Here at Globocorp we strive to be at the leading edge of fast-fashion, coupled with a dose of tech. After my previous trip in June, I’m back in New York this week as part of New York Fashion Week to see some of our latest designers strut their stuff. Watch out for our consumer versions in a store near you … very soon.

In case you missed it, the big themes this year were buttons and zippers. Together, sometimes. Apart: definitely.

Rihanna
I’m not allowed to tell you what happened at my friend Rihanna’s show – as you may have seen they took our phones away. But the break from email did get me thinking about buttons and zippers in a different way ….

… as a strategic adviser to my colleagues, part of my job is to make connections, and button or zip things together so that we see the whole picture.

No, I’m not talking about the clothes strategic advisers wear (that’s for a different blog), but more about how those two items connect in a different way, and what that means for business partnerships with your key stakeholders.

Adding value in three ways
If you are operating as a business partner or a strategic adviser, either in a functional role in a large organization like me, or as an external consultant, the value you add will depend on three things: 1) the skills and expertise you have, 2) the organizational understanding you have so that you can translate expertise into results, and 3) your consulting skills to build and develop relationships.

In many relationships the fulcrum is the personal chemistry between the receiver and the giver of advice. We can use the terms ‘adviser’ and ‘client’ whether the adviser is in the same organization, or a different one. The ‘client’ has operational responsibility for a large group of people and their job is to take the adviser’s counsel and operationalize it. The adviser’s job is to harness and marshal the expertise of their own team and mobilize to face the client. In effect the two individuals are acting like a button and button-hole, holding everything together. All the connection is held by the button.

For some types of relationships, this can work fine. But in other situations, the button at the centre – represented by the relationship of the two individuals – can get stretched and pulled, and sometimes pop (yes, Buck Greenback, I’m talking about you!). And if the button is too tight, it’s painful, circulation gets cut off and the relationship falters.

Zippers
A zipper relationship, on the other hand, is generally much stronger. The zipper has lots of connection points with lots of people working together in partnership across the ‘seam’. The connections might be hierarchical: I advise my CEO and other leaders; people in my team tend to work with middle management. Or it might be functional or expertise-based. But the key is multiple connection points. If one link fails then the zipper still holds.
If you find yourself in a button relationship – either as the consultant or the adviser – here are some things you can do to start building your zipper:

  1. Create a relationship map to explore what the future connections might be. Who are the key players on the other side? What can you do to involve / connect with them? Please get in touch if you would like some examples.
  2. Try to identify the main reasons for ‘button-ness’; is it convenience, lack of trust, people being protective of their own personal power or position? Once you understand the motivation you can start to make changes.
  3. Look at your own behaviour and see if you are inadvertently encouraging the wrong type of behaviour among your colleagues. What can you change?

I’m not universally saying “buttons bad, zippers good” but it is important to recognize when the relationship is the wrong shape. And maybe the next time someone tells you to “zip it!”, you’ll interpret that as constructive advice, not an insult.

Now that Rihanna’s people have given me my phone back I can take lots of photos of our up and coming designers. Look out for the hashtag #globocorp on Fashtagram!

If you would like to hear more about how to build and strengthen relationships, and improve the quality of your connections, get in touch and we can come to your office and share ideas. We can’t promise Rihanna but we do have John Lennon and Bill Gates as ‘guest speakers’ at our events.

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