Being from the UK, I had not celebrated this wonderful holiday until moving to Washington, D.C. two years ago. The sentiment of this holiday is important; being with family, learning to appreciate the opportunities we have, and of course, forgetting about calories for the day!
In your professional life, the sentiment of coming together is important too. Professionals depend heavily on each other as do organizations to assist each other to accomplish mutual goals. Your ability to build coalitions can make you an asset; here are four steps to building coalitions.
1. When you start your next project, identify potential coalition partners
The best way to do this is to break down the various aspects of your project. Figure out the steps you need to take to complete the project and dimensions of the job you can do yourself. For work you can achieve internally, you probably want to avoid burdening others. For work where you require another person’s expertise, first look internally within your organization before approaching partner organizations.
Identify your coalition partner based on those who are most helpful, organizations closely aligned with yours, and professionals who you know you can work with.
2. Figure out what exactly what you need from your coalition partner
Before you approach your coalition partner, know your ask. You want to avoid a situation where the coalition partner agrees to something without knowing exactly what is expected of them. You should be clear from the start.
Some of the reasons you might approach a coalition partner are for their expertise, and perhaps they specialize in an area of policy you do not understand. Other times you might require the use of their workspace because it is in a prominent location. Most of the time when I approach a coalition partner it is for the use of their connections. Other times, you may want their sponsorship for an event. Whatever it is, make sure you know what you are looking for.
3. Make a convincing pitch to your coalition partner
You can do this by phone, email, or meeting (usually it depends on the nature and size of the ask). The key to a good pitch is a clear focus on how the partnership will benefit their organization. Perhaps you will sponsor one of their events in exchange; you’ll give them name recognition, it doesn’t cost them anything, you’ll provide them with an email list, etc.
When making your pitch, lay out a clear plan, timeline, budget, whatever your coalition partner needs to assist you. It’s essential that you are easy to work with so that organizations want to help you again in the future. Also, be ready to answer questions or follow up with relevant information. If your ask requires a financial commitment, prepare to negotiate.
4. Follow through with your plan and keep a clear line of communication
If your coalition partner agrees to assist you, open a group chat on whatever platform you like best where you can share information and list out the respective tasks and dates for completion. This will keep all parties updated on the progress of your mutual project. You may also wish to schedule more meetings and phone calls to strategize and keep everyone on track.
Make sure you follow through on whatever you agreed to in exchange for their help. If you decided to pay them, share contact information, etc. you should be prompt in your delivery following the completion of your mutual project.
Finally, coalitions are a necessary good in your professional life. They strengthen the bond between organizations and the movement is better off for it. Make sure you uphold your organization's reputation as a reliable partner.