Roberts & Kay

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in workplaces and communities

859.252.0245

 Authentic Partnership 

 

Steve Kay

Roberts & Kay

 

 

 

Description

 

Authentic Partnership [*] is a systematic approach to communication that increases the likelihood of meaningful and sustained change.  It focuses on the quality and integrity of relationships and the commitment or buy-in that is crucial for learning and for action based on that learning.    

 

On an individual basis, the approach expands our communication choices through increased understanding of our present habits and effective alternatives.  In addition, the Authentic Partnership key values and guidelines provide more effective options for the design of individual meetings, internal communications, outreach efforts, and planning processes.  The values and guidelines also provide a framework for analyzing current and proposed organizational policies and procedures.  Authentic Partnership increases the effectiveness of our work as leaders, managers, coaches, facilitators, and colleagues. 

 

 

 

The Authentic Partnership Model

 

The graphic below illustrates the parts of the model and the relationship among the parts.               

 

                                               

 

 

 

Two Key Values lie at the heart of Authentic Partnership  

 

The Authentic Partnership approach relies on two key values: maximum information and maximum choice. 

 

Ø  Maximum information suggests that we are most likely to develop commitment to make a change if we know as much as possible about the proposed change. 

 

Ø  Maximum choice suggests that we are most likely to develop commitment if we have as much choice as possible about whether to adopt a change.  

 

Both values together establish adequate conditions for developing commitment.   All the information in the world will not lead to our commitment if we are not able to choose to make the proposed change.  All the choice in the world will not lead to our commitment if we have inadequate, incomplete or misleading information about the choice we are making.     

 

 

Five Guidelines put the values into practice

 

The five guidelines offer concrete and specific directions for keeping our actions consistent with the two key values of Authentic Partnership.  The guidelines reveal the underlying notions of the key values and put those notions in practical terms. 

 

Ø  Share all relevant information

Ø  Explain your reasoning and intent

Ø  Test assumptions and inferences

Ø  Combine advocacy with inquiry

Ø  Jointly design next steps

The first three guidelines are most directly related to maximum information.  The last two are most directly related to maximum choice.  Here is a bit more detail about each of the guidelines.  

 

Share all relevant information

 

We cannot share all information, so we must judge what information to share.  “Relevant” means any information that is potentially useful in making a decision about a proposed change.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

 

Explain your reasoning and intent

 

This guideline expands on the kind of information to be shared, and moves toward fuller disclosure.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

What is the thinking behind what I am proposing, and what is motivating me to make this proposal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Test assumptions and inferences

 

We all make assumptions about what we are about to experience, and we all draw inferences from what we are experiencing.   Often we do not notice that this is what we are doing.  This guideline means that we raise our level of awareness about when we are making assumptions and inferences, and that we check out assumptions and inferences that could materially affect our efforts to bring about change.  When I work to follow this guideline, a series of implicit questions guides my actions: 

Am I making an assumption or an inference here?

 

If I am, could it affect my efforts to bring about change?

 

If so, how can I test whether the assumption or inference is valid

or warranted?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combine advocacy with inquiry

 

This guideline is crucial for maximum choice.  The “advocacy” part happens when I explain all the reasons why I think you ought to make some change.  The “inquiry” part happens when I seek to understand how you see the proposed change.  The two together create partnership.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

Am I making the best case I can, and am I at the same time truly open to hearing what you have to say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jointly design next steps

 

We are all familiar with making decisions at the end of a conversation or meeting (whether with one person or with a group) about what to do next to move a project forward and to plan for the next meeting.  This guideline applies to those situations, and also includes the many small decisions that we make about the ongoing process during a conversation or meeting.   In a sense, this guideline applies the previous guideline -- combine advocacy with inquiry -- to decisions about how we will work together.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

 

Am I including you in decisions about the use of our time, about the content of our conversation, and about how we will proceed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authentic Partnership begins and ends with maximum information and maximum choice

 

The Authentic Partnership approach encourages us to provide maximum information and maximum choice to others and to ourselves.

