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Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #40

How to become Politically Savvy ... without playing politics!

While functional and technical knowledge are important, one of the core criteria we recommend when evaluating High Potentials for future advancement is whether they know HOW to function to get work DONE within the social, political and economic environment that exists within every organization.

We refer to this as being Politically Savvy which should not be confused with the antics of those who play political games and one-upmanship, take undue credit (looking good without substance), (#A52A2A)-nose, manipulate relationships, and partake in petty personal squabbles, among other questionable, self-serving (and often cringe-worthy) behaviors.

Clearly, organizations are a complex labyrinth of personalities, egos, and hierarchies, so it stands to reason that 'turf' will be protected; competing interests and rivalries will occur; sacred cows will be immune to criticism or questioning; and scarce resources will be defended. Leaders who are Politically Savvy acknowledge these realities and learn how to function within this environment to get things done with the least amount of disruption and with maximum ROI.

So, don't reject the idea of becoming Politically Savvy just because some people play dirty. The HVAs listed below will help you get what you want—ethically and professionally.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

Here are a few HVA TIPS that will help you effectively develop and nurture your influence and reputation in order to be politically effective in your organization:

  • Integrity is Everything: Politically skilled individuals convey (with words and actions) high levels of transparency, authenticity, and sincerity to instill trust and confidence. Those who practice covert under-the-table deals and power plays (at the expense of others and the organization) soon become known as individuals who can't be trusted. When people trust you they are more willing to cooperate and collaborate with you.
  • Understand the Leverage Equation (the Power Map): Organizations have power hierarchies that don't necessarily follow the traditional structural hierarchy. To become Politically Savvy, keep your eyes and ears open to find the real people of influence (the person who shuffles the cards and deals the deck). You need to discern who has influence (both formally and informally), who doesn't have influence, and how much influence you have yourself (don't discount this last point!). Your manager probably has greater access to key decision-makers than you so it's important he or she be an advocate rather than an adversary. But don't stop there—political skill also involves maintaining good relationships with influencers and decision-makers at all levels in the organization.
  • Think Before You Speak: Politically skilled leaders have good impulse control and self-regulation—you don't need to always say what's on your mind or immediately jump into the fray. Choose your battles wisely and remain composed (especially when situations don't go your way). This will allow people to be more comfortable around you which will help you gain support and build political influence. One way to do this is to fine-tune your powers of perception ... politically astute leaders tend to have strong powers of discernment and higher levels of self-awareness.
  • Practice Influence (and Subtle Self-Promotion): Influence is a big part of being Politically Savvy. Effective influencers intentionally (and strategically) build alliances and strong interpersonal relationships. They use good judgment about when to assert themselves which results in more collaborative and cooperative relationships. Politically skilled leaders know that if they don't have the credibility they need with a person of influence, they start garnering support from other levels first. While you don't want to be seen as egotistical or boastful, no one can appreciate you if they don't know about the results you're delivering. Find subtle and natural ways to talk about achievements such as comparing strategies you used to successfully overcome a challenge in relation to a current challenge being worked on.

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Because everything we say and do is the length and shadow of our own souls, our influence is determined by the quality of our being."

— Dale Turner —