10 Ways to Build Allies, Not Adversaries

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 11-08-2013 Email Print this article Print

A very basic but essential rule of management breaks down as so: Allies are assets. Adversaries are liabilities. That said, ensuring you have the former and not the latter is easier said than done. Yes, you need to demonstrate a great degree of technical knowledge and overall professional capabilities. But there are also a number of "soft skills" that can turn the tide in your favor too. The recent book, Adversaries into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion (Portfolio), demonstrates how to pursue this while falling short of, say, physical threats or blackmail. (Such techniques never work in the movies, anyway …) Author Bob Burg takes a far higher-minded approach, one that will pay longer-lasting dividends. Through the following best practices, CIOs can establish advocates who should remain loyal to their vision indefinitely, establishing mutually beneficial partnerships which can extend throughout an entire career. It also helps that Burg does not encourage executives to act wimpy or otherwise weak: It's critical to present your best case, but to do so in an engaging, persuasive manner. Burg is a bestselling business-title author, and an in-demand speaker with Fortune 500 companies. For more about the book, click here.

  • Don't Confuse "Alliance Building" With "Playing Nice"

    Yes, positive interpersonal skills matter. But that means making those around you feel like valued winners, instead of trying too hard to be nice.
    1-Don't Confuse
  • Embrace Compromise

    Too many senior leaders view compromise as a sign of weakness. But it isn't a weakness when it keeps initiatives moving and benefits the organization as a whole.
    2-Embrace Compromise
  • Set "Calm" as Your Default Setting

    When would-be adversaries get under your skin, that's when they start to win. Don’t let them.
  • Persuade, Don't Manipulate

    Persuasion aims to serve. Manipulation is about control, not cooperation, and it doesn’t work in the long term.
    4-Persuade, Don't Manipulate
  • Appeal to One’s Ego

    Good leaders are savvy enough to take advantage of a large ego's positive qualities (energy, motivation) and minimize the negative ones (selfishness, arrogance).
    5-Appeal to One’s Ego
  • Say "No" Without Alienating

    Declining a request with "I'm sorry, but I really can't. But I really do appreciate you're asking me …" will make the potential adversary feel valued.
  • First, Understand the Issue

    … then come up with the words to frame your thoughts. Resentments brew when executives speak first, and think second.
    7-First, Understand the Issue
  • Praise Opposing Perspectives

    Abraham Lincoln earned a reputation as a skilled lawyer by highlighting the merits of the other side's case—before presenting his side.
    8-Praise Opposing Perspectives
  • Don't Play the "Shame" Game

    When you overtly embarrass someone to appear right at that colleague's expense, you've likely made yourself a future adversary. No one needs an enemy.
    9-Don't Play the
  • Send Handwritten Notes of Appreciation

    It's a sure way to build alliances: "Thank you" emails are deleted. Handwritten ones are kept.
    10-Send Handwritten Notes of Appreciation
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.


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