Leadership in Crisis – Create Unusual Partnerships

 

My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the director of Intact Academy and Team Agility. At Team Agility we help businesses innovate more quickly than their products and become agile in a turbulent environment. In Intact Academy we organize training programs for coaches and consultants to teach them how to help businesses innovate. 

I’ve been a consultant for 35 years and a leader in multinational businesses for 23 years, and one thing I’ve learned over time is how to deal with crisis. Of course this is more relevant than ever today. 

We’ve talked about leadership, re-establishing boundaries, creating cohesion and recreating your structure. We’re now talking about the need to create unusual partnerships during crisis. 

Creating partnership is only possible once you’ve re-established yourself as an organization. Partnership is only possible when you know your own identity and structure. It’s the same in a marriage. You can only create a relationship once you know yourself. If you lose yourself, it’s not possible to partner. And it’s the same thing in teams. 

So what kind of partnerships are we talking about during crisis? Well, it’s unusual partnerships in the sense that people become extremely creative during crisis. We’re talking about partnerships with people who are complementary in many ways. We’re not talking about businesses who do the same thing as you because then you’d create internal competition. We’re talking about unusual partnerships in the sense that within the ecosystem that you have established, your partners offer a complementary service, brand or target group. 

We know that we have to work together to deal with crisis and you can see it so clearly during this Coronavirus time. It is not possible to survive alone. There is no individual responsibility anymore. Everything has become systemic.

How do you create an unusual partnership?

 

1. Complementary partnerships

 

There are three factors for a complementary partnership: 

  1. Product and/or Service
  2. Target group and distribution channel
  3. Positioning and branding

When selecting a complementary partner we’re looking for people who have something that’s different from you in one of these three areas. 

So for instance, I offer training programs, but I know that after the training people have to learn to integrate this knowledge in their work. That means that my ideal partner would be a coaching company which specializes in integrating knowledge.

Here’s a great example of a complementary product or service, which would create an ideal partnership, Weight Watchers, they help you lose weight. The next problem you have after you lose weight is that your clothes don’t fit. So what do you need after your clothes don’t fit? It would be great to work with clothing designers or people who help you with your body image to recreate yourself. Let’s talk about complementary target group or distribution. I’ve been in senior management for many years. I was a director in multinationals for 23 years. This is my world and I can really help senior leaders because I’ve both been there and I’ve consulted with them for 35 years all over the world. I can really help senior leaders deal with crisis and create innovation. In my business I train and help senior leadership, but once that’s happened it needs to cascade lower down. But that’s not my specialization. So I often partner with companies who can retrain middle and lower management at greater volume and standardization than I offer.

The third part of this complementary partnership is positioning or branding. We often see in advertisement different products advertised together. For instance, the DB9 with Rayban sunglasses. These two companies created advertisements together because they have the same target group, but different branding and positioning in the market. But their products go together really well. 

To create unusual partnerships you need to be aware of your product / service, your target group distribution, your positioning and branding position, and then choose a partner who is complementary, who can add value in your product ecosystem.

Creating unusual complementary partnerships means that you have access to a market you didn’t have before. 

 

2. Reciprocity Advantage

 

There’s a great book called the Reciprocity Advantage by Karl Ronn and Robert Johansen: “A reciprocity advantage is a chance to do good while also doing very well.” We see it right now in the Coronavirus crisis. In Holland, our intensive care units are full which means the doctors and nurses are full time busy with keeping people alive. We don’t have enough beds or wards. Usually doctors and nurses also do the helping, like the social work around the sick bed and help the patient and family come to terms with the illness. But right now they don’t have time for that. 

In Holland, hospitals created an unusual partnership. They’ve called up the victim support people who work with the police. They’re a specialized company which works with the police for people who have suffered a crime. When someone is burgled, a real crime, you automatically get an email from the victim help company with a phone number to call if you feel traumatized by what’s happened to you. The hospitals have realised that the real crime at the moment is Coronavirus and so they’ve enlisted these people who are specialized in dealing with people in distress. They created an unusual partnership where the victim help are now being used to help the families of patients and the patients themselves deal with the trauma of Coronavirus. 

The true reciprocity advantage, the real partnering, the creating of right of way which comes from this complementary idea of product, target group and positioning during times of crisis.

 

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