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Bac 2011 G1-G2 series (Oral)

Strong alliances can be career differentiators for strong performers. A strong performer without the alliances will go unnoticed. In a big firm, the way to distinguish yourself is around performance first and the ability to make relationships second. If there were two equally qualified individuals being considered for an assignment, the persog who is seen as a relationship builder is going to win the assignment every time.

The leader who has a critical assignment for an aggressive deadline is going to look around for the person that he or she trusts to get the job done. The opportunity is very often created during a problem or rough situation. The key is to demonstrate strong performance in a business-as-usual situation so that you can be the resource person in an exceptional situation.
Strong leaders will not place their support behind mediocre performers or people with questionable backgrounds. I always start from a position of strong performance and act with strength and integrity. Those personal values have been the cornerstone of my career and have opened doors for me along the way. I was recruited to the firm based on that reputation of strong performance, excellent work ethic, and unquestionable integrity, although I began my career unsure of what I wanted to do. I positioned myself as a strong versatile performer early on. My success has come through doing different things, gaining a number of different experiences, and bringing my reputation to whatever it was no matter what I was doing or where. Also, how you build relationships is as important as which relationships you build. It is important to get to know people outside your normal circle. Other people across different disciplines and diverse constituencies will help you broaden your perspective.

Relationships should be worked continually. Make yourself a resource to others such that those same individuals will be a resource for you when you need them. So, often folks come to me to establish a relationship when they're in crisis. It is easier to help someone you are already connected to. I make it a point to schedule a lunch at least one a week with someone in my internal or external network. Doing that refreshes me, it's break from work, and it allows me the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with others. Another thing that I do when my schedule is full is drop an impromptu e-mail to a friend or a colleague to let them know that I'm thinking about them. You have to be creative about how to stay connected with people who are important to your life and career.

Adapted from Annya M. Lott, in Black Enterprise, May 2010

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