 

Others

 

Authentic Partnership encourages us to look at the benefits of providing maximum information and maximum choice to others in order to gain their commitment to meaningful change.    

 

Ourselves

 

Authentic Partnership encourages us to provide ourselves maximum information about our communication practices and habits and about possible alternatives to those habits.  We then give ourselves maximum choice about whether changes in those practices and habits will lead us toward increased communication effectiveness. 

 

 

 

Training

 

 

Training in understanding and using the Authentic Partnership approach is typically structured as a one-day or two-day initial training and a series of half-day follow-up sessions that reinforce understanding of the model and the ability to apply the model to ongoing work.  Participants in the training learn a model for effective communication, and they learn a related way to analyze their present interactions and develop practical options for dealing with both ordinary and challenging situations.  The training emphasizes continuously improved work performance by each participant and by the work groups they compose.

 

The initial training contains a minimal essential presentation of materials designed to equip participants for guided practice in applying the approach toauthentic work situations.  Guided practice, which constitutes the balance of the initial training and the bulk of all follow-up sessions, allows the training to be tailored completely to the specific needs and practical experiences of the participants.  The presentation of materials in the initial session includes a description of the Authentic Partnership model and its elements (based on the description provided above), and introduction to two other tools for understanding that are described below: motivating beliefs and left-hand column work.    

  

 

 Motivating beliefs

 

Although we usually do not stop to think about it, we all operate from a set of motivating beliefs about how we can be most effective in relating to others.  These motivating beliefs guide the specific actions we take.  We can look at our own specific actions (and the patterns that repeated actions create) to see and understand the motivating beliefs that actually guide our actions. 

 

The illustration below presents a contrast between motivating beliefs in a control mode and motivating beliefs in a partnership mode.  The illustration includes a basic motivating belief and related beliefs about goals, knowledge, and intentions.

 

 

 

   

 

Motivating Beliefs

 

      CONTROL MODE                                            PARTNERSHIP MODE

Basic Belief:

 

       I need to control the environment                         I need to share what I know and 

       at all times because I know best                                        be open to what others know so    

       what needs to be done                                                      we can determine what needs to                                                                                                          be done

 

Belief About Goals:

      It is important to achieve my goals                                    It is important to achieve goals

      as I understand them                                                         that are jointly designed and

                                                                                                jointly agreed upon

 

Belief About Knowledge:

      I understand, others do not                                                Everyone has useful information

                                                                                                and perspectives

 

Belief About Intentions:

      I have pure intentions; others have                                    People try to act with integrity

      suspect intentions

 

 

 

 

The arrows in the box indicate that we can locate our own beliefs somewhere on a spectrum between the two ends that the modes represent.  From the Authentic Partnership perspective, communication based on beliefs that are closer to the Partnership end of the spectrum is much more likely to lead to lasting and meaningful change because the key values and guidelines are consistent with Partnership Mode motivating beliefs.

 

Left-hand column work  

 

Left-hand column work helps us understand our current habits, consider their possible limitations, and identify alternatives that might be more effective.  It provides one way to look at our own habits from a deeper perspective.

 

Ø  Left-hand column work gives us a way to look at the thoughts and feelings behind what we say to others, and how they may influence our interactions. 

Ø  Left-hand column work reveals the possible gaps between what we say and believe we are doing and what our thoughts and feelings reveal in relation to the key values and the guidelines of Authentic Partnership.

 

Any interaction can be charted as a left-hand column case.  To do so, on the right side of a two-column page record what you and one or more persons said.  On the left-hand side record what you were thinking and feeling when each person spoke.  Here is a brief interaction between an owner (Jim) and an employee (Mac) charted as the owner’s left-hand column case.

 

Jim’s thoughts                                  Jim’s and Mac’s words

 

 

I’d like to sound Mac out about implementing the new format before I talk with others about it.  He’s thought of as level-headed by the other employees.

