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STEP 1: Find Our How You’re Perceived by Coworkers
People are much more apt to help and follow someone they like and respect. Want to know how well liked you are—that is, how much support you can count on when you need it? Ask. Start by creating a list of all the subordinates, equals and supervisors with whom you interact regularly. Be sure you meet with each person on your list at least twice in six months. Each time, ask for feedback on your performance in general. Most importantly, take constructive criticism and apply it. Otherwise your efforts will seem transparent.
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STEP 2: Don’t criticize.
Nobody likes a combative, critical coworker. Don’t be one. Approach requests and proposals from colleagues with sensitivity and openness; look for a way to say “Yes, you have my support”—if not to everything, then to some part of what is being put before you. Try to remove “Yes, but…” from your vocabulary. It’s shorthand for “No” and it’s a real downer.
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STEP 3: Make like Switzerland—stay neutral.
Don’t whine and complain with whiners and complainers. That just saps energy and plunges everyone into negative territory. Do the opposite: make it a goal to energize people in every meeting and interaction in which you participate. It’s a way of getting people to work together toward a common goal—your common goals.
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STEP 4: Be nice. Seriously.
The quickest path to a colleagues’ heart is through his pride. Compliment a junior associate on the thoroughness with which she finished her last report. Remark on your cubicle-mate’s spiffy new tie. Most folks get raises and bonuses once a year if they are lucky. Imagine, then, how motivating a small compliment or praise becomes in the interim. Gratified coworkers make committed allies.
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STEP 5: Troubleshoot.
Once you’ve identified the co-workers you want on your side, isolate the naysayers who could hold you back. They’re the ones who challenge your ideas or compete for the plum assignments. Don’t offer such rivals fodder with which to undermine your advancement. Understand what motivates your foes and, if possible, try to satisfy those needs. You’ll have converted a troubled relationship to an alliance.
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STEP 6: Be an agent of change.
Take the feedback your received from everyone around you and prove you’re doing something about it. When it comes to professional development, no one is perfect, but demonstrating that you value the feedback and are capable of making suggested changes shows a personal strength worthy of their respect and support.
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