Coalition Worst Practices
Continuing with our series on “worst practices, below is a partial list of things to avoid in leading or participating in a coalition.
· Failing to get alignment from your board that you have the authority to formally or informally serve in coalitions
· Failing to think strategically about how to engage coalitions. Before joining any coalitions, ask how it is furthering your organization’s mission. Sometimes you can agree to serve in a coalition because by doing so now, the favor will be returned.
· Failing to determine the time and resources needed to participate. Don’t underestimate the time needed for very important and effective coalitions.
· Joining and not fully “showing up” as promised or expected. Some coalitions are “in name only” so all you have to do is lend your name. For coalitions that matter, you should be a leader. Consider it part of your mission.
· Failing to realize that people join coalitions for many reasons. It is critical to set ground rules for participation or it can lead to confusion or goal-misalignment.
· If stakes are high, failure to have people with decision-making authority will slow everything down. Many coalitions exist because organizations send low level employees to “observe and report” but they can’t commit their organization to anything. For coalitions that are important, send decision makers. Don’t settle for being in coalitions that don’t show the same respect.
· Failing to assume the risk of coalition work. Simply being in a coalition means that attacks on one member may implicate you.
· Sending your lowest paid or lowest level position to represent your organization at meetings. This may be all you can do, but it may send a signal of disrespect.
· Assuming comradery when there may be none. People who are in coalition with you may not like you, your mission, your organization, or your past decisions. You don’t even need trust to be in a coalition, but you do need agreement about why you are in the coalition. You can get burned if you assume an organization is an ally just because they are in coalition with you.
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