 

I like his positive attitude.

 

I’ll lead into this by asking him how he views our present approach, which hasn’t been as effective as it could be.   

 

He’s level-headed, but he’s also careful, and maybe a bit defensive.

 

Just because there are no complaints doesn’t mean it’s working as well as it could.       

 

Okay.  Now we can get down to the real question.

 

Jim:  Thanks for meeting me with me, Mac.  I have a few ideas I’d like to share with you and get your reactions. 

 

 

 

Mac:  Great.  I always like to think about new ideas.

 

Jim:  I’ve been thinking about our approach to customer inquiries.  How well do you think that’s working?   

 

 

Mac:  I think it’s pretty good.  I know I haven’t heard any complaints about it.   

 

 

Jim:   Right, no complaints, but I’ve been thinking about ways to improve what we do, and I think this could use improvement.

 

Mac:  Okay.  What do you have in mind?

 

 

 

To improve his practice, Jim would compare the words he spoke with the thoughts and feelings behind the words to see if he missed opportunities to use a Partnership approach that might have been more effective.  He might ask himself one or more of the following questions: 

 

Ø  Given what I was thinking, did my words reflect a partnership approach to the interaction? 

Ø  Are there ways I might have improved the interaction by relying more on either of the two key values? 

Ø  Are there ways I might have improved the interaction by relying more on one or more of the five guidelines?

Ø  What would be the likely difference in outcome if I had operated more in a partnership mode?

Ø  Does this interaction suggest a pattern of communication that could be improved?

Ø  Do I want to make a change in how I approach this kind of interaction?


[*] Authentic Partnership has its roots in the extensive research and organizational development work of Chris Argyris and his associates, and the related application of that work to facilitation by Roger Schwarz and his associates.  Authentic Partnership adapts, modifies, and builds on the framework they developed.  The Partnership for Kentucky Schools supported extensive work to develop Authentic Partnership training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authentic Partnership  

 

Steve Kay

Roberts & Kay, Inc.

 

 

 

Description

 

Authentic Partnership [*] is a systematic approach to communication that increases the likelihood of meaningful and sustained change.  It focuses on the quality and integrity of relationships and the commitment or buy-in that is crucial for learning and for action based on that learning.    

 

On an individual basis, the approach expands our communication choices through increased understanding of our present habits and effective alternatives.  In addition, the Authentic Partnership key values and guidelines provide more effective options for the design of individual meetings, internal communications, outreach efforts, and planning processes.  The values and guidelines also provide a framework for analyzing current and proposed organizational policies and procedures.  Authentic Partnership increases the effectiveness of our work as leaders, managers, coaches, facilitators, and colleagues. 

 

 

 

The Authentic Partnership Model

 

The graphic below illustrates the parts of the model and the relationship among the parts.               

 

                                               

 

 

 

Two Key Values lie at the heart of Authentic Partnership  

 

The Authentic Partnership approach relies on two key values: maximum information and maximum choice

 

Ø  Maximum information suggests that we are most likely to develop commitment to make a change if we know as much as possible about the proposed change. 

 

Ø  Maximum choice suggests that we are most likely to develop commitment if we have as much choice as possible about whether to adopt a change.  

 

Both values together establish adequate conditions for developing commitment.   All the information in the world will not lead to our commitment if we are not able to choose to make the proposed change.  All the choice in the world will not lead to our commitment if we have inadequate, incomplete or misleading information about the choice we are making.     

 

 

Five Guidelines put the values into practice

 

The five guidelines offer concrete and specific directions for keeping our actions consistent with the two key values of Authentic Partnership.  The guidelines reveal the underlying notions of the key values and put those notions in practical terms. 

 

Ø  Share all relevant information

Ø  Explain your reasoning and intent

Ø  Test assumptions and inferences

Ø  Combine advocacy with inquiry

Ø  Jointly design next steps

The first three guidelines are most directly related to maximum information.  The last two are most directly related to maximum choice.  Here is a bit more detail about each of the guidelines.  

