How to help your project partners let go of control

 In Collaboration, Leadership, Teamwork

If your project partners aren’t willing to let go of control your project may be doomed. So, how can you influence your partners to change their ways?

An executive recently explained to me how the ‘control’ issue is impeding an important multi-sector project, making it hard to move forward let alone get the best out of all parties.

A culture of corporate bravado, win-at-all-costs or general isolation from the outside world comes with baggage. It can turn projects into games of one-upmanship instead of great successes.

What can you do?

Unpacking the reasons for your partners being at the table is a great first step in testing the viability and sustainability of your project. If you are already part way in and have concerns about motives, then you should backtrack and get it sorted out. Too many times I’ve ben approached by partners who lament they are locked into something they don’t like.

You’re better off abandoning a project that was never going to work than limping on to a gallant failure.

There are two types of goals that need to be evaluated: the common goal that binds your project together and the individual goals of every person or organisation involved in it. They all need to be aligned and your partners will only cede control if they see the benefits outweighing the costs.

Evaluation questions

You need to dive a bit deeper and work out the level of commitment that your project partners bring with them. The following questions help in scenario planning and risk management:

  • What is driving your involvement?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • What are the major assumptions being made or risks that you see?
  • How important is this to your overall strategy?
  • What needs to go right for this to work?

Of course there are dozens of questions you can ask, these are merely some starters. You need to ascertain how important the project is to your counterparts. Independent facilitation – especially at the early stages – helps project partners come together more effectively.

Working effectively as a team

Building trust between project partners requires investments from all sides. You and they will need to show genuine commitment and act with transparency and consistency to really nail it, creating a platform for future opportunities.

A project can be a mechanical process, one that is rules based and overly reliant on contractually terms. That’s fine, however the relationships you build can become so much more – why waste that opportunity? Helping your partners let go of control is a key success factor.

Phil Preston is a speaker and facilitator who creates collaborative teams, cultures and strategies. You can stay in touch by following him on Linked In or contacting him directly.

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