We know intuitively to protectourselves from stakeholders opposed to our transformation projects. Counter intuitively, we must also consider protecting ourselves from our allies as well. In fact, the most spectacular defeats of history were provoked not by enemies but allies. As Voltaire said, ’God preserve me from my friends, I’ll handle my enemies’. There are two reasons behind this reticence. The first reason is that we often feel comfortable with our allies and may reveal weaknesses which could be used against us. The second reason is that our offensive and defensive capabilities are so focused on resistant stakeholders that we do not invest enough energy and effort in our areas of vulnerability which our allies are supposed to protect. This does not mean we need to be obsessive about it, only to keep it in mind.
We spontaneously tend to surround ourselves with allies, for comfort, protection, or conquest. To be well surrounded is to recognize that we can not go far without federating the strength and will of others, especially those who are not under our direct authority. These are the stakeholders who influence our projects but who may have other interests and interests which do not concern us. The urge to reach out to these stakeholders is so intuitive that it is hard to overcome. This risks rushing into alliances not out of necessity but out of a desire to satisfy our ego. Let us not forget we are better off alone than badly surrounded. A great deal of responsibility concerning the failure of our allies is unfortunately due to our early haste in their selection. Alliances often start to great fanfare but few become solid, sustainable and reliable. This observation is similar to that of the win-win agreements I mentioned in my article long-term win-win relationships. Taking the time to choose these allies thoroughly if much better than the headlines effect. Furthermore, inflated objectives create very high expectations in relation stakeholder contributions which can only be disappointed at a later date.
Choice of allies must not be made by affinity or through docility. Allies depend on the strategy of influence you adopt and the principles you advocate as part of the transformation you are conducting. You must have no ally independently of any situation you manage. Choice of allies is contextual and reflects the positioning of your strategy of attack or initiation of change whether negotiated, permanent, imposed, or clean-break. Your allies are not supposed to be your clones intellectually speaking, but must have the ability to reflect your strategy on the ground. This said, they have concerns thatdo not normally require your attention. As soon as these concerns overspill into your field of action and your interests, your allies become your future competitors or even join other resistant stakeholders. It must be understood that as soon as you begin to succeed, stakeholders agendas can change alonside their perception of their commitment to you and how they identify with your success. In the words of Francois de La Rochefoucauld : “To make enemies, surpass your friends; to make allies, let your friends surpass you “. In this case, your ability to protect yourself from your allies is subtly dependent on your ability to ask yourself the right questions at the right time!
By Farid Yandouz