Davis and I recently gave a presentation at the MTNA National Conference called “Dynamic Business Duos: Supercharge Your Studio with Strategic Partnerships” about the power of teamwork for music teachers. We did a lot of research about collaboration to prepare and also took a close look at our own processes to see what we could improve. In this article, I’ll share what we learned about the four most important qualities of efficient partnerships according to research done in The Power of 2 by Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller, PhD.
1. Complementary Strengths
One of the most exciting things about partnerships is that you can utilize each person’s unique skill sets. For a partnership to be most effective, you want complementary strengths. While individuals are rarely well-rounded, teams can be. When choosing a partner or developing a collaborative relationship, take the time to notice and appreciate each other’s strengths.
It is also important not to try to compete with each other’s strengths. It is tempting to compare, but you’ll be a stronger team if you develop your own strengths and allow your partner to cover your weaknesses. The goal is not to be the same. You don’t need similar personalities or backgrounds to make a great team.
In fact, you don’t even have to like each other, as long as you have a…
2. Shared Mission
Based on our research and experience, this may be the most important quality of a strong partnership. Very different people can work well together if they have a shared mission. If you can find someone with similar goals and a vision for life that matches your own, you are well on your way to strong collaboration.
Davis and I have had several other partners at our studio over the years. We enjoyed working with them while they were there, but eventually they realized they had different goals and moved on. We are still good friends with some of them, but we don’t collaborate as closely because we didn’t have the same mission.
It is worth mentioning that you don’t have to be friends at first (or even particularly like each other) to have a shared mission and collaborate. If your belief in the mission is strong enough, you will both equally committed.
Which brings us to our next point…
3. Equal Commitment
It is essential that you and your partner be equally invested in the mission. As Julian Hall says, “if your business partners aren’t working as hard as you, it’s not a partnership. It’s a sinking ship.”
Davis and I work closely together to run a studio, but not every partnership needs that level of commitment. You could run an event together once a year. (Two teachers in our local community collaborate once a year to run a statewide piano camp each summer.) You could write a book together or perform a collaborative concert.
Whatever your mission, you will get the most out of a partnership when you share equal commitment.
4. Good Communication
Once you have found someone with complementary strengths, a shared mission, and equal commitment, you need to establish good communication. It is essential when collaborating that you keep an open mind and remain humble enough to admit when you are wrong. In the early stages of a partnership, careful communication prevents misunderstandings and establishes trust. In later stages, communication maintains a continuous flow of information that keeps you synchronized so you can work efficiently.
It takes time to develop a strong relationship with honest communication. As you would in any other relationship, take it slow and start small. Davis and I collaborated on shared student recitals for three years before we started developing resources together.
I hope these four qualities of a successful partnership help you identify potential collaborators and enrich your studio through teamwork. Teaching music can be an isolating profession, but we truly can be better and accomplish more when we work together.
“I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things.”
- Mother Teresa