For decades now, the Human Resources field has been implementing a concept, first introduced by guru Dave Ulrich, called the "business partner" role.
It was, and still is, a brilliant idea. And one that many other professionals would do well to adapt.
What is a business partner then? Using HR as a model, a business partner works closely with her client (e.g. R&D or Operations), getting to know the client's business intimately, advising her client on specific issues (e.g. talent acquisition or talent retention) related to her areas of expertise, and helping her client to achieve success.
Imagine transferring that concept to other areas such as EHS, IT, Project Management, Communications, Change Management, Learning & Development, and Quality, for example. Specialists in these areas have much to offer and desire a "seat at the table" with their clients in order to contribute meaningfully.
The idea of partnering is key. Here are several component aspects of partnering to assess yourself against and to develop in your area of the business:
Value proposition - What is it exactly that you are offering to your clients? Do they know what it is? Do they feel the need for it? Do they understand it?
Expectations - What do they expect of you? Do you know?
Business acumen - Learning to grasp and speak the language of business is essential to build credibility with the leaders of your business.
Relationships - Building trust with your clients will open doors and minds to your ideas and solutions.
Be "easy to do business with" - Reducing any obstacles and barriers that the client experiences in working with you will go a long way toward facilitating the working relationship you desire.
Deliver - At the end of the day, accountability (keeping your commitments) and execution (getting it done) are the final litmus tests that your clients will use to judge you.
Improve continually - Provide ways for your client to provide feedback. To complain. To be heard. And make sure you demonstrate that you are listening and taking their input to heart.
Go the extra mile - Keep on asking yourself, Am I doing enough? Have I differentiated the services I provide? Is there something else that my client would value?
Think ahead - The legendary hockey star Wayne Gretzky once said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." Are you anticipating your client's needs and moving in that direction proactively?
To net it out, all of the partnering components above can be summed up in the word consulting. As a business partner, you are a consultant to your client.
Your job, in a nutshell, is to help them achieve their goals.
Terrence Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant. Follow him on twitter @tseamon. Learn more about his work at Facilitation Solutions on facebook.