Imagine being in a forest of redwood trees, among a canopy of branches and leaves that can extend as high as a 35-story building (nearly 400 feet tall). Yet while the roots of a vast redwood tree are only 10 – 13 feet deep, they extend outward up to 100 feet, intertwining with the roots of other redwoods to create a powerful, interconnected network. This foundation increases their ability to withstand strong winds, storms, and floods. They need each other to survive.
No one person succeeds on their own. Not only do you need mentors and sponsors as you progress through your career, you also need allies to stand with you. Allies are earned. And so, too, is influence.
Allies can be peers, subordinates or may be senior to you. They may be inside your company, part of a professional association outside of the company, someone you worked with in the past, or even a client.
Building a strong network of allies, where social capital is foundational in the relationship, is a sure way to increase your influence. You won’t be successful without them. I can think of a number of people who have been important allies across my career.
Why You Need Allies
At some point you will find yourself in need of someone in another part of your organization to help with a project. You may need a favor in a pinch, or need another perspective on the political landscape of a situation you’re dealing with. To help you in these situations, you’ll need allies with whom you have informal working relationships.
Allies are willing to pitch in when you need them because you’ve invested in adding value in the relationship…first. We’re all more likely to respond positively to someone we know, like, respect, and trust. So, your job is to be that person.
The concept of an ally is to help each other. Ally relationships are two-way.
If you want to grow your influence, focus on building a network of allies where deep social capital has been cultivated. You’ll earn a network of people who are ready to step up and enthusiastically support you when you need them.
10 Ways to Increase Your Network of Allies & Influence
So how do you do this? Here are ten ways to cultivate strong alliances and, in the process, increase your influence.
- Identify other professionals with whom you’ve worked and seem to have good camaraderie.
- Make professional and personal connections to get to know others in your network better. Be genuine.
- Be proactive in reaching out to offer help with something, even before someone asks you.
- Don‘t expect anything in return. Allies don’t owe each other. Opportunities will naturally arise to help each other.
- Be gracious when an ally asks for your help. However, don’t feel obligated to their request. Be honest about what you are able to do.
- Demonstrate integrity. Be honest, trustworthy, and follow through on what you say you will do.
- Hold discussions you’ve had in confidence. No gossiping about anyone to anyone anytime.
- Communicate for clarity of understanding of each other. Stay in touch during times when you don’t need anything.
- Be considerate in what you ask. Don’t put an ally in an awkward or sensitive position.
- Be grateful. Thank allies for their partnership and even the little things they do for you.
Who would you consider your allies to be? Have you been as intentional about these relationships as you should?
Allies are among the most important relationships in your success as a leader. Treat them as such. And, be a good one.
Your career success, and your personal experience and satisfaction at work every day, will be richer as a result.