The power of partnership

When I signed up with a group of 17 colleagues for a trip to build a health clinic in Zambia, I expected the experience to be humbling and life changing – and it was. But what I hadn’t expected was that I’d also return with some valuable insights for my leadership role, as Managing Director of Junction, BGL Group’s partnership business. 

BGL Group has partnered with the charity Build It International for the last four years, raising funds to build vital new facilities in Zambia. Two years ago we built a school in Kabaka which now educates 400 students. This year, we built a health clinic in Kapiri to support a population of 11,000. 

The 18 of us on the trip raised over £50,000 between us (topped up by a £169,000 donation from BGL Group) and then travelled to Zambia to work on the final stages of the build. Upon arriving in Zambia, we joined up with representatives of Build It and members of the local community, who were trained by them in core skills which will help to maintain the Health Clinic buildings, after we’ve left. We planted trees and a garden, installed benches, painted and generally threw ourselves into putting the finishing touches to the clinic.

Allow natural leaders to emerge
We were a mixed bunch of volunteers from different areas of the business, with different skill sets and the natural inclination might have been for the most senior person there (which happened to be me) to take control and direct operations. I made a conscious decision to step back, both to encourage others to develop and take the initiative, and so that I could support rather than lead. It’s all too easy in a corporate environment to stick to rigid hierarchies and assumptions about what people can do. It was inspiring to see colleagues develop to take on a more prominent role, particularly in very unfamiliar surroundings.
Maintain a sense of perspective
In the desire to succeed, and to deliver, it’s sometimes easy to overreact when things don’t go exactly according to plan.

Maintaining a clear sense of perspective about what’s really important, slowing your thinking down and focusing objectively on what you do and the difference you can make, can really help the business. This trip has made me realise that we sometimes get emotional about things that aren’t important when compared with the life and death situations faced by some of the people we met. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have pride in what we do – but thinking calmly and objectively about what you want to achieve and how you want to go about it, can actually make you a far more powerful individual in business.

There’s strength in partnership
I found it valuable to understand both the needs and the strengths of the Zambian community we were working with. If one partner is struggling in a particular area, recognising that and supporting them is really important. At the Mutaba Health Clinic the combination of BGL Group, Build It and the Zambian community has created something really powerful and sustainable. 

The tripartite relationships we create at Junction with insurers and household name brands work in a similar way. For us, that might mean lending our marketing expertise to a brand whose strength is in data or, conversely, leveraging our own data to augment another partner’s brand strengths. It’s crucial to make sure that we have mutually aligned goals, understanding what we’re trying to achieve and leveraging each other’s strengths to deliver that goal. 

In Kapiri, lives have been saved thanks to the power of partnership. The old adage that the whole is more than the sum of the parts has never felt more apt.

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