Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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Special Interview: Partnering Across Frontiers

The vital outcome of partnering is a mutually beneficial and long-term strategic relationship. 

Happy Cyber Monday!

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family. In my family, this was a special Thanksgiving because it was my nephew’s first Thanksgiving since he started university and ventured to a new land, and I was fascinated by how much he matured in a few months. – It seems he was sitting in a stroller and watching Thomas and Friends yesterday, and today, he is driving cars and talking about engineering. How did this happen? 😊

Over Thanksgiving, we had great conversations as a family, and as I reminisced on the experience, I couldn’t help but think about what enables two to partner. From these special moments, a gift emerged, and today, I am especially pleased to share this piece because it is the fruit of a partnership between my father and me.

A cherished partnership

In the book, Adversity Brings Balance and other blog posts, I shared a bit about my father because he is an incredible dad and man. Because of him and my mom, I always felt like the luckiest girl in the world. And with each passing year, I learn of many other people who feel the same because of them. When I think of him, I often pinch myself, feeling undeserving and grateful to have him as a father.

One of his many strengths is his respect for humanity and ability to partner with people from different cultures and socioeconomic levels, as he did throughout his career. My dad can discuss with a head of state one minute and a panhandler the next, and one would not know the difference in their socioeconomic status by observing him. – Because he treats all people like humans, equally deserving of respect, and his unique ability has always impressed me! Therefore, I was honored when he agreed to discuss the topic of partnering and partnership with me and download insights for this piece.

I posed the questions, and my father responded – below!


What are the essentials of partnering?

Partnering begins as an exchange of ideas. In this process, it is paramount that both parties establish and maintain boundaries and do not overstep each other’s boundaries. A partner expects the other to work in honesty. Therefore, you must respect the other person. Also, you must ensure that as you exercise power, you do not rob others of theirs, and they do not perceive you as trying to do so.

What does partnering look like in an organization?

Within an organization, partnering could be developing a successful long-term strategic relationship between two groups and agreeing on a set of best practices. Best practices are critical in creating a sustainable strategic competitive advantage because if people do not see the value of a joint initiative, they will not partner. The outcome of effective partnering is a strategic competitive advantage that benefits both sides.

What is the difference between partnership and partnering?

Partnerships are a legal arrangement – a legal entity. It is a form of business wherein each person comes in with their position, has a firm stance, and is intent on accomplishing their objectives. Therefore, people could work side-by-side but are not necessarily working together. However, for a partnership to be successful, both parties must have perceived equal power in terms of their weight in the relationship. – Though their contributions may differ. 

On the other hand, partnering is a method of operation or a way of getting things done! Partnering can happen within an organization, such as when one group decides to collaborate with another because they are more advanced in a specific area or have an ability that the other would like to chicken pick. Here, partnering is beneficial because it enables one group to gain a competitive advantage without investing in building additional capabilities.

How is Partnering mutually beneficial?

When partnering is effective and successful, it benefits both sides, i.e., teams, groups, or organizations, but the results are not always immediate.
For example, when I started working with the U.N. in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I was leading small-scale Fisheries in West Africa for 20 coastal countries. That meant partnering with many governments and communities in different nations, countries, and cultures. At the time, the Forestry department in F.A.O. had developed good programs on community Forestry, and to improve what I was doing in Fisheries, I partnered with the Forestry department to see and study what they were doing.

A few years later, as head of International Fisheries and Liaison in the F.A.O. headquarters in Rome, we developed the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its international action plans over some years. We achieved this by partnering with governments and other stakeholders. The Forestry department in F.A.O. determined that our Code was valuable and engaged us to learn so that they could develop theirs. – This is what I mean by a long-term strategic relationship. – It is not something one does today and immediately gets results. The focus must be on developing best practices for a sustainable competitive advantage.

What is required to partner effectively?

The essentials of partnering are what we may refer to as the 3 Cs: Commitment, Collaboration, and Communication.
First, commitment is imperative. – Both sides must trust that they all have a long-term investment in the initiative. Second, to enable collaboration, there must be a shared vision. And third, effective communication is required to provide and maintain clarity.
When the 3 Cs are present, there is a good chance partnering will be successful. However, when they are absent, it is hard to achieve success.

It sounds like the 3 Cs are the pillars of effective partnering. What are the building blocks?

In addition to the 3Cs, it is also critical to align on the principles of engagement, the partnering arrangement, and the role of the leader.
Let me elaborate on each of these.

Principles of Engagement
You must agree on the value of the outcome you are pursuing. It is critical that those involved understand the objectives, and you have to keep the purpose of the mission at the forefront and motivate the people throughout the process. Strong communication, transparency, and a free exchange of ideas enable a good partnering arrangement.

Partnering Arrangement (Order)
In establishing a partnering arrangement, transparency is crucial. The key actors of the business must be committed to developing a successful long-term engagement and invest commensurately. Specifically, the participants must have a robust understanding of what is involved. Talent development is critical to ensure participants have the required knowledge and skills.

The Role of the Leader
The leader must trust, respect, and empower those working with them.
Trust is crucial as the leader’s role is to establish empowering relationships because a leader must not be the only one who benefits from an investment. As we say, leading means that you go with other people. When others are not surrounding you and supporting you, you cannot lead or be a leader. 

Therefore, the leader must empower other people and follow up on what the people are doing to drive progress and remove obstacles. Also, people only follow the leader if they trust them. Therefore, the leader has to trust people and be trustworthy. A leader can demonstrate this by being respectful, sharp in understanding and discerning situations, and making timely decisions.

What does good decision-making look like in leadership?

Often, people do not trust a leader who holds back from making decisions. The leader does not always need to make a decision immediately. But when people are waiting, without information or direction, and unsure of what is happening, they will lose confidence. After a discussion, a leader has to reflect promptly and then make and communicate a decision. Also, the leader does not need to make every decision. Others on the team need to be empowered to make decisions at their level. – This also helps people to trust the leader.

Last, a leader must ensure that the efforts and rewards benefit everyone. When there is mutuality, or as we used to say, when a leader divides the spoils, people feel they are benefiting from their work and are motivated to remain committed.

Very insightful! Is there anything else you would like to add?

We discussed partnering above in the context of an organization, but it also applies to other relationships, such as between coworkers, spouses, and friends.


I could talk to my dad about leadership for hours, but we decided to wrap here in the interest of time. I hope this serves you well. Have a fantastic post-Thanksgiving week as you prepare for the rest of the holiday season, and happy partnering! 😊

Until next time!

For you and to you,


Image credit: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) | www.fao.org



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