No one doubts your expertise. Staff know when they need to come to you. They know they won’t get their budget approved without engaging with finance, recruit without HR, get the final approval without compliance and on the list goes. The problem is their perception of what you do. Here is a list I would love to add to if you have a good one and time to reply:


It is natural for humans to pigeonhole things. We have a lot on our minds and the amount of information we need to process is increasingly overwhelming so our need to pigeonhole will only increase. It is easier for the business to think of support functions in simple terms than in the more complex, value-adding support you can provide.

Your Predecessors are Part of the Problem

One of the problems is that not all in your profession has made the profession proud. Too many have been fixated on best practice rather than doing the job well enough to allow the business to perform. Knowing what is well enough is the key. Knowing when to hold or give ground.

Understand the Business Very, Very Well

In order to know when to give ground you need to truly understand the business you serve. Most people in support functions don’t come from the business that they serve as they trained in their profession. So it is difficult to know the business as well as you would like.

There are ways to learn the business. Immersing yourself in it for a period or asking lots and lots of questions and studying the business are all good examples. Even so, you are not in the business and you will not have fully up to date information about them.

Experts Need Advocates

Enter the advocate. What every support function needs is an advocate in each of the business units you serve. An advocate understands the importance to the business of what you do and they make sure you are given the time and the information required to add the value you know you can.

If you don’t have a seat at the table, or if you are a last-minute thought, your advocates in the business are not sufficiently influential. I have written a paper, Pathways to Partnership that explores the need for advocates in the business and how you can go about building a tribe to preach your mantra. Feel free to share it with others if you wish.

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