Archives For Organizational Politics

Gossip is as old as mankind, and if you have drama in the workplace – you more than likely have gossip. They can be found in nearly every workplace, these conspiratorial conversations that are more often than not unverified, unsubstantiated, and occasionally unseemly. It can be the type of chatter that can appear, at face value, as harmless speculation or good-natured teasing,  but if left unchecked, has the potential to severely impact your ability to generate positive business results. Leaders need to recognize that gossip can have a profound effect on their bottom line, and that not having a strategy to handle it could be a recipe for disaster.

It may sound like a harmless, unavoidable by-product of corporate life, but left unchecked, gossip can wreak havoc on company morale and efficiency. A negative work environment is a less productive work environment. Gossip can create an uncomfortable atmosphere –  not only for the person the gossip is about, but for everyone in the workplace.

Gossip can often become likened to the old childhood game of “Telephone”, where one person starts the spread of information, and by the time it reaches the last person, it has evolved and changed into something entirely different. Some gossip may have truth to it, while other information carried on the gossip relay may be false. Either way, gossip is a harmful means of communication and should be avoided.

Here are just a few destructive results of gossip in the workplace:

  • Wasted time and lost productivity
  • Severe erosion of trust and morale
  • Hurt feelings and the possibility of reprisals
  • Miscommunication leading to conflict, missed opportunities or misinformation
  • Heightened fear or falsely raised expectations
  • A “toxic” work environment

Now that you understand the serious impact that gossip can have, what can you do about it? First, you need to understand that you are not likely to completely eliminate it. However, you also need to understand that how an organization deals with habitual gossip can be mean the difference between growing and thriving… or disintegrating from within. Understanding the effect it has on achieving your organization’s goals and objectives, your goal should be to limit gossip to the greatest extent possible.  Below are some tips for controlling gossip in the workplace:

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We have all experienced workplace drama in one form or another. It can be unpleasant, irritating, and disruptive  – often preventing organizations from effectively meeting their goals.  As a leader, you are responsible for maintaining a productive, drama-free workplace. You rely on people to do their jobs in such a way that results are successfully achieved. Because you work with people to get things done, you are likely to experience drama in the workplace. It can sometimes feel like an experience similar to the television show “The Nanny” – the kids (your organization) are spoiled and/or unruly, and you are the Nanny – responsible for teaching the foundational skills that lead to organizational success. However, in the workplace (just as with dysfunctional families) the gossip, complaining, and backstabbing leads to full blown negativity that will result in increased turnover and absenteeism. How you manage drama within your organization may determine your ultimate outcomes.

It may feel personal at times, but as the “Nanny”, it is your job to get the children back in line, ensuring they learn and engage in appropriate behaviors that will create positive results for the organization. For the next few weeks, we will explore several ideas – hopefully providing you, the leader, with a toolbox to ensure that you are in a position to eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) drama in the workplace. If you successfully manage the drama, you are much more likely to see the positive results you desire.

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This post is about you – as an organizational leader. Lifelong learning is a critical component of our personal and professional growth that we often seem to forget as we rise through the ranks. Unfortunately, as most of us become more senior within the organization, there is an undeniable challenge we face – facilitating our own ongoing growth and development. It becomes more and more difficult to identify growth opportunities, training, relevant readings, etc. and to deny the pull to remain stagnant – focusing on what we already know vs. the potential we have to know more. Perhaps most importantly, there is often a stealth sense of false complacency that emerges as a result of past success. However, the reality is that with the frequency and scale of change in global organizations, the leader that is not continually growing and changing with the environment may very well find that  s/he has been left behind at the last jumping off point.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own personal development…and reaching your potential.  Many leaders let the business take priority over reaching their potential, or wait for the company to assume ownership of their development. Is this really what is most beneficial for you, and by default, the organizaion?  As leaders, it is easy to forget that it is far more effective to stretch ourselves, and thereby our organizations, than it is to settle for the status quo.  But how do you continually push yourself to think harder and go further? You can employ any number of self-help philosophies, but the reality is that you will probably not follow through – and if you do, they will typically not generate the results you hoped they would.

Finding and engaging a good mentor may be a critical success factor you are missing. Mentoring is a process about enabling and supporting your personal and professional growth. Organizational life can sometimes feel like climbing up the side of a mountain – as we struggle up the steep parts we are breathless, challenged, single-minded, and in need of support and sustenance. There may even be some moves we can not make without being tied to a partner. Mentoring can help with your changes in altitude, and enable you to get to higher ground – where you just may be able to see things from a different perspective. You will be able to see the mountains in the distance and new ways forward that were just not visible from your position below. Your mentor should facilitate a process that leads you to consider different perspectives, new ways of thinking, and deeper self-knowledge.

