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How to Cultivate Allies

by Dr. Beverly Potter


Effective networks must be cultivated. They don't simply happen. You have to establish one yourself, then care for it continuously and consistently like tending a garden.
Pick potential allies on the basis of the information
and resources they have access to rather than their position.
Sometimes people in seemingly low positions have useful information. Security officers have information on the comings and goings of people, for example. Secretaries have information on the preferences of their bosses.

The currency of networking is information. Dr. Bettie Youngs who wrote the book,  Is Your Net Working?defines networking as a method of making links from the people you know to the people they know. "Hi, Sally Martin suggested I call you. She thought you might be able to give me a referral to a good graphic artist." Use networking contacts to exchange information, advice, referrals, and support.

Consider a project you're working on or an objective you wish to meet. What information do you need? What resources? Think of people you know who might have the information or resources or who might know someone who does. Think broadly about who you know. For example, the clerk in the mailroom might be able to help you get a report out to a client quickly. The butcher at your corner market might be able to refer you to a caterer for a company luncheon.

Communicate Goodwill
People are sensitive to the receptivity of others. Your receptivity - the degree to which you will respond in a friendly way to approaches from others - is subtly communicated. If you look at the floor when arriving in the morning and go straight to your desk without saying, "Good morning" to co-workers, you've communicated, "I'm not friendly. If you speak to me I may be unfriendly."
Goodwill is communicated through social rituals.
Make sure that you say "Hi" or "Good morning" in an upbeat voice and communicate friendliness in your nonverbal gestures to invite people to speak to you rather than to turn them away. You can do this nonverbally, especially by smiling. Eye contact but not staring is important. An open posture, leaning forward, and touching a person's shoulder or arm communicates receptivity.

Show Interest in Others

When you pay attention to others they feel good about themselves and about you. Showing interest is easy. All you have to do is to ask questions. Find out how others feel about community issues. Ask about hobbies. Be curious about what others want to accomplish.

Ask Questions
When asking questions use open-ended questions that draw people out. Open questions begin with words like "what," "where,""how," "when," and "who." A question like "What did you think of it?" shows interest and encourages the person to elaborate upon what was being said.

Preferably, questions should be short. The following questions are powerful and versatile. You can ask one in response to most things another person might say.

Powerful Questions
for Showing Interest & Getting Information

What happened?
What did you do?
How did you feel?
What's your opinion?
What do you suggest?
What's an example?
What do you mean?
You'll be amazed how many places you can ask these questions and how effective they are in drawing people out and communicating your interest.
Bill: What a day!
Bob: What happened?
Bill: Oh, it was crisis management all day.
Bob: Yeah? What happened?
Bill: This one woman just had a fit over the warranty.
Bob: What did she do?
Bill: She yelled and threatened and was damned unreasonable.
Bob: What did you do?
Bill: I listened until she ran out of steam.
Bob: Then what happened

Copyright © 1980, 1993, 1998: Beverly A. Potter, from "Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work", Ronin.  All Rights Reserved. This article man be down loaded for person use.  Any other use requires written permission from docpotter.

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