All Articles Leadership Management Great leaders focus on one important thing

Great leaders focus on one important thing

Look at how you might be struggling with coalition-building in your organization and find ways to build relationships that will be the key to your future success.

4 min read




From small shops to giant corporations, we know that great leaders everywhere are on top of any number of important facts and figures, deadlines and other business information. They have the knowledge, the expertise and the drive to succeed — often in very different ways. The best leaders, however, all share a common trait: they prioritize relationships.

Results come from great teams, and great teams start with a strong coalition. If you know relationships could be your key to getting ahead, but you’re struggling to get it right, read below to learn how coalition building can help you succeed in any workplace.

Broaden your supporters

It is great to have a group of people who know you well, especially if they include your immediate team, your boss and your regular contacts in the business. Over time, managers tend to build long-term, loyal and like-minded teams who all know how to work together and get the job done. It’s a good start, but don’t forget to include those who aren’t so much like you. People with different perspectives, different job experiences and different working styles not only add great value to the team, they often have the ear of totally different people.

Want your message heard? Enlist the help of people less like you and your current group of go-to supporters.

Balance your relationship energies

Relationships old and new require energy. Building rapport, trust and common ground with new supporters can be challenging and time consuming, even if it is exciting. Be sure not to forget about your existing relationships while you forge new ones, however. Existing relationships need and deserve the care and attention required to keep them strong.

Embrace the challenging relationships

It can be tempting to focus on the relationships that come easily to us — the ones where there is a natural kinship and it’s almost effortless to build rapport. Whether it’s because we have a similar style, a complementary skillset or a shared interest or background, sometimes, some relationships practically build themselves.

It can be more difficult to make ourselves do the hard work of building trust with someone who is less like us, less obviously connected, or with whom we’ve had a rocky road in the past. Those supporters, however, can be some of the most valuable; they often have a different circle of influence, and their diverse perspectives can add weight and value to your message by assuring others it checks out from all angles. Learn to embrace these challenging relationships.

Address interpersonal issues directly

If you’ve had clashes with others in the past, push beyond the desire to just avoid working with that person and address those issues directly. It’s not necessary to be friends with everyone in your organization, and sometimes a working style isn’t our (or someone else’s) cup of tea. Still, tackle the topic head on and have a respectful conversation. Chances are you’ll find some common areas of respect and ways to work together. These people may not be your supporters, but you can ensure they aren’t your detractors, either, with open, honest and direct communication.

Foster the message

Your supporters carry your message for you. Whether you are simply conveying a recommended tactic for a specific project at work or broadcasting the larger message of your brand as a good leader in your organization, the importance and the effect is the same. When you build a coalition with the people around you, you create buzz and enhance your visibility. By fostering and maintaining your diverse relationships, you raise others awareness of your abilities.

Great leaders prioritize building consensus not because they’re more important than results; they prioritize relationships because great results will follow. Look at how you might be struggling with coalition-building in your organization and find ways to build relationships that will be the key to your future success.


Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 executive coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, Gap and Starbucks. He has written seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level  More than 10,000 people subscribe to his FulfillmentATWork newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book 41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!

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