Alliances are a key part of what a leader does. They are critical whether you are an employee, business owner, consultant, or volunteer. Alliances provide a network of trusted sources. Skilled leaders build diverse teams for success and do not work in a vacuum. In my blog post, Keys to Successful Leadership, I briefly touch on the importance of alliances. I want to expand on my thoughts and define how I build key alliances. Any person can follow this process no matter what their job in a company or group.
Find Key Stakeholders
An important impact on your leadership success is the ability to find stakeholders. Look up your chain of leadership, down to those you lead, and across to your peers. Important people work in all aspects of your group or company structure. There are two types of allies often overlooked: those who report to you and those on your peer level. Creating connections in more directions allows you to create stronger alliances through more communication. More communication means a more informed organization and a better chance of success over the long term.
Engage With a Purpose
Once you have found the right people the engagement process begins. Define your purpose. A strong sense of purpose provides a solid footing from which to form a winning alliance. Frame your approach to others with a win-win solution. Support is often easier to gain when you are offering to help solve someone else’s problem. Remember to keep an attitude of collaboration. You are not simply pointing out a problem needing to be resolved .
Grow Your Base
Leaders should not become content with their initial effort. Alliances take consistent growth to keep momentum. Too often we engage effectively with one or two supporters of our idea. The result is a shallow root system that will cause the alliance to fail. Tim Milburn has an excellent post on what living in the tent of discontent. The post includes an exercise to help you discover your own areas of healthy discontent.
Let me provide a practical example of building alliances that I use on a regular basis. I tend to set up partnership meetings between my team and other departments. The meetings offer the best atmosphere to build an alliance. I reach out to key people who understand the interactions of our immediate teams. We then extend an invitation outside of the core group to grow our base. No two alliances, like fingerprints, are alike and there is no one right way to build them.