Tech & Work

You need allies - now more than ever

Ever wish you had better insight into what's going on at your organization? Keeping up with developments is smart, especially in this economy.
This economy is tough. More and more it looks like we are about to repeat what happened to Japan in the 1990s. That decade, often referred to as Japan's "lost decade," involved a lot of inertia. The country stalled, and it never really recovered to earlier times and growth. Likewise, for those in the job sector, careers that once looked promising also stalled. Despite dramatic improvements in profit, many large organizations are behaving like they anticipate a tough climate ahead. Previous levels of employees are not returning. Large organizations like General Motors, which announced huge profits, remain committed to using temp employees or demanding more productivity from existing staff. Small businesses are unable to get the capital they need to hire. Pundits are calling for little growth in the economy -- translation: continual high levels of unemployment. If you have a job, now -- more than ever -- you need to keep at the top of your game. I'm not only talking about your actual job performance, I'm also talking about being one step ahead of whatever is going on around you. One approach I see used by smart careerists is the use of allies. In any initiative, allies can make you stronger, more likely to succeed. Here are a few ways you can use those people to keep on top of the organization's actions and, perhaps, plans:

1. Compare notes -- Are you hearing things the same way as others are? Many managers get derailed because they misinterpret what they hear.

2. Read the tea leaves together -- Leaders make and write many pronouncements. But often, what they say isn't always the best way to behave if you want to succeed.

3. Blow off steam -- If you hold everything in and don't vent occasionally, it's not as much a statement about your fantastic inner strength as it's a precursor of high blood pressure.

4. Get assistance with your programs -- Even if your ally isn't in the same department or division, (s)he may be able to help you get your programs or plans into action.

5. Celebrate each others' wins -- Of course, you have friends and family to pat you on the back when a big bonus comes in or a promotion occurs. But those in the same company know a lot more about what it may have taken to get it.

6. Have a lobbyist -- People who argue on behalf of another are seen to have less of a vested interest.

7. Go out for a drink after a really tough meeting/day/week -- I don't always encourage the use of booze (or other substances). But once in a while, going out and decompressing with people who just shared a battle is really worthwhile.

8. Get/give a pat on the back -- Guess what? Some bosses aren't very good at recognizing their subordinates. Having an "attaboy" from your ally is a real boost, encouraging more of the same behavior.

9. Talk about your personal life with someone in a similar situation -- Of course, you should talk with your partner, best pal, husband, wife, mom, or dad. But a business buddy knows what you're going through all day long and may have more empathy. This is a particularly big issue for guys. Women are better than guys when it comes to sharing this type of information.

10. Congratulate someone you care about who's getting ahead ---You know how hard it is, so make sure you give them a big nod. Most people neglect to congratulate.

I realize that for many of you, going it alone may seem easier or even stronger. But it rarely works as well.

Looking forward,


Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...


"many large organizations are behaving like they anticipate a tough climate ahead" Once burned, twice shy. Most of the problem we experienced is not so much taking risks, as taking on too much risk. Sure, the big winners are usually the ones who risk it all at once. They never mention what happens to the ones who don't win - Chapter 11 or 13. Slow but steady does win the race.


I do not, will not sell myself out. I have my beliefs and opinions and I stick to them, I will not get into the game of politics. I think it is dirty and sleazy, and does not get you anywhere based on true merits - like actually being able to do a job, and not there because you played golf with the boss.


I keep my friends close and my bosses even closer LOL. I get on OK with the boss. I make him look good, he appreciates that. :-) In my organisation its the tier below the boss that are the allies. Most of us behave in the exact way described in the article. Its not selling out. Its dealing with business in a mutually supportive way. I have managers outside of the division I keep close to for various reasons, mutual support and because you *can* have friends in the workplace. You spend 40 hours or whatever in the workplace a week, thats a lot of your life. If you want to spend it insular and defensive than fine. Your call. I'm not the one hating my job. Its what you make of it. People take management jobs then complain about office politics. One day I bet I hear one of our elected representatives say "I don't want to get involved in the politics" LOL comes with the teretory. The further up this greasy pole you shin, the more you have to play people and politics and the less you actually do any technology stuff.


Politics is only dirty and sleazy if it serves the interest of one or few people only. Let us take a look ourselves and ask how did I arrive to where I'm right now. Didn't at some point in time I sought an assistance from someone?

Jack Flash
Jack Flash

I am doing many of the great tips mentioned here as a result of a perception I have had since day one in IT: Invest in relations. As a result, you will have great time going through the day, and a possible bonus - get assistance when time comes. So I always aim to assist whomever I am in contact with - customers, team members, team leaders in my group and in other groups, suppliers, partners,... In regards to conversations that are critical, I'd suggest to read the book "Crucial Conversations". Yours, Jack.


To use allies, or any other support available.

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