Partnerships

We’re reading Unmistakable Impact by Jim Knight together as a large team at work.  This is the second post in my series on that reading and reflection.  Here’s the first post.

I highlighted an awful lot of chapter two of this book.  The chapter is a focus on partnerships – the necessary criteria for successful ones, what they look like, and some of how to be a good partner.  It’s tricky stuff, building a true partnership, particularly when issues of power come along.  It’s hard to be equal when you’re in fear of your job status due to the other person in your partnership.

A few choice passages (Kindle locations in italics):

What is needed for choice to flourish is a structure that reconciles freedom and form. (863)

The solution is to create structures that provide focus for human experiences, while respecting the autonomy of each individual. (864)

When leaders choose to do the thinking for teachers — by creating scripts, pacing guides, and step-by-step procedures to be followed blindly — they engage in short-term thinking.  pacing guides and similar prescriptions may lead to a quick bump in test scores, but the long-term impact can be disastrous. (946)

Every act of dialogue is a hopeful act, a sign that we believe a better future is possible.  When I listen to you, and you listen to me, there is the hope that we can create something new and better, that we can advance thought, and, through dialogue, a better tomorrow. (1034)

People who live out the principle of reciprocity approach others with humility, expecting to learn from them.  When we look at everyone else as a teacher and a learner, regardless of their credentials or years of experience, we will be delightfully surprised by new ideas, concepts, strategies, and passions. (1070)

 

As I look back on these saved passages, I realize that what I’m taking away from this reading on partnerships isn’t how I want to build partnerships, but rather how I want to prepare myself for them.

The chapter speaks of partnering being a choice – it’s important to me that the people I work with, be it in a class or training or meeting or long-term teaching situation, are there by their own choice, and, if that can’t be the case, that they can shape the experience to their benefit through the exercise of meaningful choices.  This is messy.  Sometimes, this principle of choice means that someone I’d like to work with simply won’t want to.  That’s a loss for both of us, but I can’t force a situation to my liking and simultaneously honor the other person or persons involved.  Giving people choice means also allowing them to choose something other than you or the work you find important.  That’s essential to remember.

It’s also important to remember that the best we can do for ourselves to prepare for a partnership opportunity – and most interactions with others are opportunities – is to approach those others as honestly and openly as one can.  A simple question, addressed as a learning opportunity for all involved, can be an invitation to further learning.

I think partnership thinking should also impact how leaders handle conflict and change.  When a decision I’m involved in will impact someone, I can do my best to prepare them for that impact.  Better yet, I can seek their input before they are impacted as a way of working to mitigate or even prevent a negative impact.  That’s a way to create a possible partnership out of a potentially negative situation.  I hope my leaders approach situations as potential partnerships, opportunities to bridge division, rather than opportunities for creating distance.

I think of past partnerships where events that ultimately affected me were handled far beyond my control and awareness, for no good reason other than the comfort and convenience of the leaders involved.  As a district representative, I don’t want to take an easy way out or around a potential problem or sticky situation.  That doesn’t honor the humanity of the others involved.

So preparing for partnership is largely, for me, about preparing myself to be kind and open and curious.   And approaching others as if they’re the same.  Because most likely, they are.

When you think about partnerships, and preparing yourself as a possible partner, what do you think about?

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