I have come to learn that working with others can be daunting and somewhat difficult if you always expect others to conform to your needs, wants, and desires. I have also learned that working with others can be very rewarding, exhilarating and also beneficial to you and your organization when approached with charisma and a genuine desire to assist the partners in winning in their organizations. For decades, research on the role student affairs professionals play in bridging the gap between academic and student affairs has shown the entire campus community will benefit with these cross-functional collaborations. The research informs us of the necessity these academic and student affairs collaborations have in providing an academically enriching campus learning community. However, what the research may not reveal is practical strategies for building the type of relationship that cultivates these ever important campus partnerships.
As a practitioner who spends 99.9% of my time working with others, I have come to be very passionate (and let’s be honest, successful) at the intentional partnerships I have developed on my campus. I find I am a better professional because of what I have learned from those with whom I partner. I continue to learn daily from the amazing professionals I am fortunate to call my campus partners. In exploring this responsibility of building campus partnerships, there are a few key points I would like to offer that are critical to note as one builds campus partnerships. First, I would like to mention collaborating with our campus constituents is not enough. We must seek to partner with them. When partnership is the ultimate goal, the product/outcome will be much more enriching for the student experience. It’s important to mention that collaborating is an important part of being a good partner. It’s critical we engage campus constituents in a collaborative partnership. A collaborative partnership is more than the work that is produced. It is the process by which two individuals, who are in relation with one another, work toward a common goal and problem solve to increase the success of the organization, team, or other entity. As we know through the work we do, it is unrealistic to expect that a collaborative partnership will automatically form without mutual commitment from both parties. It is important to draw out one of the most important components of a collaborative partnership. I assert the key contributing factor to success in collaborative partnerships is the type of relationship one builds with those with whom one intends to partner. While simple in theory, it can often be challenging to balance the multiple relationships that one builds on campus, not to mention the challenge presented when the ‘other’ does not want to work at this relationship for whatever reasons. Having worked with many different campus constituents from academic affairs to student affairs, the single strategy I have found to be most effective in building collaborative partnerships is to pay special attention to the relationship building aspect.
I am not talking about going out to lunch and seeking out a friendship as the primary relationship. The relationship I focus on is that which I establish based on the appropriateness of the situation (and if a friendship forms after business is taken care of it is a bonus!). In working through building these relationships, it is important to be mindful of the way in which one presents oneself to the person in which the relationship is intended. It is important to take the initiative in building the connection with the constituent with whom you are expecting to partner. For example, Housing and Residential Life professionals may find a need to build a partnership with our financial aid office on campus, especially in these difficult economic times. As the experts in interpersonal relationships, we must take the initiative to outreach and make that initial connection. It’s important to have an identified purpose for initiating this contact and be prepared to articulate this purpose to that contact. Once the initial contact and connection has been made, one must work to build the partnership by seeking to understand the other. In keeping with the initial intent for the outreach, one must seek to understand and then be understood. After seeking understanding, it is then appropriate to communicate your purpose and what you hope to accomplish. One must also practice negotiation skills in this partnership building by painting a picture of what is in it for them, in other words, how will they benefit from this partnership. During this relationship building process, it is realistic to expect resistance, but one must find ways to overcome this resistance. After gaining agreement and in moving forward, it becomes the initiator’s responsibility to sustain and flourish this newly formed relationship. To grow the relationship into a collaborative partnership a shared vision and shared goals should be established. Mutual trust must be established and shared accountability needs to be maintained. There is also a responsibility to the partnership to maintain communication, compromise (we teach our residents to compromise in roommate mediations, we need to use these same skills in our relationships with partners), and commit to follow through with what is mutually established.
