Intentionality: Organizational Politics, Part One

April 11, 2013 — 5 Comments

The ability to engage successfully in organizational politics is an essential component to your success in today’s global business environment.  We see it everywhere: from the Administrative Assistant’s ability to act as the gate-keeper to the bosses calendar, all the way up the organizational chart… to the CEO lobbying the Board to support his/her pet projects. At every level within every company, how you communicate equates to how well you are politically perceived.

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To become a polished politician, learn to communicate intentionally. In order to focus attention on your ideas and proposals, develop a persuasive style, and always back your position with solid facts and examples. Good leaders adjust their messaging for different audiences, but do not align themselves too strongly with any one group.

As a leader, you need to quickly identify those likely to support you, but understand that your current coalitions are only valid as long as specific needs and organizational goals are aligned. While an alliance may be powerful for the moment, changes to the organizational chart can oust existing coalitions and you may find yourself on the outside if aligned too closely with the opposition. Just because you share a common goal today does not mean that goals will align down the road.

Always be aware that organizational politics is a function of culture, as well as an indication of trust levels in the organization, and will always serve both individual and organizational agendas. Consider how to use your political leverage to promote your organizational interests, as well as your personal interests. Although it may be tempting to shy away from politics at work, you need to realize that communicating with intention in order to play the political game well is crucial to your career success. It not only provides a way for you to develop political savvy, it helps you to better comprehend how power and influence are managed within your organization.

To better understand politics within your organization, observe how things get done in your organization. Consider some key questions:

  • What are the core values and how are they demonstrated?
  • Are short or long term results valued more?
  • How is power demonstrated?
  • Are there different types of power? Formal vs. informal?
  • How are decisions made?
  • What are the behaviors that are rewarded?
  • How is risk perceived?

The answers to these questions should give you a sense of the political climate in your organization and help you to know how to communicate intentionally for political credibility.

Have you intentionally communicated to create political credibility?

You can contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next installation in the ongoing discussions of Leaders Across Boundaries & Borders.

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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

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5 responses to Intentionality: Organizational Politics, Part One

  1. Thanks, the points you mention are indeed very important. Internal politicsa need to be understood and leveraged to reach ones goals especially in big org. Jenny

    • Thanks Jenny – doing politics well is one of the most important things you can do well for your career success. Sounds like you are aware and right on target! S

  2. James Armstrong @tjamstr May 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    While it’s true that a leader has to be savy and understand the politics of their organisation and use good techniques, any leader’s tenure is short term if they have to rely on this alone and fail to become aligned with some other people. If there is no one in the organisation with whom you can be aligned then why be there? Why would anyone be influenced for long by someone who has no loyalty to them? Can an organisation be lead from outside? Granted, some relationships can ruin success and its good to identify and avoid those. Enduring leadership is, however, build on developing solid relationships and sharing the rewards of success with those with whom you can genuinely collaborate. Use your success to build good relationships. Use your relationships to build more success for yourself and shared with the members of your organisation. Your success will also be their success. Otherwise you will be continually searching for new techniques to compete with all the others, who offer much the same as you do, for the space for your contribution to be recognised.

  3. Most of my clients work in organizations which are highly matrixed. This often translates into the harsh reality of organizational politics. Let’s face it – organizations are made up of human beings which often equates to political drivers and associated consequences. Having worked in three global companies with highly matrixed structures, I get this reality first hand. In these matrixed structures, we have to learn to lead through influence and understand the incentives which drive behaviors – which is not a simple feat.

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