Management Matters: Better Internal Partnerships

It isn’t easy to be a mid-level manager. You may not set strategy and vision and you are still developing the skills critical for delegating, motivating and influencing. A strong manager at the middle levels of an organization are strong internal partners. They understand the benefits of internal collaboration. They recognize that partnerships don’t simply happen because everyone works for the same employer. Those organizational charts are nice but have little to do with how people actually work together or get along with one another. Working alongside someone is no guarantee that a good partnership will develop.

Not only are there techniques that are required to enhance a partnership; they must be practiced and honed to increase the benefit of peer collaboration. If you want to make 2017 the year you are recognized as one of the exceptional partners where you work, here are some suggestions to make that a reality:

  • Control Your Controlling– Being a good partner requires both give and take. There is no ‘boss.’ Resist the urge be directive which is a popular and all too common pitfall for managers. Watch for clues that other people are feeling pushed around. Ask open-ended questions. Then stop talking and listen to the answer.
  • Socialize– Managing = socializing. The more time you spend together, the more natural partnering will feel. The more you know someone, the more likely you will develop trust. And the more someone gets to know you, the more likely they will see you as trustworthy. It’s a two way street. Since good communication is an essential part of strong partnerships, all of the skills involved in effective communication need to be cultivated as well. You are more likely to partner with people you know well so whether you are outgoing or shy, collegial relationships are the building blocks for internal partnerships. Schmoozing pays off. (As long as you don’t come off as a fake.)
  • Patch Up the Past– Your past follows you around and if you have had previous relationship issues, it is time to resolve them and put them behind you. It may be the only way to develop a good foundation for the present and the future. While not everyone may want to improve relationships, you should try. If you have tried everything and the past issues can’t (or will not) be resolved, try to work with others if possible.
  • Mom Would Be Proud – My mom used to quote Thumper from the Disney movie Bambi, saying “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. “Never speak badly about your peers to others. It reflects poorly on you when you do it and can burn needed bridges within your organization and professional network. You can disagree but it is better if you communicate it directly to the person you don’t agree with.
  • Stop the Buck– Don’t pass the buck. No one likes to be blamed for problems and shifting the blame doesn’t win you any fans.
  • Share Credit– Success in partnerships comes from collaboration so everyone gets the credit. Success is always a joint effort. If everyone feels part of the success, it can create positive energy going forward.
  • Know What They Want– Good partners understands the needs, goals, and concerns of the people with whom they work on a regular basis. What keeps your partner up at night? What are their strengths? In what areas do they need development? What frustrates them? What do you expect from them? What do they expect from you (and your team/department)?

As a peer and an internal resource, if you can become an advocate for your colleagues, you can add value in their pursuit for results. Don’t doubt for one minute that being a valuable internal partner doesn’t reflect well on you and your employees. You can extend the reach of your employees and create powerful alliances that serve the organization.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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