What to do when your partners hit the panic button!

Your strategic partners are not loyal to you: they are loyal to their priorities. And everyone’s priorities are shifting right now. 

Ouch! It may be hard to hear, but it is critical to understand and not take it personally if you are going to lead your organization through the challenges and transformation ahead. Your partners are not necessarily firing you. They may just be choosing their priorities.

You and your partners have a responsibility to a cause that is larger than the individual people, relationships and organizations it takes to fulfill that cause. The paradox is finding a way to connect your priorities to your partners’ emerging and changing priorities. We aren’t reaching our goals alone! It’s critical that we determine which partners are the best fit for the journey ahead.

Step 1: How do you know that your partners have hit the panic button? Here are a few symptoms you might experience:

  1. They ghost you! They don’t return your emails, texts or phone calls.
  2. The withdraw their support, funding or resources, even if only on a temporary basis or partially.
  3. They question the value they receive from their relationship with you.
  4. They start ‘seeing other people’ (networking with other organizations and leaders).
  5. They want to change the nature or terms of your relationship.

Step 2: How do you know if your partners are the right fit moving forward? Here are a few questions to ask for each relationship:

  1. Do we still have the same shared goal?
  2. Do we both believe we need each other to reach this goal?
  3. Does our shared goal have a direct impact on the strategic priorities of each partner?

Step 3: How do you decide if you should reengage or disengage? Here are a few considerations:

  1. Did you answer “yes” to all three questions in Step 2? If yes, then there may be enough reason to strategize ways to re-engage this specific strategic partner.
  2. If you answered ‘no’ to all three questions in Step 2, it might be time to let the relationship go. Look for ways to untangle the relationship so it is mutually beneficial and, if possible, leaves the door open for future collaborations.

It’s important for leaders to understand that strategic partners are going to hit the panic button from time to time. It’s a natural human response to perceptions of threat in our environments. While we can’t control the threats in our environment, we can manage our responses and mindsets.

In our upcoming session at the Unprecedented conference, we will explore how communication among leaders and their strategic partners is affected by fear, panic and uncertainty (you need to know this so that you don’t take communications personally!). We will outline strategies to help your organization either re-engage or disengage with your strategic partners, once you’ve decided who you need on the journey ahead.

Learn more from Enette Pauzé at her session, Fostering Strategic Relationships During a Pandemic on Friday, November 6th as part of Unprecedented, CSAE’s 2020 virtual conference. 

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