Coalition building is vital to the success of any organization and in turn vital to the success of any community. Without intentionally building coalitions, your business or organization will operate more as a silo rather than a partner with the community around you. Subsequently, the potential that you have as a business leader to be an effective, positive force will suffer. As a business, you have a platform to help lead and grow the community in which you operate. You have a unique opportunity to be an effective leader who works at the forefront of bringing people together. The more you embrace the responsibility to build coalitions the more effective you will be as a business leader and the more you will make a measurable difference.
Before I discuss what coalition building is, let me give you a firsthand example of how a lack of coalition building can affect your community. We just recently celebrated what would have been my brother, Jesse’s, 27th birthday. In 2012, Jesse was shot down in front of my parent’s house while walking to the mailbox for my father. Many people say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Jesse was not. He was at his home doing a small task that everyone does every day - getting the mail. After his death, we witnessed the reaction that occurs often within communities after an act of violence occurs. Based on initial emotion, there was a rush for people to come out and collaborate and work together. People were shouting from the rooftops that we need to build better coalitions that will address the community’s issues like the violence of a young man being shot down at his family’s home.
People from all sides of our community were shouting for collaboration, which illustrated two things: First, that there was a severe lack of coalitions within the community including the people demanding for coalitions and second, that every other time something tragic had happened previously, there was not proper action taken to actually do the ground work in building coalitions. In order for any long-lasting change to occur, there has to be something greater than temporary efforts and separate messages being shouted from all sides of a community.
Unlike what I witnessed after Jesse was killed, coalition building is so much more than an emotional reaction that only lasts temporarily. Coalition building is strategic. It is when different parties come together with a shared vision. It is when people come to the same table and acknowledge their shared vision and mutually understand that they are stronger together. Coalitions are strategic relationships that consistently work together and take combined action to progress toward a common goal.
The first thing that must be present in order for coalitions to be built is trust. Trust has to be at the beginning of every conversation of collaboration. Trust is the pillar of a coalition. Trust does not mean that you necessarily agree with one another, but it means that you trust the intentions of those you are building coalitions with. You trust that each other shares the common vision and that you each have the best intentions for one another and the community and whatever it is that you are tackling together.
Trust is the hardest part of coalition building. More often than not, people are not making genuine effort in trying to build meaningful relationships with those they want to build coalitions with. But trust comes from connection, which is vital when building coalitions. You have to start with a genuine connection. Sometimes this takes a lot of time, patience, and intentionality.
It is through an initial place of trust and through genuinely built relationships that you can then move forward together to take action in making measurable change. The big changes do not happen with one person. Real, deep, long-lasting change happens when people come together and get into the grunt work. It happens when people work every day to strengthen their coalitions.
After forming a space of trust within your coalition, the next component is service. There has to be an understanding that you are serving one another in order to serve the greater vision. Without working out of a place of service, you will not get far with your coalitions. By taking on the responsibility to build strategic coalitions, you are committing to serving those who are working with you.
Sacrifice is the last and more important component. Coalitions are about giving. You are giving yourself, your time, your talent, and your energy to the goal that you believe is important for the good of all. Coalition building is nothing short of a huge sacrifice for everyone involved. When you are building relationships and working with people of all different backgrounds, you will naturally have to sacrifice some of your own wants. You have to be able to sacrifice to be able to get done what you want to accomplish.
Coalition building must be a part of your daily operation of your business. It must be an integral part of the way that you live and work and run your business. At the end of the day, the more safe and prosperous and successful the community in which you operate is, the more successful you will be. In this light, coalition building can be seen as an investment in helping the success of your company.
I challenge you today to take the initial step in building coalitions with those that you need. Reach out to someone in your community that will help you be a more effective leader. Start an initial conversation with them and build a genuine connection. It is your responsibility to be involved within your community and actively help make it more successful both as a business leader and as a person.
If you are not currently building strategic coalitions, you need to rectify that. If you are working as a silo currently and are not involved with your community leaders and with those who are actively working toward your community’s success, you need to start connecting with them now. Success does not happen by one entity alone.
Go start building coalitions and become a responsible, powerful, impactful business owner that is a positive force of change within your community.