Finding Your Allies

Building Strong and Supportive Relationships at Work

Strong relationships at work.

© iStockphoto

"A problem shared is a problem halved," as the old saying goes, and it's true in business as well. When it comes to working your way through the challenges that you face every day, it's a great help to be able to draw on a network of supportive individuals that you can work with to find a solution.

Allies are the people who give you backing, assistance, advice, information, protection, and even friendship. They are your support base. With strong, mutually beneficial relationships with your allies, you can survive and thrive in the corporate arena, and you can get things done quicker, and more smoothly. Working together with allies simply helps you and them achieve more. (Here, we're using the word "ally" in its positive sense – we're not implying that you're trying to circumvent proper channels, engage in politics or game-play, or create any kind of "us and them" culture. It is clearly wrong to behave in this way.)

Anyone and everyone who can help you achieve your objectives is a potential ally. Some are natural: They are people who share a common interest with you. The colleague who's been around for years and can offer an invaluable voice of experience, the team member who is always happy to be a sounding board for your ideas, or the vendor who is ready to accept seemingly-impossible deadlines; these people are your natural allies.

But you can find allies in unexpected places too. Alex in finance, who pulls together an extra report on your projects finances; Claire, the secretary, who tells you when the boss is in a good mood; or Simon, your ex-department head who is always available for advice. They too are important allies.

Tip:

Allies can help you directly and indirectly. For instance, if you're running behind schedule on a project, your subordinate can help you directly by working longer hours, while your boss can help you indirectly by delegating another part of your workload to someone else.

Building Your Personal Support Base

This is one of the reasons that it's important to be open and supportive to others in the workplace, and why it's worth making at least a small amount of your time available to help others out when they need help. After all, if you're a positive and supportive person, many other people will be equally supportive towards you.

So who could your allies be? Just your team mates? Actually, your list of potential allies goes much further than this!

Table 1 below provides an example list of allies, with the support you might be able to receive from them, and the returns you might be expected to provide to them.

Table 1: Possible Allies – And What They May Want...

Potential Ally What He/She
Could Do for You
What He/She Might Be Expecting in Return
Team Members

Assist you with regular tasks.

Be loyal.

Be a sounding board.

Assistance with regular tasks.

Loyalty.

Recognition.

Credit – given both publicly and privately.

Boss

Protect you.

Champion you.

Help you in career advancement.

Loyalty.

Support.

Assistance with his/her tasks.

Commitment.

Willingness to go the extra mile.

Image building.

Senior Management Members

Protect you.

Champion you.

Help you in career advancement.

Loyalty.

Support.

Commitment.

Willingness to go the extra mile.

Image building.

Support Staff

Willing performance of day-to-day functions.

Cooperation.

Appreciation.

Attention.

Recognition.

Gateway People (Secretaries, Executive Assistants) Provide you with access to crucial information and people.

Appreciation.

Attention.

Recognition.

Family Provide moral support, appreciation, understanding.

Moral support.

Appreciation.

Understanding.

More Experienced Colleagues Provide expertise, perspective, contacts, knowledge.

Respect.

Recognition.

Attention.

Networking Allies

Keep you abreast of the general buzz.

Provide you advance information and background knowledge.

Provide you contacts.

Alert you to emerging trends and patterns.

Advance information.

Background knowledge.

Contacts.

Alerts about emerging trends and patterns.

Interest Groups

Build influence.

Mobilize support.

Provide you data.

Assistance for their cause.
Community Members

Build influence.

Mobilize support.

Provide you data.

Assistance for their cause.
Press

Build influence.

Mobilize support.

Information.
Government

Build influence.

Mobilize support.

Assistance for their cause.
Clients

Provide inputs for new product development initiatives.

Provide referrals.

Provide preferential status.

Preferential status.

Willingness to go extra mile.

Business leads.

Referrals.

Vendors

Provide extra assistance.

Provide preferential status.

Preferential status.

Business leads.

Referrals.

Tip:

Don't be naive in the way that you approach people – be aware of people's interests and duties, and understand that these may conflict with yours. Also, recognize that they may not be able to help you for a variety of possible reasons.

And make absolutely sure that you keep confidential information confidential!

Nurture your allies, and you'll find that you can be so much more effective at getting things done. What's more, things will get so much easier and more pleasant at work!

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Comments (5)
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Interesting point fxgg092 about whether we, or our allies, are in it for ourselves or to genuinely help.

    I would like to think that allies genuinely are there to support and help in whatever way that it can. And, would not do anything intentional to hurt or betray you.

    I'm curious as to why you might see allies as being potentially dangerous and willing to betray? Can to comment?

    Midgie
  • 7141220544 wrote Over a month ago
    The question is, are we loyal to them or do we use them to promote our own selves? Allies can be dangerous sometimes, they can betray you or use you in the organization but I agree they are important element in the Business.
  • daniel57 wrote Over a month ago
    Fully agree with Yolfsie, the article is really interesting and full of truth!

    I would enlarge the possible application of "Finding your allies" from Corporate to everything in life. Unfortunately people today, too often, forget to socialize and forget about how beautiful is to have "someone shoulder" available nearby.

    Everybody has to keet in mind that get and give is a must for this
    As we expect our allies to be supporting us in the most different ways they MUST know, from their heart, that when it will come the time you'll be there for them. Unlikely most of the people, above all in the big corporations where use to "call people by number" the feeling has been forgotten and too often the first thing that will pop up in a person mind while you'll be trying to make him/her becoming your ally is "why and for what is he doing this?". Too bad and too sad

    I'm building up a great team using a new concept of network organization and what I and mine partners are always trying to "plant" in our people's mind is respect to be achieved through "true careful actions" first, "being an example" second and "make sure your heart is well connected with your brain" third.

    To someone it may be sounding strange that this kind of ideas might come from a "network organization" but this it has been our philosophy since the beginning and, believe me, even if it has been and is tough, it is working and is worth.

    Thank for the "keep on coming" ideas guys, you're really great!

    Daniele
  • James wrote Over a month ago
    I'm glad you like it, Yolfsie!

    And it's amazing how much good can come from a little positive effort!

    James
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Wonderful article - definitely worth a try for all the corporate animals out there.

    I would like to add that my previous boss (he was the owner of the company I worked for) was one of my strongest allies. We also became very good friends. Now that I have my own business, he is still one of my 'allies', but he has now also become a business mentor. He has already 'walked the way' which I am now walking and his input is just so amazing at time - he also knows my strong and weak points and because it isn't his business, he is very objective. Also, he wants what is best for me - even though it means telling me something I might not want to hear!

    'Ex-allies' (from previous companies) now also form a very important part of my networking system!

    Have a great one!
    Yolfsie

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