The term ‘allies’ originated during times of war. Coming from the singular, ally, meaning ‘friend’ or ‘trusted one’, the word allies today can take on larger meanings: a group of trusted peers and friends or people with whom we are aligned toward a common goal. As professionals, those with whom we align impact our social networks and it’s worth careful consideration. The way you are perceived by others is often influenced by those you pal around with at work and at play. We are also influenced by our allies in many ways that we often don’t realize; we receive advice (both useful and terrible) from our allies, our regular topics of discussion often mimic the topics of interest to our allies, and even the ideas we generate and put out into the world are in many ways the product of interactions with those we talk to the most. We even dress like our allies! So, that we are a direct reflection of the company we keep is certain.
That said, how much intention do you put into developing a valuable network of allies for your business and personal brand? For both genders, the allies out there may be different than you think. For women, one important type of ally to cultivate is men.
Recently, I was part of the Indianapolis-based Women of Skyline ‘Men as Allies’ panel discussion over lunch. (Full disclosure, I serve as a board member of the group). Author Julie Kratz was invited to make comments on her recent book, One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality and to moderate a panel of Indianapolis-area business leaders, which were all men. In her book, Kratz shares that men often act as allies for women in business unconsciously as they may have “had a common tie: strong women in their lives…men channel the women they empathize, giving them a source of inspiration to support other females.” Panelist Lee White shared that when he has consciously sought to mentor a woman in business it was because he recognized potential in someone that needed connections or other resources. “It was not about me, it was about unlocking what she already had.”
Mutually beneficial relationships always make sense in business; when we choose to align with someone professionally, we may not know everything about them, but we can see or sense the potential value in supporting that person’s growth – that is if they are self-aware enough to accept the support!
For those inspired mostly by the bottom line, Kratz says being an ally is just good business, too. “Gender diversity drives business performance. This is something both genders benefit from equally. When opportunities, pay, and promotions are based on performance instead of gender biases, organizations thrive,” she writes.
Isn’t that what we’re all here to do?