May 13
I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

Looking at the news out of the UK, I can’t help wondering if Brexit would be going any more smoothly if Theresa May had been able to build better alliances with key players ahead of time. Or, if the same key players were a little less self-interested and more willing to pull together to deliver a solution for the greater good. This started me thinking about how, as leaders, we can build better, stronger alliances in our working worlds and how we can encourage others in our circle of influence to do the same – to our mutual benefit...

In the corporate world, I’ve seen, first-hand, the benefit of having allies, particularly those outside of my normal chain of influence. A good ally will work with you to achieve your goals, support your views or causes and become a sounding board (offering a different perspective on issues), when you need it. In hand with performance, a strong ally can be a real career differentiator.

The secret is in being able to identify the right partners (both up- and downstream in your chain) and, being able to build simpatico with these people over time so that, when you need help, you’re not out in the cold.
 
No matter how good your performance, or how important your mission, you’re unlikely to achieve what you set out to without help from others. Like any good relationship, building an alliance requires an investment of time and effort. But, if you’ve chosen your ally wisely, it’s likely that the more you put into building your connection, the more reward you will reap, with time. 
It’s also important to have more than one ally, perhaps across different disciplines. That way, if your ally leaves or falls from grace, you’re not sent back to square one.  

So, what key areas should you focus on to cement your relationship? 
 
Effective communication…
Is the foundation of any positive work alliances. 
Talk openly, listen deeply and share important information with your allies.
When opinions differ (and they will and should), respect your allies’ points of view and work to resolve any potential conflict quickly.
Keep the lines of communication open always.   

Always do your best…
Be willing to go above and beyond to produce work that others are proud to support.
Foster a culture of helping others (a ‘we’re in this together’ attitude) by being generous with your time and attention. 
Become a resource to others. Helping your allies with their needs long before you need help yourself is a great way to stimulate collaboration, build trust and strengthen connection.

Spend time…
Strong relationships are built on shared experiences.
Be available when your ally needs you. Meet often – and, if you can’t, try to stay in touch with emails and messages.

Keep your promises…
Do what you say you’ll do – always. Never over-promise and under-deliver. Rather, be honest and turn down assignments that you know you can’t deliver on. Each time you make and keep a promise, you build on your reputation for reliability and dependability – which builds trust.
The opposite is also true. 

Pick your battles…
Sometimes, you have to lose the battle to win the war. If you give in on smaller decisions (or those that mean more to your ally), you’re more likely to win support for decisions that are important to you.
Also, never blindside or betray an ally. Rather, discuss any issues with him or her directly because, if you go outside of your little circle of trust, it’s possible that you will damage your alliance irreparably.

Express support and appreciation
Humans respond positively to being made to feel valued and appreciated.
Publicly express your support for your ally. Demonstrate professional courage by speaking out early, before you know which way the wind is blowing on his idea or cause.
Recognise good work. Give praise. Say thank you. Give credit, where due. 
Doing so builds reciprocal goodwill.

As Napolean Hill said ‘It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed’. As leaders, fostering a culture of collaboration and trust starts with encouraging alliances across teams. May we all find strength in our allies.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.


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