Finding Your Allies

Building a Strong Personal Support Base

Finding Your Allies - Building a Strong Personal Support Base

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Workplace allies provide mutual support and encourage collaboration.

"A problem shared is a problem halved," as the old saying goes. It's as true in business as anywhere else.

When it comes to tackling the challenges that you face every day, it can be a great help to be able to draw on a network of supportive individuals – people who you can work with to exchange ideas, to find solutions, or to stand by you in difficult times. In short, you need allies.

In this article, we explore how to identify, build and cultivate potential allies.

What Is an Ally?

Allies are people who offer one another backing, assistance, advice, information, protection, and even friendship. They go the extra mile to help out.

Strong and mutually beneficial alliances can help each party to survive and to thrive, and to get things done more quickly and smoothly than if they were to go it alone.

For example, if you're behind schedule and about to miss an important deadline, you could avoid damaging your reputation, or that of your organization, if you had allies to call on to lend a hand.

And knowing that there are people who've "got your back" can reduce stress, boost your confidence and resilience, and encourage rapport and collaboration.

Note 1:

Allies are not the same as stakeholders, who are people with an interest in the work that you do, and with the ability to help or hinder it. Relationships with stakeholders tend to be more functional than with your allies.

Allies also differ from coaches and mentors, whose main concern is to assist you in developing new skills. However, coaches, mentors and stakeholders can be allies, too.

Note 2:

In this article, we use the word "ally" in its positive sense. We're not recommending that you engage in negative office politics or game-play to circumvent proper channels, or to exclude anyone by creating a clique. It is clearly wrong to build alliances in order to behave in this way.

Where to Find Allies

Who could your allies be? Are they simply your teammates and your manager? Actually, your list of potential allies goes much further than this. There's a range of people to whom you can offer your support, and who may be happy to reciprocate.

Some alliances form naturally: you bond because you share an interest, goal or concern. For example, the senior colleague who offers an invaluable voice of experience, the team member who acts as a sounding board for your ideas, and the supplier who consistently delivers on time. These people are your natural allies.

In fact, anyone who could help you to achieve your objectives is a potential ally: Katerina in the next department, who collates an extra report for you; Ezra on the fourth floor, who tells you when the boss is in a good mood; or an Employee Resource Group, whose members encourage you and build support for your ideas.

Take a look at table 1 for some more suggestions. It lists some potential allies who might be prepared to offer you their support, and who might benefit from your support, too.

Table 1: Possible Allies – And How You Can Help One Another

Potential Ally How He/She Could Support You How You Could Support Him/Her
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 Contacts

Include you in the latest "buzz."

Provide you advance information and background knowledge.

Provide contacts.

Alert you to emerging trends and patterns.

Advance information.

Background knowledge.

Contacts.

Alerts about emerging trends and patterns.

Interest Groups and Community Members

Build influence.

Mobilize support.

Provide you data.

Assistance for their cause.
Clients

Contribute to new product development initiatives.

Provide referrals.

Provide preferential status.

Preferential status.

Willingness to go extra mile.

Business leads.

Referrals.

Suppliers

Provide extra assistance.

Provide preferential status.

Preferential status.

Business leads.

Referrals.

How to Build and Strengthen Alliances

It can take time to find the individuals who you want to ally with – and who want to ally themselves with you – even when you know where to look. So you need to invest in high-quality connections.

Here are five tips that you can follow to build alliances:

1. Be supportive. Start by offering your support to others when you can see that they need it. And if you're not sure what they need – ask them. The more openness, support and positivity that you offer, the more likely they will lend you theirs.

2. Nurture your allies. One good deed, though, won't be enough to form an alliance. Alliances need nurturing, so engage with potential and actual allies regularly. This will keep those connections in a healthy state of readiness.

3. Communicate effectively. Open and timely communication is vital for any relationship to flourish, but especially if you have divided or conflicting loyalties. (Find out how good your communication skills are, with our quiz.)

4. Don't ask for too much. It's important to be realistic about the level of support you expect. Your allies will want to help you as much as they can, but this doesn't mean that they are always available. Remember, they have to manage their own roles, tasks and priorities – and, to them, those priorities may be higher than yours!

5. Don't take offence. When you or your allies occasionally have to say "No" to one another, remember the trust that you have built together. Be sure not to "burn your bridges" by retaliating, such as by withholding support in future. Instead, negotiate a compromise, or seek support from elsewhere.

Tip:

You might fear networking or simply lack experience. You can prepare an approach that feels right for you, with our Bite-Sized Training™ session, Networking Skills.)

Key Points

Allies at work help one another to get things done more quickly and easily. Having "someone in your corner" can boost your confidence, strengthen your resilience, and brighten your day.

You can find allies almost anywhere you look, within the workplace and beyond it. But it takes consistent effort to create and maintain such connections.

The strongest alliances are built on mutual trust and respect, so you need to be willing to support other people, and to accept that they won't always be able to help you.

Be sure not to exclude others from your networks, or to exploit the support you've gained. Instead, enjoy growing your own career while helping to create a happier and more successful organization, too!

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (6)
  • Over a month ago Tlcearns wrote
    I just started a new job, and when asked by my new "boss" to report the comings and goings a teammate, I shared the task with the teammate in question. The teammate was upset and communicated so back to the "boss". The Boss then counseled me as to the incorrect alliances I am building. I tried to communicate to the boss that all my team are my alliances, and did not like being asked to "watchdog" my team mate. How could I have handled this better? My “boss” now states she has disconnected from me and cannot trust my loyalty.
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    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
  • Over a month ago fxgg030 wrote
    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.
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