Allies and Foes. How do you know who is for and against you and your agendas? And how well can you leverage and influence them?
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Your Career Allies and Foes
I’ve been coaching heaps around the “leadership politics” influencing career management recently. Where not just results, but your brand, presence, credibility, visibility, and (upward) mobility feature prominently in any career success. We know that no career just happens by itself. It has to be driven. Preferably pro-actively “pushed” by yourself to suit your agenda or otherwise “pulled” by others, but then more likely by their agendas. Usually it’s a combination of both, right?
In this competitive business world, there will inevitably be people that are “for you” and of course those that will be “against you”. I call them Allies and Foes. And I’ve learned that having an acute awareness of each is critical to successful career management. But also to your other business initiatives you need to influence to get the required outcomes you need to shine.
The Importance of Allies and Foes Amidst Change
Knowing your allies and foes is particularly important amidst organisational change. This is where change has removed or replaced people whose ally or foe status we have been able to predict. While we can still probably rely somewhat on previous allies to support us in their new roles, establishing how their new agendas play out is going to need some time (and caution).
I believe this is why organisational change can feel so disruptive. The old degree of “knowing comfort” is removed and we find ourselves in a vacuum. Where we aren’t sure who to believe, to trust, to avoid, to support and to expect support or potential undermining from.
My recommendation in these situations? Corroborate. By that I mean talking to lots of (relevant) people and asking lots of questions. Only then can we start to put perceived pieces of the likely puzzle together and start to separate spin from reality.
But therein of course lies part of the problem. Every leader worth their salt is doing the same, as in keeping their cards close to their chest, and so it may well be quite difficult to extract relevant information. Also, beware of (orchestrated) gossip in these situations.
Some Change Realities
I suggest to allow a few months to pass, while focusing on what you can deliver well and keeping a very wary eye on what’s happening around you. And at the same time to keep reassuring your staff that such vacuums are quite normal around any change and to encourage them to keep focussing on doing their roles as well as they can.
I think re-telling the fleas story might help make my point here: When a dog is in the hunt, it has no time to search or scratch for fleas, right? It’s too focused on hunting its prey. But isn’t it remarkable what fleas we can come up with when there is no hunt? Fleas fester in vacuums. So try your best to avoid them, also for your staff.
Be as clear as possible with defining new or changed roles and implementing some short term KPI’s that keep people focused with a purpose. Particularly amidst uncertainty and ambiguity. That way they should have less time to worry about what they can’t control.
And as soon as you can, be sure to share relevant information with them around aspects of the changes that are still happening. Organisational change is like an earthquake. There are usually a few aftershocks when the initial “having a go” didn’t quite get it right. That’s normal. Predict that and encourage people when it occurs.
Allies and Foes in Career Management
In a career management sense, knowing who your allies are is just as important. The allies I’m talking about are people you have established a trusted track record with. People that will bat for you when times are tough. People that will “talk you up” in rooms you aren’t present in. People that know they can trust and expect your loyalty. As I said in Managing Stakeholders – Why Bother, this is about building, strengthening and maintaining the right relationships with selected peers, bosses and carefully, their bosses. Both within your unit as well as across the broader organisation. Also in key Regional centres. And as I said in Mentoring, outside your organisation in the right supportive forms also.
Of course you will want to know who your foes are. Those that won’t or can’t support you and your agendas. Or perhaps even undermine your agendas. They are just as important to influence and to manage. This is where your visibility with the right supportive allies should help negate some of their power.
This needs to be a very deliberate and pro-active approach. One you always maintain awareness in and of.
In Stepping Up Or Pulling Up? I speak about the importance of your relationships and visibility with those key leaders that know your image, brand and track record. They’ll be the ones most likely to want to “pull you up into the roles and rooms that you aspire to“. This is one of the most valuable attributes of maintaining these allies. And if not possible with the key players themselves, then through others that can and will bat for you – with them.
Allies and Foes. So What?
So as you join all these dots, can you see how positively and constructively these strategies can support your career options and success results? Remember that in a professional networking sense “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is no longer as important as: “who they know“. Identifying and leveraging key allies plus being aware of and negating the negative influences of foes is just as important a part of any career success today as your track record of delivering good results. If not actually more important.
Anywhichway, I recommend you set some strong goals to share with trusted allies that will help hold you accountable to being pro-active. And if you’re really serious, be one of the 5% of people that will engage a coach to be sure you maximise your expectations.