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The Art of Building Coalition

10 min read

The following article was contributed by: http://sealthedealsuccesskit.com/

There are numerous situations we face at work, whether as an entrepreneur, an employer, a manager, a leader, an employee or a member of a project team where we need to build coalition with others. The results we can produce depend on relationships that are effective and sufficient to the goals of the organization or project. These others with whom we need to build coalition may be colleagues, the board, co-workers, vendors, customers, peers, teammates or subordinates. Sometimes we need to build coalition to navigate a political minefield in our organization, sometimes it is to move a particular idea forward, sometimes it is to most effectively lead, manage, or motivate others. Below is a time-tested method for building coalition, creating a partnering relationship for whatever your purpose, so that you can increase your visibility, clean up a messy interpersonal scenario, create development opportunities for yourself or others, or simply expedite the results of any project or team you are working on. It is a roadmap for creating sustainable, strategic relationships of influence.

Before you delve into the instructions below, make a list for each situation in which you need to build coalition or create influence.  For each example clarify your intended result, then ask yourself, “What conversations do I need to have with whom to accomplish X result?” List the person and the conversational purpose, then prioritize the list by importance and impact.  In other words, which conversation is most critical either by strategic importance or time factors? Then use the guidelines below to think through and prepare for the first conversation on your list.
Avoiding conversations causes the productivity equivalent of a multi-car pileup on the highway…engagement, effectiveness, morale, action, results, and energy become blocked. Generating partnering conversations, even if executed less than perfectly, opens up the roadblocks and gets traffic flowing again.

Forming A Partnering Relationship: Guidelines For A Possible Dialogue

The guidelines below set up the actions you might consider taking to step-by-step build coalition. Know your reasons before you start. With whom do you want to have this conversation and why? What is your goal in creating coalition with this person, specifically? The answer to those questions may not be communicated to the other person, but are useful for you in determining the importance of the conversation, the
timing or urgency of the conversation, and how you will measure your results. Think through ahead of time your conditions of satisfaction; how will you know if the conversation was effective?

THE SET-UP — Creating a safe environment

  • Clearly establish for yourself the purpose for partnering with the other person. What do you have to offer them? How would you like them to support/help you?
  • Check in with yourself to determine your readiness and willingness to be open, honest, vulnerable. Let your guard down; be prepared to tell your truth and speak your mind, particularly if there has been any conflict in the past with this person. Keep in mind you always have the right to say what you want.  The other person is not required to grant what you want, but you always have the right to express it.
  • Depending on the person or the situation…
  1. Take that person out of the office to a neutral location such as a restaurant or a park or take a walk. If appropriate, a local pub is a casual setting conducive to dialogue.
  2. Take him or her on a coffee break in or out of the building.
  3. Ask him or her to join you for lunch in the cafeteria.
  4. Go to that person’s office or work area if it is private (not a cubicle).
  5. If it can’t be done face-to-face, if you are in a virtual organization with farflung global colleagues, this can be managed by phone, but will require setting up a special time to talk without other distractions. You’ll need to request that the other person not multitask so that they can be present to the conversation. This may actually require asking that they specifically shut down their e-mail, IM, and Blackberry.
  • Set up enough time to have a conversation about partnership, usually a minimum of an hour. (By “partnership” I mean a mutually beneficial working relationship.)
  • Get that person’s permission to have the conversation after you brief them on what it will be about. Tell them you want to discuss the possibility of forming a committed alliance or a partnering relationship with them and ask if they will talk with you about it.
  • Schedule a specific date and time to have that conversation. Make any agendas you may have explicit and transparent to the other person so they know what to expect and can be prepared to discuss and share their thoughts. If you will be requesting advocacy or a referral, let them know up front. If you will be asking for their input or advice or for answers to complex questions, determine how to best honor his or her personality style.  For instance, if she’s an introvert, she may require some time to think through her answers ahead of the conversation, so you might send her a head’s up note prior to meeting.

PART ONE — Expressing commitment

  • Share with the person what you are committed to accomplishing. What is your goal and intention in creating this coalition?
  • Find out from them what matters to them. What’s important to them? What are they committed to accomplishing both in general and in this conversation or partnership?
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