Assets and Allies

It’s just you and me, let’s be honest. It’s fun to have an archenemy. Someone who is opposed to you and all that is good and just. Someone you can have a righteous cause against. Enemies make us feel alive and give us purpose. It’s important to have enemies.

But here’s the thing, no one at work is your enemy if you are a leader. Making an enemy out of a person is wasteful, and you can’t afford it. Even that person who undermines you or costs you a promotion–not your enemy. The real people you work with are not all good or evil. They have their own priorities, their own desires, their own context. I’m not saying they are saints, and they may even be a genuinely “bad person”, but that doesn’t make them your enemy. That story is too simple. Beware of simple stories.

Instead, the people you work with fall into two categories: assets and allies. Allies will spend some of their capital or resources to help you achieve what you are after. It is assumed that you’ll do the same for them, but it’s not a tit-for-tat relationship. Where to find allies, how to build them, and how to pivot with them is a separate discussion. You will have precious few in your career. Value them.

Everyone else is an asset. They have different goals both personally and professionally. They have different values and codes. They have different methods of pursuing and achieving their results. It is your job to understand each of these and use them to your advantage. When you know the intricacies, you can add a portion of their resources to your own.

Three Scenarios:

Win  / Win: This is where you want to live most of the time. You understand your own goals and your assets’  goals. You arrange things so that achieving your goal in whole or part helps them achieve their goal. This is made even more effective if the inverse is true at the same time, i.e. if your asset fails to support your goal, it will harm their own objective.

Win / Lose: This happens when your goal and your assets’ goals are mutually exclusive. If you are willing to be creative, this is rarely the case. There is almost always a way to turn a situation into a win / win. If you find yourself in win / lose often, you’ll lose your assets quickly, as this situation always strains your relationship and spends political capital. If the situation has to be a win / lose, you need to take active steps to help your assets save face and mitigate their losses. Total surrender, total defeat is indelicate. Save your assets.

Lose / Lose: In some situations, you and your assets are both going to lose. External forces have conspired against you. Much as before, this is about saving face and mitigating loss. Prioritize saving the most capital you can. Sometimes this means every person for themselves, but more often small expenditures on your part in times of crisis can accrue favors that pay off later, multiple times over.

Enemies are a luxury you can’t afford to permit yourself. Value your allies, protect your assets.

This Is How We Lead

Getting over Conflict Avoidance – Part 1

We don’t want to be seen as a person who backs down from a fight. Yet, we often avoid saying the hard things because we don’t want to make waves. Suit up. This is business. Conflict is what leaders do.

Notice when you are avoiding conflict

It’s hard to change a behavior in yourself without being aware of the behavior at a conscious level. This means the first step is going to be gaining personal awareness. To accomplish this set aside some time daily for self-reflection.

Take a few minutes on your commute home. Thinking back to your day, are you aware of any time you avoided engaging where you should have? Would an outside observer have a different opinion of your interactions? If you find that you’ve avoided conflict, it’s important not to scold yourself over it. You are giving yourself feedback here. It’s not about the past, it’s about the future. Note the occurrence, and commit to a plan to do it differently next time.