Do you REALLY know who your allies are? They may not be who you think.
I call my tried and tested allies my “ride or die” circle of friends/colleagues.
These are the people who will stand by you, give you a little tough love, and really root for you as you step outside your comfort zone.
These are the people who believe in you, who want you to succeed, and will help you get there.
These are the ones that would get out of their bed at 3am in the morning to pick you up if your car won’t start.
I’ve had only a few such allies in my life. Tons of contacts. Tons of friends. Tons of acquaintances. But few who made it to the “ride or die” circle.
One of my first allies in my professional career was a guy who was in my MBA program at Florida State University years ago. We were study partners, shared the ups and downs of grad-school, met each other’s family members, and stayed in touch frequently as we progressed in our careers. Even if it was a year since we had last seen each other, when we met up in a city for dinner, we had hours of conversation and laughs over cocktails. Even as I type this, I’m smiling with fond memories of Bill (name changed to protect the innocent). To this day, I can call him at a moment’s notice for authentic opinion sharing and highly valued conversation.
Through the years, Bill and I coached each other on how to handle workplace challenges, served as references for each other, and referred new opportunities to each other whenever they came across our path. Bill continues to be one powerful ally!
Of course, not everyone you meet will become an influential ally in your life or profession .… some people will offer a smile, while others will offer life changing support. The key is to know the difference and nurture the RIGHT relationships in the RIGHT way. This is one skill that successful high potential leaders spend time figuring out. Quality vs quantity.
In my HiPo development practice, I’ve seen megatrends of how high potential leaders go about building true allies over time. Here are a 3 tips to consider:
1. Be Transparent About the Intention of the Relationship: Spend time with your potential allies and have an honest conversation about whether you both have a desire to further deepen the relationship or if it is best that you both remain occasional acquaintances. If the decision is to move forward, be available to listen, to strategize and to occasionally have coffee/lunch/dinner together. Make sure you are not forming an exclusive club that the rest of your organization will fear and resent. But, you must take the time to develop strong relationships with your allies.
2. Choose Your Battles Wisely: Not all asks of your allies may be one you want to undertake. Make sure that if you are putting your name and reputation at risk, that it is the right thing to do and will not be a self-sabotaging action for your long term goals. True allies will be willing to hear concerns or objections and be willing to find a win-win solution.
3. Never Back-stab or Blind-side an Ally: If you have a problem with their actions or direction, talk to your ally directly to understand if there is any way in which you can feel comfortable supporting them. Alliance-building is a delicate process that can easily go astray, and there will be times when professional courage will be paramount. Alliance-building takes time, effort, commitment and sometimes not getting what you want.
One of my big missions these days is to make it easier for high potential leaders to find their allies and nurture these relationships in the RIGHT way. Our research shows that the right mix of allies opens doors to unforeseen, but exciting opportunities.
I firmly believe in the power of human beings coming together for a common goal. But it is critical not to forget that there’s a human being living in the body of your ally… with their own hopes, dreams, and fears. You have got to make it an ongoing win-win relationship or the relationship will quickly fall apart.
If you’re curious about becoming a more professionally-savvy ally builder, I’d be honored to mentor you. Click here to find out about mentoring options. I am SO incredibly jazzed about the ripple effect we’ll create together. Let’s make the professional world a better place, together.