As creative leaders we are often dismayed by our internal clients' lack of understanding about our process and needs. They think "small edits" can be returned in two minutes, compliance reviews are either optional or take only a few hours, and that vendors should be able to return printed copies within 24 hours of their sign-off, never mind file prep or the printer's queue. But maybe it's true we're not always the best partners to other internal service providers either. Our partners in HR, Legal, Finance, and Operations are often equally misunderstood.

There are many ways to show yourself as a true partner to your colleagues. One sure-fire method is to put yourself in their shoes. It's a win-win and you can be the role model for others by being open and sharing information. Target your audience the same way you do in your marketing materials by speaking their language and sharing pertinent information. It'll make your relationship smoother and you'll get the support you need.

Consider, for example, a meeting with Human Resources. Often meetings with this department are greeted with defensiveness. There's an assumption that they want to change something you've done or are about to do. In fact, the HR team usually steps in when it feels a leader or associate needs an advocate. Imagine a meeting with HR where you walk in knowing they need the data to support your vision. They're on a fact-finding mission, not a problem finding mission. Once you've laid out the facts as you know them to be and the thoughtful solutions you propose, your HR partner will have little choice but to stand by you.

Legal just wants to know that everything It's as simple as that and as complex as that. Legal touches on every area of an organization and overlaps with every area as well. Imagine how frustrating it must be for them to have to dip their toes into everyone's pool and swim around. They probably feel like intruders just trying to do their job. Give them the data they need and they too will swim away happy, knowing they have a partner in you. Chances are they'll advocate for you and your team during meetings where your department isn't represented. It's always good to have cheerleaders when you're not there to speak for yourself.

Finance. The very word causes many to shiver. The reality is, they should be your best friends. Give them details, statistics, and numbers, numbers, numbers. Or set up your client to be able to share all the numbers. They need to know your departments ffinancial status at any moment in order to help the Company exist. It's that basic. Should funds be moved to marketing or to product development? What about systems? Finance is responsible for speaking to Wall Street, investors, and Board members. Set them up for success and you get to share in it.

Operations include facilities plus a lot more. Want to get your mail? Want a volume discount on shared services? Want a computer and projection screen for your next presentation? Operations makes it all happen. They're the "behind the scenes" team who gets very little credit and a lot of headaches. Chances are you know this feeling quite well. Show compassion for the demands on them and give them the data they need to make you a priority such as why do you need it by that date and time, who will be attending, when will it be done so they can schedule pick up time, how long has that sink been leaking...

None of the examples above touch on the personalities of your colleagues. It's irrelevant. Your focus is to set them up for success in their role, regardless of how you feel about them personally. This automatically sets a tone of reciprocity and results in them setting you up for success by being equally compassionate and informative. And if they don't, you can walk away knowing you did the right thing anyway.

The bottom line is that no one wants surprises and everyone wants to be understood. The more familiarity each department leader has of you, the more supportive they can be. In other words, and I quote, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."