Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: 5 A's of Relationships

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

5 A's of Relationships

Becoming influential, increasing your power base, operating with political astuteness, all begin with understanding your support network. Whether you are starting your career, positioning yourself for the next promotion, job hunting, or trying to bring about change in your organization, knowing your sources of power and leverage are critical. In this first article, we will focus on the area of understanding your network.

In my seminars and coaching, I suggest that people look at their 5 A's of Relationships - Advocates, Advisors, Allies, Acquaintances, and Adversaries.

  1. Advocates willingly and ably speak on your behalf. They may go so far as to plead for, argue for, or defend you. They provide access to resources, information and sources of power.
  2. Advisors provide insight and perspective. They may not be in a position to share their own power, but are willing to give you formal and/or informal feedback that will support you in developing yours.
  3. Allies provide mutual support through means of information, access to resources, and covering each other's backs.
  4. Acquaintances engage in professional, personal or social interactions, but do not actively engage in any form of support.
  5. Adversaries offer opposition directly or indirectly, or through focusing on their agenda, may serve as a significant barrier in your progress.

The first step in exploring the 5 A's of Relationships is to build a chart identifying the advocates, advisors, allies, acquaintances and adversaries in each segment of your life – work, community and personal. Fill in the chart with names of people key to your current objective (promotion, job change, implementing a new idea, etc.)

With the chart drafted (hopefully, you will continue to fill in more names over time), consider how your answer to each question below supports (or weakens) the probability of you reaching your objective.

  1. Where is there a preponderance of names?
  2. Where are there gaps or few names?
  3. How are your advocates supporting you today? What information or resources do they need to be stronger advocates? What resources do they have access to that you are not taking availing yourself of?
  4. Are your advisors in position to advocate for you? What do they need from you to become advocates? What insights or types of advice should be seeking from your advisor?
  5. What resources do you have that your allies might want or need (information, job access, social support, friendship, assistance)? Are any of your allies in a position to become advocates?
  6. What resources do you have that your acquaintances might want or need (information, job access, social support, friendship, assistance)? Are any of your acquaintances in a position to become allies, advisors, or advocates?
  7. What resources or behavior shifts can you make that might shift your adversaries to a more neutral or alliance position? (Many people are surprised by the inclusion of adversaries but research shows two things. Ignoring, undermining, or denigrating adversaries often backfires and serves undermine our agenda. Secondly, attitudes follow behavior – by being respectful if not friendly to adversaries, attitudes will frequently shift to become consistent with the behavior.)
Based on this assessment, what are the key actions you could take over the next week? The next month? The next 90 days? That would align with your current objectives?

Assessing your relationships is one of the first steps in building power and influence. Smart people are often blinded by the belief that they can do things on their own, or at least as well as or better than others. They are also reluctant to reach out for support, overlooking the fact that done right, asking for advice, resources and assistance, done right can serve to increase power.

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