Are your Business Partners having the right conversations?

There has been a sharp rise in requests for Business Partner development work this year, as companies of all shapes and sizes recognise the need for support functions like HR, Finance and IT to be having more strategic conversations with the business.

You might think that after the many years of the Business Partner job title being banded around, professionals in those roles would all be settled and confident with the idea.  Yet we’re finding quite the opposite, as more and more businesses come to us for support to develop their people.

The challenge seems to boil down to clarity and confidence, with frequent comments including:

“I’m not sure I know what is expected of me with this new title?”

“I’m being asked to say no to the business, when I used to say yes.  How do I do that?”

“I keep being told I need to have more strategic conversations, but I’m not really sure what that means.  And how would I start doing that when I usually just respond to requests?”

We wrote about the Challenger Business Partner some time ago, highlighting the research on what can make the best influencers in any role.  Those skills are still highly relevant today, to external and internal consultants and partners alike.  Due to the volume of work we have been doing focused on developing in-house Business Partners, we have developed our own framework of what seems to set apart those best in the role.

Those Partners who are well-respected, earn a seat at the table and facilitate strategic plans with the business that achieve top and bottom-line outcomes.

We have built this framework from a range of sources and our practical experience of both being business partners and delivering business partner development across industries for the past 15 years.  You’ll spot reference to Dixon & Adamson’s Challenger Sale and Maister et al’s Trusted Advisor, as these are critical starting points to understanding the ways successful people build relationships and influence others.

What can you do with this information?

If your team is needing to demonstrate more of the skills and behaviours shown in this framework, then start a conversation.  We have found one of the most impactful exercises with this, is simply to ask people what good would look like for each of the boxes.  “If you felt confident in your role, what would you be doing?”  “If you were effective in influencing and teaching, what would be happening?  What would you be doing?  What would others say about you?”

In doing this, you are in effect creating your own Business Partner Competency Framework, which you can then use as a benchmark for goals, feedback and development.  Many of our programmes have started with this exercise, then gone onto build the skills and confidence needed in each area.

Why not start the same conversation with your team?