This is an interesting insight:
I once worked with the executive team of a major hospital system with physicians who were often the only ones who could do a rare procedure for which patients would fly in around the world. You can guess these doctors wielded a great deal of power in the organization. However, if you asked the leadership team who really held the strings, it was the nurses. They were the ones that were seen as the engine of excellence behind the doctors’ work. So if you were a new hire and ignored building alliances with the nursing organization out of the belief that the doctors and the executives were the most important, you would have made a big mistake in your plan to achieve success.
The unsung heroes are always tossed aside. The best way to learn about power dynamics is always in the meetings (and how leaders treat their underlings); including the “voice on the table”. Power plays in the organisation are a sum total of interacting influences (covert or overt) and multitude of individuals acting in consort. Cultural differences can mask these power shifts (and power plays), making it impossible for a new hire to understand it.
A practical suggestion:
And then, when you do meet with this colleague, don’t try to accomplish too much; do just enough to demonstrate curiosity and generosity to the point where they would enjoy taking your call again. Over time you may ask them who else they think you should meet. And they may even offer to make a warm introduction on your behalf to a powerful person in their circle.