Ally Development as an Organizational Strategy


I’ve been writing about emotional intelligence for executive men who serve as allies with women at work. Ally work must extend beyond personal relationships – male executives are also on the hook for ally development as an organizational strategy.

Track ally relationships in terms of trust and accountability.

Bring a clear-eyed view to constructing ally relationships. It’s not enough to want to be seen as an ally – we actually have to willing and able to act like one. Trust is “the making and keeping of commitments over time.” It’s imperative to measure the status and contribution of trust. We can achieve such measured influence through listening groups with women and men; surveying among women in the women’s ERG (and their male allies); trust-related employee engagement questions, filtered by gender; improvements in the retention of women, etc.

Position and organize male ally development in the organization.

Many companies are busy innovating with male ally development. Among others, PwC, Liberty Mutual, NASA, and Intel are focusing on including men in inclusion, listening to them specifically, and building the cultural dexterity of leaders at all levels. This investment in male learning often occurs as part of leadership programs that include everyone.

The men I’ve worked with over the long haul as brother allies make promises, and they keep the promises they make. One key commitment for male allies: we will influence other men to become effective allies. This means we are leading the conversation to sort through any perceptions among men, for example, that they must lose for women to win.

As male leaders and allies, we are accountable to women for behaving in ways that they deem useful. Yes, it’s a reciprocal relationship. But this is a two-way street with three lanes, with two of the lanes flowing in the woman’s direction.

Senior leaders are expected to guide performance within their line of business. And their organizations expect them to grow capabilities across the culture. Developing men as allies is a powerful strategy to do just that.