I have spent more than 15 years working in public health and remember learning very early in my career that “it’s all about relationships.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, “we need to build partnerships” or “create a coalition” or “convene an advisory group” as if it’s really easy to do.
And honestly, it is pretty easy to build, create or convene but it’s quite difficult to maintain, sustain and thrive as a partnership, group or coalition.
I have discovered 4 principles that have helped me find ways to get people to work better together so that we can do more together than we could on our own. I hope that they will help you too!
- Listen. If you are passionate about a topic, it’s easy to get carried away with doing all the talking and trying to convince everyone to join you. However, one of the best things you can do if you want to work better with others is to listen. My husband is phenomenal at this. He asks good questions and is often amazed at how many people tell him way more than he ever anticipated – and more than they ever planned to share. This skill is critical for getting people to work together better. If you can learn to listen, then you will be able to accurately assess the group, identify mutually beneficial goals, recognize when changes need to happen and ultimately work better together.
- Learn. As you practice listening, you have an opportunity to learn. Learn what is important to the members of your group. Learn when the best day is to meet – or not to meet. Learn from your mistakes – and be willing to admit them. Learn what works well and what doesn’t work so well. Remember, what worked well in the past may or may not work well in the future. I’m reminded of this every week as I am the mom of a seven month old! Continuous learning is critical to getting people to work better together.
- Link. As you develop new relationships and partnerships, one of the best ways to keep those strong is to be a connector. Be willing to link people together. The more you can link partners to others who can help them achieve their goals, the more that all these partners will want to keep participating in your group or coalition. You are providing an important benefit to them by linking them to one another. You are also expanding your collective impact. Keep linking!
- Lead. If you really want to help people work better together, you need to set the example. Lead with intentionality. Lead with consideration for others. Lead with empathy. Lead by listening, learning and linking.
So, what about you? Which one of these principles have worked especially well for you in leading a group?