Published on March 20, 2014
PRACTICAL POLITICS SURVIVE THE OFFICE
where do you stand on the topic of office politics?
1 2 3 4 5 6 Politics is caused by a bunch of scheming, self- serving, scam artists that waste energy & time. We need none of it! Corporate politics is a wonderful, fun, and exciting tool that yields better decisions for companies. We need more of it! Politics is annoying, but I recognize that it is probably just a fact of corporate life. I’ll play the game when I have to, hopefully not too often Politics is bearable. Politics is bad, but I can live with it. I’ll just ignore it Politics is generally good & we should all get better at it. There is a place for politics in work most people
1 2 3 4 5 6 Politics is caused by a bunch of scheming, self- serving, scam artists that waste energy & time. We need none of it! Corporate politics is a wonderful, fun, and exciting tool that yields better decisions for companies. We need more of it! Politics is annoying, but I recognize that it is probably just a fact of corporate life. I’ll play the game when I have to, hopefully not too often Politics is bearable. Politics is bad, but I can live with it. I’ll just ignore it Politics is generally good & we should all get better at it. There is a place for politics in work how I want you to answer after this deck
i’ve got 3 questions i’d like you to consider
Q1: What bad experiences have you had with office politics that create your assumptions? Q2: Is an office without politics preferable? Q3: Is an office without politics possible?
now I’ve got 1 perspective I’d like you to consider
politics is natural & unavoidable because people will always have different and legitimate beliefs, issues, wants, needs, and sources of power
those differences are created biologically, environmentally, & because of organizational structure
so we’re all stuck with the differences however much we wish it were not so
there must be a process to resolve conflicts that arise from these natural and unavoidable differences
that is what politics is
politics is neither good nor bad
however, how people implement politics can be good or bad
and last but not least, politics exist once there are two or more people
so, don’t kid yourself, entrepreneurs
start-ups have politics
so what do we mean by bad politics?
• Lying • Cheating • Stealing • Back Stabbing • Ego Tripping • Sucking Up • Manipulating • Self promotion • General Ignorance, which causes political painful to those around you
and what do we mean by good politics?
• Fair distribution of resources • The ability to invest in future firm returns, with no immediate silo gains • Protection of minority interests • Ethical decision making • Strategic prioritization • Reduction of authoritarianism • Protection from “bad politics” • Engaging with bad politics rather than sticking our heads in the sand
and what do we get if we are good at good politics
• Get your projects up the priority list • Get resources or funding for your project & team • Clear project barriers • Influence decision making • Compensation, acknowledgement and advancement • Get hard shit done • Help others succeed • Survive change and avoid trouble
here are a few really useful thoughts on the subject
“Politics has such a bad name that many good people persuade themselves they want nothing to do with it. The ethical and spiritual apprehensions are understandable. But one cannot abjure politics.” – John Gardner
“There is no doubt power can be used for evil purposes. Of course most medicines can kill if taken wrongly, thousands die in automobile accidents each year, and nuclear power can provide energy or mass destruction. We do not abandon chemicals, cars or nuclear power. Instead we consider danger an incentive to get proper training.” – Jeffrey Pfeffer
“Of course leaders are preoccupied with power! The significant questions are: What means do they use to gain it? How do they exercise it? And to what ends do they exercise it?” – John Gardner
and one slightly ironic one
“It is not enough for a leader to know the right thing. He must be able to do the right thing. Leaders without the judgment or perception to make the right decisions fail for lack of vision. Those who know the right thing, but cannot achieve it, fail because they are ineffectual.” - Richard Nixon
so, how good are you at getting shit done…
1 2 3 4 5 6 I’m totally hopeless. Unless I have the authority to beat someone to death if they don’t comply, dependent resources simply do whatever they want I use Jedi mind powers on others – “these are not the droids that you are looking for” I sometimes get what I want done, so long as my interests are aligned with the interests of dependent parties I sometimes get what I want done, even if my interests are misaligned with the interests of dependent parties I find it very difficult to get what I want done outside the scope of my direct reports I often get what I want done, even if my interests are misaligned with the interests of dependent parties
what tools are in your ‘getting shit done’ tool box?