While all of this is great and these techniques are often easier said than done, I spent some time exploring ways I can be more effective in building these relationships with my campus constituents. After reviewing several journal articles and books, I came upon one I have found to be a phenomenal resource for my work in building relationships with my campus partners. I have learned that to be fully engaged and intentional in the relationship, one must learn how to ‘win over’ our campus partners. John C. Maxwell and Les Parrott, PH.D, in their book “25 Ways to Win With People: How To Make Others Feel Like A Million Bucks”, assert that the key to winning with people is to have charisma, as this is what draws people to you, brings respect, achievement, and success. The authors suggest the reality is that not everyone is naturally charismatic; therefore, they have to learn how to be as such. After reading this book which offers 25 simple, yet practical strategies on building interpersonal relationships that helps one achieve success through winning with people, I have found the relationships I engage in daily with my campus partners have become much more enhanced, resulting in greater collaborative partnerships between my unit and the campus offices with whom I work. While the intent of this article is not to be a book review, I do want to offer that this book has been a resource I would highly recommend as a permanent fixture in any professional’s library. Maxwell and Parrott (2005) assert that, “anyone can learn to win with people. All it takes is a belief in people and sincere desire to help them” (p. 177). Often we point fingers at the ‘other’. How many times have you said or heard ‘they are so difficult to work with’ or ‘he/she is just not into this project’, etc. The approach Maxwell and Parrott suggest is that in order to win others over, one must be willing to help others win and put one’s own desires, wants, and needs aside and focus internally on what your genuine purpose/intent is. In the example of building a partnership with the financial aid office, let’s assume the intent is to be able to provide a better service to students who are in need for financial assistance. In relating Maxwell and Parrott’s idea of helping others win, one might reflect on what one can do to assist the financial aid office in reaching their vision/goals by connecting residential students to their office. What might residential life gain by helping the financial aid office win? There are so many gains such as a connection to which one would be able to refer a student, a better understanding of the financial aid cycle, and very practically, the housing unit may retain a student resident, who may have otherwise withdrawn from the institution, resulting in a loss of revenue from that occupied bed space. While all 25 strategies Maxwell and Parrott offer are all wonderful, one I have found especially beneficial in building relationships with the intent on building campus partnerships is to ‘listen with your heart’. Maxwell and Parrott offer that listening with your heart involves (a.) focusing on the person not just the messages being communicated; (b.) unclogging your ears and eliminating all potential barriers to focus on the person such as distractions, defensiveness, closed-mindedness, projection, assumptions, and your pride; (c.) listen aggressively and actively; and (d.) listen to understand and not listen to reply, because once people realize you are listening to understand they will become more motivated to listen to your point of view (p. 99-105). I have found that when I listen with my heart the outcome is frequently a win-win situation for all involved.
As the housing/residential life field progresses in the 21st century, I stand firm that we can not be successful in delivering services to residential students without collaborative partnerships with campus entities. At Arizona State University, we have created a model of embedded campus services within our residential neighborhoods that places campus partners in our neighborhood offices to serve as a one-stop shop for our students who seek campus services. The entities that service our students out of the neighborhood office include Residential College Academic Partners, Learning Support Services, Counseling Center, Student Conduct Office, University Police, Wellness and Health Promotions, Student Activities, Housing Operations, among others. These collaborative partnerships have been developed based on the intentionality that was placed in building relationships and winning these offices over. The partnerships have proven successful because of the relationships with the campus entities that have been developed. This win-win situation was only possible because of the intentional work that has been done to initiate, build, grow, and maintain the relationships with our partners.
In summary, we must be reminded of the various years of research informing us that campuses are interdependent entities which survive on collaborative partnerships. Relationships are essential to campus partnerships and more intentionality needs to be given to the relationships we build with campus entities. “25 Ways to Win With People” is an excellent resource for professionals who want practical strategies for winning with people and enhancing the relationships built with the intent to ultimately create flourishing collaborative partnerships with campus entities.
•Ackerman, R.L. (ed). (2007). The Mid-Level Manager in Student Affairs: Strategies for Success. United States of America: NASPA, Inc.
•Burdette Williams, L. & McHugh Engstrom, C. (2002). Strengthening Student Affairs Academic Affairs Partnerships. [online]. Available: www.leeburdettewilliams.net
•Maxwell, J. & Parrott, L. (2005). 25 Ways to Win With People: How to Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
•Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2008). [Online]. Available: http://www.merriam-webster.com
•Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2008). [online]. Available: http://www.merriam-webster.com
•Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2008). [online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org
Submitted by Kendra Hunter, Director of Residential Education, Arizona State University-Tempe Campus