Partnerships have to be developed and nurtured in ways that respect and recognize all individuals. Building relationships is not just the responsibility of organizational leaders, but of everyone working in the partnership. It’s also important at the initial stages to agree on a set of ground rules for the partnership. This may seem obvious, but very few groups perform this fundamental requirement necessary for valuing and respecting the individual partners.
The stages of developing a partnership can be compared to the stages of team development—forming, storming, norming, and performing. Forming involves bringing people together to start the partnership-building process. It’s important that all members help determine the partnership goals, structure, and processes from the onset. In the next stage, after the group has met several times, people start to question the purpose and direction of the partnership (e.g., “Why am I here?”, “What’s my role?”, “Do we have the right priorities?”). It’s important to work through this storming stage so the group can be open and honest about their perceptions. Norming is the stage in which the partners begin to develop protocols and reach shared agreements. Performing is when the partners are working together smoothly and accomplishing their objectives.