Let’s break two myths out of the gate.
Keeping your head down and doing great work in isolation never yields the impact you want — it takes a team. And you can’t ignore organizational politics if you want to be successful.
As you move through your career, as you elevate and take on more significant roles, you learn that the lone hero model is a farce. Building products is a team sport. And when you’re driving transformation, collaboration is even more critical since you need to create a movement to make progress.
The relationships you build across the organization are crucial to getting any work out the door, let alone great work. Your network, reputation, and partners all come into play when driving strategic programs. Operational leadership is required to get things done, but you need shared outcomes, alliances, and partnerships to make your efforts successful.
1: Find ways to develop shared outcomes with other leaders.
You’ll run into challenges, and sometimes even a brick wall, when your agenda and goals are at odds with another leader.
Sometimes this happens because you’re driving transformation that would change the power dynamics that the leader is quite comfortable with. Other times it’s because you haven’t taken the time to get to know the individual, what’s important to them, and how to align what you are trying to achieve with what they’re going after. Let’s hope it’s the latter, and I’ll save that other topic for another article.
Shared outcomes are the way to get everyone facing the same direction.
2: Build alliances across, up, and diagonally within the company.
Alliances are the people that warm the room.
They’re the people that speak highly of you when you’re not present. The champions that start from a place of positive intent with your proposals. They’re not just people that like you; they’re people that want to help you succeed.
Alliances are critical to your success since they are often not directly involved in your programs but have work that loosely aligns or has dependencies. Usually, these alliances start because you garner alignment and trust; by doing so, the efforts you’re partnering on enable you to row in the same direction. When you begin to feel the wind on your back instead of your face, that’s when these alliances are working.
3: Drive collaboration with partners to get things done.
Get to know leaders across disciplines and teams that you’ll need to work with closely to get things done. Building great products and services requires teams that understand the meaning of collaboration and how to leverage each other’s expertise and strengths. So take the time to understand where your partners are coming from and what they’re trying to achieve, then develop alignment. Get to know them as people beyond the work you’re doing. Lean in and help them with something they’re trying to accomplish, support new proposals, and lead by example in the ways you’d like them to show up for you.
And pay attention to peer relationships. They are some of the most critical partnerships you’ll have. Your peer connections are more important than you think; along with your boss, they’re your “first team.”
If you haven’t created a stakeholder map/matrix in a while, you’re probably not paying enough attention to your relationships.
My recommendation is to couple the matrix with a plan for each individual and revisit it monthly. In Leading Without Authority, Keith Ferrazzi discusses creating a “Relationship Action Plan” for each person — that’s how meaningful building and maintaining relationships are to success. If this type of artifact doesn’t exist, take the time this week to create it. You’ll be surprised by what you learn and how much more intentional you will become in building solid relationships across the enterprise.