 

Share all relevant information

 

We cannot share all information, so we must judge what information to share.  “Relevant” means any information that is potentially useful in making a decision about a proposed change.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

 

Explain your reasoning and intent

 

This guideline expands on the kind of information to be shared, and moves toward fuller disclosure.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

 

What is the thinking behind what I am proposing, and what is motivating me to make this proposal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Test assumptions and inferences

 

We all make assumptions about what we are about to experience, and we all draw inferences from what we are experiencing.   Often we do not notice that this is what we are doing.  This guideline means that we raise our level of awareness about when we are making assumptions and inferences, and that we check out assumptions and inferences that could materially affect our efforts to bring about change.  When I work to follow this guideline, a series of implicit questions guides my actions: 

 

Am I making an assumption or an inference here?

 

If I am, could it affect my efforts to bring about change?

 

If so, how can I test whether the assumption or inference is valid

or warranted?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combine advocacy with inquiry

 

This guideline is crucial for maximum choice.  The “advocacy” part happens when I explain all the reasons why I think you ought to make some change.  The “inquiry” part happens when I seek to understand how you see the proposed change.  The two together create partnership.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

 

Am I making the best case I can, and am I at the same time truly open to hearing what you have to say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jointly design next steps

 

We are all familiar with making decisions at the end of a conversation or meeting (whether with one person or with a group) about what to do next to move a project forward and to plan for the next meeting.  This guideline applies to those situations, and also includes the many small decisions that we make about the ongoing process during a conversation or meeting.   In a sense, this guideline applies the previous guideline -- combine advocacy with inquiry -- to decisions about how we will work together.  When I work to follow this guideline, the implicit question that guides my actions is:

 

 

Am I including you in decisions about the use of our time, about the content of our conversation, and about how we will proceed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authentic Partnership begins and ends with maximum information and maximum choice

 

The Authentic Partnership approach encourages us to provide maximum information and maximum choice to others and to ourselves.

 

Others

 

Authentic Partnership encourages us to look at the benefits of providing maximum information and maximum choice to others in order to gain their commitment to meaningful change.    

 

Ourselves

 

Authentic Partnership encourages us to provide ourselves maximum information about our communication practices and habits and about possible alternatives to those habits.  We then give ourselves maximum choice about whether changes in those practices and habits will lead us toward increased communication effectiveness. 

 

 

 

Training

 

 

Training in understanding and using the Authentic Partnership approach is typically structured as a one-day or two-day initial training and a series of half-day follow-up sessions that reinforce understanding of the model and the ability to apply the model to ongoing work.  Participants in the training learn a model for effective communication, and they learn a related way to analyze their present interactions and develop practical options for dealing with both ordinary and challenging situations.  The training emphasizes continuously improved work performance by each participant and by the work groups they compose.

 

The initial training contains a minimal essential presentation of materials designed to equip participants for guided practice in applying the approach toauthentic work situations.  Guided practice, which constitutes the balance of the initial training and the bulk of all follow-up sessions, allows the training to be tailored completely to the specific needs and practical experiences of the participants.  The presentation of materials in the initial session includes a description of the Authentic Partnership model and its elements (based on the description provided above), and introduction to two other tools for understanding that are described below: motivating beliefs and left-hand column work.    

  

 

 Motivating beliefs

 

Although we usually do not stop to think about it, we all operate from a set of motivating beliefs about how we can be most effective in relating to others.  These motivating beliefs guide the specific actions we take.  We can look at our own specific actions (and the patterns that repeated actions create) to see and understand the motivating beliefs that actually guide our actions. 

 

The illustration below presents a contrast between motivating beliefs in a control mode and motivating beliefs in a partnership mode.  The illustration includes a basic motivating belief and related beliefs about goals, knowledge, and intentions.

