Few if any professionals work their way up an organization alone, with no help from others.  Even if your family owns the company, you are still dependent upon them to guide you up to greater responsibilities.  Who are the supporters and allies you need?  Mentors, peers and subordinates.


Mentors are critically important.  If you find one or two really good mentors along your career, consider yourself lucky.  Most mentors are organizationally above you, but they can be family members, friends or advisors of some kind. The best mentors are those with whom you work, because they can help you understand the work to be done, develop a strategy to achieve results, and guide you to the outcomes that will win you praise from the organization.  Your supervisor should be your best mentor, but don’t count on it.  Find those who are interested in you, your progress and can accelerate your learning curve.


Find out who your supporters and allies are among your peers and subordinates.  These are the people who believe in you, your competence and want to be part of your circle of influence.  When things are terrific, everyone is your friend, supporter and ally.  On the other hand, experience has shown that supporters are hard to find when events turn sour.  It’s only when things turn ugly that you’ll know who are your true supporters.


Developing subordinates is also critically important, both from a performance perspective and also as a long-term strategy.  Over time, subordinates move to other organizations and can refer you to senior jobs when made available.  It’s nice to have an internal champion singing your praises to the hiring organization.


There are other reasons why you need to continually develop your relationships and skills of subordinates. When the economy bends downward, training is usually the first to be cut.  However, when the economy moves upward, organizations have to play catch-up to the training and development that should have taken place beforehand.  If the competition is more prepared than you, it will overtake your efforts.  So keep your subordinates trained.


Why then, should you create and develop a following?


  1. You want those above you to help pull you up the ladder of success
  2. You want those below you to push you up the same ladder
  3. Relationships you build can potentially provide a return-on-investment over your career
  4. Those that leave may see you as a top prospect in another organization at a higher level
  5. Those that stay will want to see you succeed. As you succeed they will succeed.
  6. If others see you as a mentor, they will want to become part of your circle of influence


An organization that is full of mentors tends to have high achieving workers, where relationships and results are primary. Organizations that lack mentors, that are highly political and competitive, tend to be places from which to stay away.


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