said that problem and opportunity are simply two sides of the same situation.
4. Find new opportunities– stay open in your communication. As trust is built and more open communication occurs, other opportunities naturally surface in such positive and healthy discussions.
5. Be mindful of the spiral – which path are you on? Are you on divergent perspectives, distrust, me, and fear; or are you on shared perspective, healthy learning, trust, and we? Moment to moment it’s your choice.
6. Be patient – with yourself and others. Remember ‘infinite patience produces immediate results. Realize that you are always on one path or another. It takes time to change the most fundamental aspects of a strategic business alliance. It takes time to build trustful, open communications. But,as you start making these changes you will see immediate success.
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