Picture this: You're in a meeting with your boss and other high-level executives championing an idea that could dramatically reduce costs for your organization in the long run. However, it requires some up-front investment and that has some executives on the fence, but suddenly, one of the participants with whom you've developed a friendly relationship speaks up to support your idea. After the endorsement, everyone else jumps on board and you get the go-ahead to move forward.

Cultivating allies at work can be invaluable. These employees are in your corner and will work to support your ideas, share knowledge, influence others on your behalf and offer protection, friendship and advice. A network of positive, supportive allies can help you achieve your goals and advance your career by helping win key projects and make strong connections.

How to Find Allies

Building business relationships takes time, because they must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. Be prepared to commit yourself and be patient to the establishment process.

1. Become an Ally to Others
Before you start seeking help from others, offer help yourself. Giving of your time, advice, and energy generates a feeling of goodwill amongst your colleagues and makes people were willing to help you in the future.

Keep in mind that allies can help in very subtle or very obvious ways. You could stay late to help a colleague finish a project, commiserate with someone who had a rough day, mentor a new recruit, or be a sounding board for new ideas. The more you give of yourself, the more help you'll find available when you need it.

2. Brainstorm Possible Allies
Potential allies can come from all levels in the workforce and assist you in a range of ways. For instance, your boss's executive assistant could tip you off to the boss's mood when you need to ask a favor. An ally at a local media station could make sure your press release gets in the hands of the right people. Or, a valuable client could provide referrals for your organization's product or service.

Make a list of professionals inside and outside your organization who might be useful allies, and be sure to include:

  • Colleagues
  • Your boss
  • Senior management
  • Support staff
  • Trade group professionals
  • Vendors or suppliers
  • Media professionals
  • Clients or customers
  • Family members and friends
  • Government officials
  • Mentors

Use tools and social media marketing sites such as Facebook (FB), LinkedIn, and Twitter to seek potential allies. To help narrow the list, look for people who share your interests, values and goals. But be sure to cast your net wide enough to get a diverse group of allies.

3. Cultivate Relationships
Once you've identified potential allies, build new relationships and cultivate existing ones. Volunteer your help when an opportunity presents itself and treat everyone you encounter with respect. Don't gossip or spread sensitive information - not only does this damage trust, but it could turn a potential ally into someone who mistrusts you.

 Also make a point to do no less than what you say you with efficiency and high quality.   And always express gratitude for the help you receive, this will help to develop your workplace communication skills as well.

Having a network of allies can help your work go smoothly or vault you to the top. However, it's important to always remember that an alliance should be mutually beneficial. Never assume or take for granted that an ally will always be in your corner; they have responsibilities and commitments of their own to consider. But the more you cultivate these relationships, the more often one or more of your allies will have your back.

If you have a network of allies at work, how did you find them? How have you built and nurtured these relationships?

Heather Levin is a contributor for Money Crashers, where she writes about topics including small business, green technology, careers, and economic policy.