No matter what organization you work in or what role you fill, it’s crucial to cultivate “go-to” people who can provide help, guidance, and expertise. Here are four rules to help you figure out how to find your go-to people:
Rule #1: Learn who’s who in the zoo. That is, who are the teddy bears? The tigers? The snakes? Get to know the players in all the different areas of the organization—up, down, sideways, and diagonal—their strengths and weaknesses, their work proclivities, and how to work effectively with them.
Rule #2: Start with the people you know. If you start with people you don’t know, then you have to get to know them and figure out if you have reason to trust them. If you start with the people you know already, you can zero in on those you trust to find your go-to people.
Start with your own best customers. Give them opportunities to add value. And then be an amazing customer for them.
Rule #3: Study the hall files. Your go-to go-to person may not always be available. Or maybe the people you know best don’t do exactly what you need. But maybe they know somebody who does. Ask your go-to people for referrals.
Referrals and second and third opinions are all ways into the personnel “hall files.” Everybody has a hall file—their informal reputation. This is what people who have worked with them whisper about them in the halls. The good and the not so good. This is informal reputation data held in the opinions that colleagues have about each other. Consider the hall file just another repository of real influence. Ask around. You’ll learn a lot. And don’t believe everything you hear. Get second and third opinions.
Rule #4: Study the organization chart. I’m amazed at how many organizations have great charts and directories that are up to date and available to personnel, but which few people access and utilize.