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May 2, 2003

"Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."
--  George Washington (1732 - 1799)
Selecting the right colleagues and affiliates is a key success strategy for any career path.  Whether you work for an organization or have created your own, the people with whom you partner impact your results as well as your fulfillment and reputation.  Creativity also thrives in relationships with complementary skills nurtured by mutual respect.  Successful partnerships and alliances depend on complete honesty, self-assessment and awareness, open communication, and a dedication to resolve conflicts on the part of all participants.

Over the course of my years as a career coach, I have cautioned many clients against taking ill-suited jobs or joining forces with partners where there may be a mismatch.  I have seen a pattern with many female entrepreneurs where two insecure women team up together with the same weaknesses and a shaky business plan. Disaster usually strikes and may even end in the courtroom.  If you are considering doing contract work or becoming an employee of an organization, do your research.  If the company jerks you around in the hiring process or your intuition tells you that it's all too "perfect," beware.  You want to be connected to the best people, products, and services.  Desperation and the impulse "to just get it done" reap dangerous liaisons.  As a business owner, there are huge differences between collaborations and official partnerships.  You can fulfill your needs for collaboration with a variety of networks, team projects, success teams, and other modalities.  You don't have to make an alliance official unless you have road-tested it and it makes sense legally and professionally.  

So if you have the "urge to merge," ask yourself these key questions:

1.     Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  How much alone time versus group time suits you? 

2.     What is your relationship pattern?  Do you have a string of collisions in your past or a steady track record of positive connections? 

3.    Of the collisions you have had, what part did you play in the process?  Pay attention to your vulnerable points. 

4.     What can a potential partner or employer do for YOU?  What are you hoping to gain with an alliance?  Is it something you could or  ought to be doing yourself?  For example, as we talked about last month, we all need to learn how to self-market, but different models support our intentions. 

5.     Are you confident that you can negotiate well on your own behalf? If not, what data/skills/knowledge do you need so you can? 

6.    Before you seek alliances, write a mock ad about what you are seeking in another person or organization and include all the necessary details such as integrity, work hours, skills, personal style, etc. that are essential for a positive outcome. 

7.    SHOP AROUND.  Be picky and value yourself enough to take your time.  Know what you want and write down every hesitation you uncover.  As with any relationship, readiness is key.  Both parties have to be on the same wavelength at the same time. 

8.     Set up an experiment with one project before you decide about along term affiliation.  Trust is earned!  Face up to the truth -- whatever happens.  You can find the right people and the best model for you, but be sure and subtract the colleagues and organizations that fail YOUR test! 

By Gail McMeekin, LICSW who is a career/creativity coach and writer on personal, professional, and creative development.  Author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women:  A Portable Mentor and The Power of Positive Choices, http://www.creativesuccess.com.
1.     What kind of collaborations sound like FUN to you?

2.     In what circumstances do you love to be in control and
        when do you long for company and input?

3.     Do a 360 feedback exercise on yourself and ask your friends
        and loved ones, co-workers, peers, associates, etc. how you
        excel as a person and a professional and where you let
        yourself and others down.

4.     Then visualize attracting the right circle of influence for YOU!

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