 

 

 

   

 

Motivating Beliefs

 

      CONTROL MODE                                            PARTNERSHIP MODE

Basic Belief:

 

       I need to control the environment                         I need to share what I know and 

       at all times because I know best                                        be open to what others know so    

       what needs to be done                                                      we can determine what needs to                                                                                                          be done

 

Belief About Goals:

      It is important to achieve my goals                                    It is important to achieve goals

      as I understand them                                                         that are jointly designed and

                                                                                                jointly agreed upon

 

Belief About Knowledge:

      I understand, others do not                                                Everyone has useful information

                                                                                                and perspectives

 

Belief About Intentions:

      I have pure intentions; others have                                    People try to act with integrity

      suspect intentions

 

 

 

 

The arrows in the box indicate that we can locate our own beliefs somewhere on a spectrum between the two ends that the modes represent.  From the Authentic Partnership perspective, communication based on beliefs that are closer to the Partnership end of the spectrum is much more likely to lead to lasting and meaningful change because the key values and guidelines are consistent with Partnership Mode motivating beliefs.

 

Left-hand column work  

 

Left-hand column work helps us understand our current habits, consider their possible limitations, and identify alternatives that might be more effective.  It provides one way to look at our own habits from a deeper perspective.

 

Ø  Left-hand column work gives us a way to look at the thoughts and feelings behind what we say to others, and how they may influence our interactions. 

Ø  Left-hand column work reveals the possible gaps between what we say and believe we are doing and what our thoughts and feelings reveal in relation to the key values and the guidelines of Authentic Partnership.

 

Any interaction can be charted as a left-hand column case.  To do so, on the right side of a two-column page record what you and one or more persons said.  On the left-hand side record what you were thinking and feeling when each person spoke.  Here is a brief interaction between an owner (Jim) and an employee (Mac) charted as the owner’s left-hand column case.

 

Jim’s thoughts                                  Jim’s and Mac’s words

 

I’d like to sound Mac out about implementing the new format before I talk with others about it.  He’s thought of as level-headed by the other employees.

 

I like his positive attitude.

 

I’ll lead into this by asking him how he views our present approach, which hasn’t been as effective as it could be.   

 

He’s level-headed, but he’s also careful, and maybe a bit defensive.

 

Just because there are no complaints doesn’t mean it’s working as well as it could.       

 

Okay.  Now we can get down to the real question.

 

Jim:  Thanks for meeting me with me, Mac.  I have a few ideas I’d like to share with you and get your reactions. 

 

 

 

Mac:  Great.  I always like to think about new ideas.

 

Jim:  I’ve been thinking about our approach to customer inquiries.  How well do you think that’s working?   

 

 

Mac:  I think it’s pretty good.  I know I haven’t heard any complaints about it.   

 

 

Jim:   Right, no complaints, but I’ve been thinking about ways to improve what we do, and I think this could use improvement.

 

Mac:  Okay.  What do you have in mind?

 

 

To improve his practice, Jim would compare the words he spoke with the thoughts and feelings behind the words to see if he missed opportunities to use a Partnership approach that might have been more effective.  He might ask himself one or more of the following questions: 

 

Ø  Given what I was thinking, did my words reflect a partnership approach to the interaction? 

Ø  Are there ways I might have improved the interaction by relying more on either of the two key values? 

Ø  Are there ways I might have improved the interaction by relying more on one or more of the five guidelines?

Ø  What would be the likely difference in outcome if I had operated more in a partnership mode?

Ø  Does this interaction suggest a pattern of communication that could be improved?

Ø  Do I want to make a change in how I approach this kind of interaction?

 

[*] Authentic Partnership has its roots in the extensive research and organizational development work of Chris Argyris and his associates, and the related application of that work to facilitation by Roger Schwarz and his associates.  Authentic Partnership adapts, modifies, and builds on the framework they developed.  The Partnership for Kentucky Schools supported extensive work to develop Authentic Partnership training.

 

 

 

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