Category Archives: Networking

10 Tips to Grow Allies in Your Network

Kathy and Miguel work for a mid-sized manufacturing company. Kathy works in operations, while Miguel is in Finance.  Both have worked for the company about five years and have worked together on various projects over the years.  They have formed a good working relationship. There have been times when Kathy needed a custom report run to get data for budgeting or project analysis and has reached out to Miguel for a quick turnaround. Miguel needed to know about the background and personalities of some of the leaders he would be presenting to. Kathy was able to share her insights and experiences so that Miguel could be better prepared for the meeting.


No one succeeds in their career on their own. Not only do you need mentors and sponsors to help pull you up in your career. You also need allies to support you along the way.


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, or even someone you worked with in the past.


Like Kathy and Miguel, you’ll find yourself in need of someone in another part of the company 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. You won’t be successful without them.


The concept of an ally is to help each other. Like other relationships in your network, your ally relationships are two-way. Allies are earned. You earn an ally by being an ally first.


How do you identify potential allies and earn their friendship?  These ten tips will help you build your network of allies.

  1. Identify other professionals with whom you’ve worked and seem to have good camaraderie.
  2. Make professional and personal connections to get to know others in your network better.  Be genuine.
  3. Be proactive in reaching out to offer help with something, even before someone asks you.
  4. Don ‘t expect anything in return. Allies don’t owe each other. Opportunities will naturally arise to help each other.
  5. 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.
  6. Demonstrate integrity. Be honest, trustworthy, and follow through on what you say you will do.
  7. Hold discussions you’ve had in confidence. No gossiping about anyone to anyone anytime.
  8. Communicate for clarity of understanding of each other.  Stay in touch during times when you don’t need anything.
  9. Be considerate in what you ask. Don’t put an ally in an awkward or sensitive position.
  10. 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 career. Treat them as such.

Your career success, and your personal experience and satisfaction at work every day will be richer as a result.

To find out more about allies and how to identify them download this excerpt from Chapter 7 of my FuelForward® book.  Download here and accelerate your career moves up the corporate hierarchy.

Sponsors: Your Career Game Changer

Women still struggle to get ahead.  That’s evident in the results of the recent Women in the Workplace Study* by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company.  The corporate playing field for women remains uneven.  The study* found that women’s experiences at work differ.  And, women question the fairness in opportunities in the workplace.

  • Only 44% of women think the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees
  • Only 54% of women think they have the same opportunity for growth as their peers
  • One-third of women think their gender will make it harder to get a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead.

Will you sit back and wait for Human Resources to bring equity to the workplace?  Or, will you leverage the potential relationships around you to change the game for your career?

Sponsors: A Game Changer

Women are missing critical relationships that are needed to change the course of their careers. Women of color have an even greater challenge.  The leadership pipeline is dominated by males. And, women’s networks are not as fully developed among influencers in the organization.

Therefore, women need an advocate, known as a sponsor, who is in the inner circle of the people making and influencing talent decisions. A sponsor may speak up about you when potential job openings and talent discussions arise. However, if these influencers don’t know who you are, your track record, or what you’re capable of, then they can’t support you. 

Whether or not you have a sponsor depends a lot on what you do. So, how do you get a sponsor and how do you keep one?

Getting a Sponsor: Two Approaches

From leaders I’ve interviewed, there are two schools of thought on how to get a sponsor: earning a sponsor or requesting a sponsor.  Let’s see how these approaches work.

Earning a Sponsor

Some strongly stated you don’t ask someone to be a sponsor. Sponsors are earned. A sponsorship develops from interactions with you and consistent exposure to you that build trust in your ability and potential. Sponsorship grows from the human psychological response that builds as someone gets to know you, becoming comfortable and familiar with who you are and what you represent—your brand promise.  Sometimes, you may not even realize you have a sponsor. A sponsor can be aware of you without having a direct connection with you personally.

Requesting a Sponsor

Other leaders believe you should advocate for yourself and ask a specific leader to be a sponsor. You don’t just wait on the sideline to be put into the game. Let the coach know you’re ready and that you want in. If you use this approach, articulate where you’d like to go in your career, the skills you hold, the skills you’re building, and the track record of execution you bring to the table. However, only ask a leader who is familiar and comfortable with you. You don’t want to put someone in an uncomfortable position when they have doubts or questions about you. This issue is extremely delicate, so proceed with caution.

Begin Here: Build a Valued Reputation

Realize that the more people know about you, the more comfortable they will feel recommending you. Sponsors were instrumental in my career at Humana and GE.  However, I found that I had to do my part to build a reputation that leaders were willing to invest in and to market myself. You must do the same.

When sponsors recommend you, their necks are on the line. People who trust them trust their recommendations. You become a reflection on them. You owe it to them to do your very best. 

Once you’ve built a reputation others are willing to advocate for, determine which approach to getting a sponsor will work best for you. Consider your company’s culture, the type of relationship, how well the person knows you, and how you need his/her support.  Be thoughtful and purposeful through this process.

The choice is yours.  You can settle, or take steps to build the critical relationships that will change the game for your career.

* LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 2016 Women in the Workplace Report

To find out more about sponsors and how to get them download this excerpt from Chapter 7 of my FuelForward® book.  Download here and accelerate your career moves up the corporate hierarchy.