The Importance of Allies

al•ly – noun |ˈalī| |ˈøli| |ˈalʌɪ| (pl. -lies)
a person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity
–New Oxford American Dictionary




My team and I are pressing ahead with our strategic work.  We have another important product to release in a few days and are in the midsts of external reviews on it while we work in parallel on follow-on products.  Earlier this week I had a positive experience that reinforced the importance of having a strong coalition with allies.

I got a phone call from the team leader of an organization external to my team that plays an important part in establishing the framework of my team’s strategic development work.  Each month she and her bosses meet with the leader of my organization.  During the most recent of those meetings, the leader of my organization shared some expectations with them that he had on my team’s immediate product.  Those expectations were key details that my team and I had not factored into our work, and she realized it.  Immediately after the meeting she called me and relayed the details.

Now, my first reaction was one of dismay: why hadn’t I already reviewed this particular aspect in detail with my my own organization?  Then I began to question my own leadership in this matter, from the perspective that it’s my responsibility to properly engage with my organization’s leadership.  Clearly, in that moment I was being hard on myself – I set very high expectation on myself as a leader and felt I came up short on this particular matter.

In the next moment, that feeling was gone, replaced by a deeper, more positive realization: I had an ally I could depend upon.

This was not by accident.  I’ve been cultivating a working relationship with the team lead over a number of months.  I realized that she and her team are important to the success of my team.  That investment paid off in spades when she heard expectations from my organization’s leader that were not incorporated in my team’s product and called me right away.  She didn’t have to do that; she could have sat on the information and used it some other way to further herself or her team. Yet she chose to call me and share.

I realize that I can’t go it alone as a leader. My previous post on The Leadership Web is my starting point for identifying attributes of a personal leadership support network.  Here, this also shows the importance to a leader of building a different kind of support network – one consisting of a coalition of allies.  When I reflected on how my ally came to my aid, my dismay turned to one of satisfaction.  My team took the expectations she relayed to me and improved our product in a very important way.  Moreover, I learned that as a leader I can make an investment in and count on allies to help me when needed, and even unexpectedly, in a very positive way.

The Importance of Allies