TOOL DESCRIPTION PROBLEMS Authority Formal power granted through organizational structure “Do it or you’re fired” • Badly out of fashion • We depend on too many outside our scope of authority • Too dependent on individuals who can wield power poorly Culture Shared vision, values and attitudes, behavioral norms, artifacts, & rituals. “Do it because it is the right thing to do” It is very difficult for managers to build, maintain, and control culture Politics Effective use of power through influence, persuasion, & negotiation “Do it because it is in your self interest to do it” Influence, persuasion and negotiation are hard work and organizationally time-consuming
Authority (or else) Culture (it’s right!) Politics (It’s in our interests) Q: Are there dangers of using each axis too much or too little? What I need to use daily What I’m good at and like
so with all that said, it is time to propose the basic rule of ethical politics
accept that you need to be political to get shit done
but, in the process, never advance your own interests by harming the business or by hurting other people
focus on building, protecting, and using your power
not on undermining the power of others
ok, so let’s assume that you agree with me that you should be better at politics
in that case, the next step is to develop your Political Intelligence and a plan to build and use your power
ASPECT QUESTIONS TO ASK Where Where does power come from in my firm and how do I get it? Who Who has power & how do I expand my power through them? When If I have power, when do I use / expend it? How When I decide to use power, what is the most effective way to do so?
power comes from position
• Title & “vestiges” of power (think corner office) • Authority to act within a specific scope • Control of the allocation, access to, and use of specific resources “that others need” • Objective-setting, appraisal & compensation approval • Access to Information • Location in the info/social web • Centrality – how often you proxy • Connectedness – how many nodes you touch • Closeness – How close are you to connected nodes • Complexity – The # of nodes unique to you
political wisdom sidebar 1.Seasoned players know how to “create” resources to control! 2.Defend your positional power from encroachment by other managers – But no Evil Politics!
take time to regularly update a positional power audit
how strong is your positional power?
How strong am I? (H/M/L) Why am I strong or weak? Power Plan (What can I do to improve?) Vestiges Formal authority Control over resources Location in the web
extra credit who has positional power around you? Why do they have it?
power also comes from relationships
Step 1: Identify coalition partners & assess their relative power •Get out there and meet people •Ask people in the know •Look at unit’s representation in larger decision-making •Look at who has benefited from previous decisions
Step 2: Create political capital •Just do a really good job •Build reciprocity by being helpful & creating linkages. It’s never not in your Job Description •Help allies obtain greater power •Avoid ceding power to opposed alliances (but no Bad Politics, please) •Build alliances
political wisdom sidebar •Interdependence often arises from resource scarcity •Opposition is not about disliking an “enemy”. It is about structural realities that drive differing, but legitimate, goals. The goals of Audit are structurally different from those of IT. It is not that they are a$$holes •Never force an ally (especially a superior) to expend their political power in your support •Use political capital before it depreciates. Reciprocity debt devalues quickly as people forget, or simply leave the firm. Political capital should not be hoarded. Capital Flow Velocity is more important
take time to regularly update a relational power audit
PERSON Current Capital I have with them (H/M/L) How aligned are our interests (H/M/L) Is the relationship threatened? (H/M/L) How important is this person to me? (H/M/L) Poswer Plan – What do I need to do in order to improve Answer these questions: Q: Who do I need to succeed? Q: Who needs you to succeed? Can you make a power deal? Q: Who is structurally (or otherwise) opposed? Now fill out the table below for you (and potentially others)… Start with those closest to you and move outwards based on prioritizing stakeholders
power also comes from yourself
• Reputation (perception is reality) • Ability to tolerate conflict and work with curmudgeons • Ability to recognize bad politics and respond appropriately • Honesty, Trustworthiness and reliability • EQ, communication, persuasion skills and charisma • High value/demand expertise (be irreplaceable because you add value, not because you are a bottleneck) • Powerful ideas, enthusiasm, hard work and focus • Flexibility and the ability to get along • Confidence and stamina (endurance prevails over cleverness)
political wisdom sidebar •Invisible contributions have no political value •There’s nothing like a perceived external threat to reduce internal conflict •Never, ever, ever send an email when you are angry •If a governor is up for re-election in 20 months, don’t bring to him a project that takes 24 months to complete
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