The best partners are not the ones that are the biggest rainmakers, or that have the most connections in the community, they are actually the ones that have attributes that show that they have each other’s backs at all times – good or bad. As I think about the partners that I work with – including my own – I believe there are 5 attributes that really stand out that are imperative to the building and maintaining of these important relationships.
1. Appreciation: Show your partners that you appreciate them in your words and actions to them directly - and as you talk about them to others in the firm. Partner groups that I meet with often talk about the fact that their fellow partners simply do not appreciate the work that they put into the firm and when they do not feel appreciation from their partners, they feel devalued and the relationship deteriorates. This means that you need to notice the little things, and hold your fellow partners up to others in the firm loudly and proudly.
2. Respect: Unwavering respect for your partners, even though you may disagree with something they say or do. A great partner doesn’t swear at, name call or yell at their partner. They truly respect the work that they have put into the firm, their ability to lead their niche, their ability to lead others or whatever their unique ability is that they are contributing to the partner family unit. Respect is of course earned, but I believe you give respect to your partners freely and the unwritten rule is that they get to keep that respect unless they lose it through negative word or action.
3. Likeability: In most cases, the partners of a firm genuinely like each other. It is the reason that they became partners to begin with. Likeability often does not just continue unless all of the players regularly communicate and continually work on the relationship with the other people. When one partner likes their fellow partners, they’re proud to be with them in public, enjoy their little idiosyncrasies and treat them with a higher sense of respect. Partners who have the genuine likeability factor seem to naturally communicate, make major decisions and go in a strategic direction more easily than those that are at odds with each other.
4. Trust: Great partner groups have a foundation of trust that has been built over time and is simply a part of the overall structure of the group. It is often not talked about; it is simply a core value that the partners live by. The belief that all partners are transparent in the dealings of the firm as well as with each other individually is what builds this foundation of trust. Great caution should be given to this attribute; because once trust is breached it is extremely difficult to recover.
5. Listen: The most successful partners are those that are willing to listen openly to new ideas, concerns and frustrations from their fellow partners. A great partner listens to what their partner wants to share, not just what they want to hear. They also share their intellectual capital regarding new wisdom that they have gathered and information about clients and staff members openly without the need to be prodded, coaxed or pleaded with to share.
Being a great partner is necessary for creating a stellar firm. It requires a great deal of energy and work, but is worth the journey because the rewards far outweigh the energy output.