We all love overnight celebrity stories about breakout stars who suddenly catapult to the forefront of a scene and completely own it out of sheer talent and brilliance. Sure, it's inspiring and romantic, but not always the case.

More often than not, the fastest way to get ahead is by helping someone else succeed. I call this tactic “The Fullback Strategy.”

In football, there usually is a star running back, who receives the majority of the carries; the fullback; and then linemen and receivers who help block to free up running room. The player holding the ball has the talent, the vision and provides the majority of the results for the running game. The blockers are responsible for adding to the running player's success and benefits overall if the game is won.

When it comes to a relationship between a high-powered boss and his or her protégé, in most cases, the protégé is a blocker. The protégé edits reports, screens phone calls, schedules meetings and adds to the abilities of the high-powered boss who provides the majority of the results. 

On the other hand, there are times in which the employee provides the talent and results necessary to win the game, and the boss is simply there to take advantage of the win. The employee is indispensable to the boss and tied to his or her success. The employee, in this position, can then run a fullback strategy, with the boss throwing blocks for the employee to move up in the world.

But, the common assumption is that the boss will then take all the credit while the employee gets worked into the ground, right? Wrong. I can speak from experience.

I’ve run the Fullback Strategy over and over. When you are responsible for someone else's success, that certain someone can’t say enough great things about you. When we were first getting Slingshot SEO up and running, we had no marketing budget and planned on growing completely through word-of-mouth testimonials. We took projects at losses, worked 20-hour days, and ate beans all while making our clients millions. And, we weren't sore about it.

We didn't immediately skyrocket our prices to take a piece of the newfound success. All we asked for was a block. We told our clients, "When we make you successful, will you give a testimonial for us? And by the way, if you say no, then we aren’t interested in the work.” These testimonials served as blocks by squashing prospect’s objections during the sales process, which allowed us to earn bigger and better deals. 

And, we're not the only ones to run this game. Now household names, these other hopeful individuals found success using the Fullback Strategy:

  • Steve Ballmer, now CEO of Microsoft, was behind the sales of the biggest products at Proctor & Gamble as an entry-level employee.
  • Nikola Tesla created inventions such as the induction motor and rotating magnetic fields, which contributed to the success of his employer, Thomas Edison.
  • Before anyone knew his name, rapper Kanye West produced multi-platinum songs for Jay-Z.

Whether you're a start-up company, boss or employee, you can find a way to implement the Fullback Strategy. In your next job interview, try asking the question "When I make you successful, will you be a reference for me to move up in your organization? Otherwise, I would have to seriously consider other offers."

It’s a bold statement that few prospects or potential employers can resist, and you had better be able to back it up. However, if you can serve as the fullback, you can expect big blocks thrown for you in the future.