hand-523231_640Throughout history, great partnerships have been the foundation of great undertakings. Consider the Wright Brothers, Hewlett and Packard, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Ben and Jerry. In contrast, poor partnerships have often created stomach aches caused by stress and sometimes substandard work product. I’m sure several examples of the latter easily come to mind.

Pearl of Wisdom

I recently read an article that contained one piece of advice that hit me squarely between the eyes. It’s not that I hadn’t considered this point before. It was just so clearly articulated that it brought into focus my many perambulations on the topic.

The woman being interviewed had been involved in two business partnerships. The first had failed after only a few years. The second was still going strong. In the first case, her partner had a “what’s in it for me” attitude to their work together, whereas in the second, her partner was a “how can I contribute” kind of guy. It was that simple.

When I reflected on my 15+ years as a consultant, I realized that my most successful (and fun) consulting engagements were those in which I was working with people who were all looking for ways to contribute to solving problems and creating value.

From Carbon to Diamond

One project stands out in my mind. A new client had hired us to create three hours of online learning for one of their customers who was purchasing their call center software. Because we couldn’t get started until they had a signed PO from their customer, we were left with a mere six weeks – from start to finish – to get the project done. To say this was an aggressive schedule is greatly understating the situation.

Everyone, from the client to my entire team, rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to meet this deadline. One of our programmers didn’t sleep for a week – no kidding! Our graphic designer helped with preparing audio files, even though that wasn’t in his contract. The client was no slouch either. The subject matter expert assigned to the project was available if and when we needed her, and she turned around responses to our requests in a flash. The client even had team members in other parts of the world help with QA. I remember having feedback from the client team in Russia waiting in my in-box first thing in the morning. Because of the time difference, they had been working while we slept.

The most astonishing thing to me is that, even though there were occasional missteps and misunderstandings, everyone remained even tempered, despite being under enormous pressure and short on sleep. Bottom line: we made the deadline and, even though it was a challenge, it was one of my most memorable and fun projects.

Successful Pairings

So, the next time you are looking to hire talent, try applying this filter of looking for “how can I contribute” people. I can’t tell you how much time and money, not to mention stomach aches, it’s saved me.