5 tips on how to succeed in modern cross-company cooperation

The cross-company cooperation blog post was published originally in Jakamo Official Blog on 20 July 2014.

Our daily work is done more and more with people across company borders. Because of the networked business ecosystem, everyday routines are run, of course with the customers and suppliers, but also with numerous other stakeholders.

Management by yelling is not a powerful way to lead cooperation, because the arms of authority don’t reach over company borders. Focusing only on price screwing and continuous supplier changing aren’t always the best or most rewarding ways to manage cross-company cooperation. They will have a negative influence for example on learning in long-term product development.

If the traditional ways to manage relationships are not satisfactory anymore, how do the most successful leaders manage their cross-company cooperation? The organisation researchers Jukka Vesalainen and Marko Kohtamäki have found interesting results in their studies. The highest relational performance (OTD, Quality, Effective use of capital, Productivity) in manufacturing industries is based on relational behaviour. Surprisingly, the key is in personal behaviour.

Let us dive deeper into the relational behaviour and what does it mean on an individual level. If you want to be one of the most efficient relational leaders, deploy these five tips in your daily routines concerning your cross-company relations.

1. Concentrate on listening
Top-leaders are phenomenal listeners. That makes the difference between good leaders and top-leaders. The outcome of listening is commitment. By listening, you show a real interest to the opposite party. If the opposite feels you’re interested in them, he or she will show interest in you. Be honest and interested in the one you are having a conversation with. Listening is the key to the opposite’s commitment and flexibility.

2. Don’t shoot down your partners’ ideas
There are many ways to direct commitment and creativity into a negative circle. One of them is shooting down the ideas the partner presents. If your partner is in a strategic position in your value chain, try to refine the ideas further instead of shooting them down. If you’re shooting ideas down, after some idea rejections you won’t get more ideas from that direction.

3. Act kindly and appropriately
There will always exist deviations, problems and critique in cross-company cooperation. A leader believing in relational behaviour approaches those matters as cases of learning. Always try to give the critique in a soft and pertinently way. Behave kindly and correctly even in the tough matters and never fall into personal addressing?

4. Admit your own mistakes
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. A mistake should be seen as a gift. A gift of learning. If you’re strong enough to admit your own mistakes, it will encourage your partners to behave accordingly. In an excellent relationship, both parties see the mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Don’t expect your partners to admit their mistakes, if you’re not ready to own yours.

5. Explain why something is important for you
Good leaders tell what to do. Better leaders show how to do. Top-leaders explain why to do. The same well-known metaphor can be adapted also into relationship management. If the supplier doesn’t understand the business environment and context you’re working in, explain it to them. The supplier will for sure work harder to shorten the lead-time if they know why it’s important to your own operations. Without an explanation, it’s hard to get anyone motivated.

Does your company need a code for behaviour in strategic cross-company cooperation? Include these five simple but effective ways of behaviour in use together with the traditional control mechanisms. You will be surprised by the results.

One more tip. Don’t wait for the others to implement these tips first. Be the initiator.

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