My first experience in forming an alliance had to do with choosing the players that would comprise my dodge ball team during phys. ed. class in elementary school. Our teacher decided to be cutesy and have my twin brother and I each serve as Captains of the duelling dodge ball teams. Stuart chose the strongest, most agile and athletic players. I gave a chance to those who would have normally been chosen last: the underdogs, the bookish, the reticent and the socially awkward kids.
So, it should be no surprise then that my team was annihilated in record time. The teacher, surely confused by the speed at which the dodge ball game finished, called a re-match…
It was a hard lesson for me to learn about choosing who to associate with.
Your relationships can be a source of emotional support, advice, information, and tangible resources. The coalitions that you forge can be a potent source of power, while the coalitions you are not in can loom as a potential threat. Since relationships require investment and nurturing, you will have to choose with whom you will interact, how often, and on what terms… (McGinn & Long-Lingo, 2001, p. 19).
Dodge ball of course requires strong hand-eye coordination, agility, dexterity, and a good aim. These are all purely technical skills.
At the time however, I was not thinking of how to select my team strategically based on the skills needed for the game. I was not focused on “fit” or on cohesiveness amongst the team members.
As I embarked upon my career, I found the concept of professional networking somewhat distasteful. I have always had a small group of very close-knit friends. I have never been interested in fostering more relationships just for the sake of having a wider circle of influence. In turn, it did not seem particularly authentic for me to initiate relationships with others for the sole purpose of potentially yielding advancement opportunities or some professional reward.
That was until I understood the true value of a network; a coalition of the willing that supports and challenges me. My network values my strengths, encourages me, allows me to broaden my expertise, and find purpose and balance.
No leader is perfect. The best ones don’t try to be – they concentrate on honing their strengths and find others who can make up for their limitations (Ancona, Malone, Orlikowski and Senge, 2007).
Thank you to all within my ‘circle’…
Ancona, D., Malone, T. W., Orlikowski, W. J., and Senge, P. M. (2007). In Praise of the Incomplete Leader. Harvard Business Review, 1-10.
McGinn, K., and Long-Lingo, E. (2001). Power and Influence: Achieving Your Objectives in Organizations. Harvard Business School Case, 1-23.