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High potential global leaders quickly realize that there are challenges and roadblocks that they were not prepared for and that had not previously been contemplated.  Topics such as politics, networking, accountability, challenging the status quo, mentoring/coaching, execution, big picture/small picture balance,  etc. are not necessarily taught in business school, but these obstacles can derail careers and cause people to question their commitment to global business. If we are to successfully evolve leadership on a global basis, it is vitally important that we understand these challenges and ensure they are addressed – if not in business school, then certainly within our organizations. Here is the second installment with two more important aspects of global leadership that are not typically taught in business school:

1)   How To Navigate Organizational Politics

The definition of organizational  politics, or (more importantly) how to navigate them, is simply not taught in business school, yet the ability to master the political chessboard is absolutely essential to every executive’s success. A critical component to organizational success is sponsorship and stakeholder engagement. If you engage support from above, laterally, and below, you are likely to succeed. This equates to political influence. To influence others requires building relationships of trust and persuading others to follow, thus leading to power within your domain. To ignore politics in your organization is to ignore those underlying forces that account for the difference between success and failure between equally talented people.  People who understand and use politics to their advantage are much more likely to succeed than their politically naïve counterparts.

Leaders need to quickly identify those likely to support them and build strong coalitions aligning individual needs with organizational goals. You must realize that in addition to power and influence, organizational politics is a function of culture – and that politics will always serve both individual and organizational agendas. In order to master the political chessboard, you must to take a strategic approach to politics and should employ the following tips, while recognizing this is not an exhaustive list:

 

 

 

  • Spend time with opponents: Most of us spend time with our allies, who we trust and who agree with us… when the people we have the most to learn from are our opponents.
  • Never take anything personally: If it’s not personal it is far easier to maintain focus on what we are trying to achieve. It is our choice whether or not we will personalize things that happen.
  • Constantly reframe: It is natural to assume that it is “all about us” – the alternative is to recognize that much of politics is about people working to get things done within a diverse community of interests.
  • Leverage power dynamics: Recognize that power comes in several forms: legitimate, referent, reward, expert, and coercive power. Much of politics is based on power – who’s got it and how you can use it to your advantage.
  • Build on mutually beneficial interlocking relationships: The better you are at networking, the better you will be at organizational politics.
  • Focus on interests, not positions: In the interest of finding common ground, care about people’s interests and ask more questions.

Leaders need to inspire people to act by creating clarity and unity of purpose – building synergies through organizational values. We can leverage political skills to manipulate others… or to influence them to achieve more than they ever thought possible. As a global leader, which do you believe will accomplish more and move the organization forward faster?

2)   How To Find A Strong Mentor / How To Be A Value-add Mentor

Seeking a qualified mentor is as difficult as becoming one – and business school does not prepare our leaders for either scenario. Early in a career, a mentor is invaluable, and having the necessary skills to seek out and convince a value-add leader to invest in you can expedite your career exponentially. It’s hard to overestimate the value of a confidant from whom you can seek feedback on your ideas, advice on strategy, or a little support when things are not going as well as expected. But cultivating a mentor can be difficult – it takes perseverance to find the right person (with the right skills, position and attitude) that is willing to invest significant time and energy into your success. Unfortunately, the knowledge and wisdom to engage a mentor or coach early in a leaders career is not something that is readily facilitated in business school,  nor once out in the workplace when it could be truly effective and meaningful. Do not make the mistake that so many executives do (at any stage in your career) – find an exceptional mentor or hire a phenomenal coach.

Here are just a few qualities to seek,  either as an individual trying to identify a mentor or as a mentor seeking to maximize your value:

 

 

  • Willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise – A good mentor teaches what s/he knows willingly, understanding that good mentoring requires time and commitment. S/he is willing to share information and their ongoing support.
  • Acts as a positive role model – A good mentor exhibits the personal attributes it takes to be successful. S/he continually demonstrates the specific behaviors and actions required to succeed.
  • Takes a personal interest – A good mentor does not take his/her responsibility as a mentor lightly. S/he feels invested in a protégés and is committed to helping them find success and gratification in their chosen profession. Overall good mentoring requires empowering a mentee to develop their own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes.
  • Provides guidance and constructive feedback – One of the key responsibilities of a good mentor is to provide guidance and constructive feedback to their mentee.
  • Good Listening Skills – a good mentor will genuinely listen, know your interests and commitments, and be able to ask you, first hand, how things are going.
  • Engenders Respect at all levels of the organization – A good mentor is someone who is well respected and whose contributions are appreciated.

The question remains – Can we facilitate the success of high potential global leaders through the acquisition of critical skills not taught in business school?

Because this is supposed to be a blogpost and not a book, I have addressed just two additional critical skills not taught in business school – the remainder of the abbreviated list will appear as next weeks post. I would love for you to engage the discussion, and let me know what skills you believe are critical to global business that are not taught in business school. Please feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the final (extended) installment of Business School or School of Hard Knocks?

We all know that a keen comprehension of organizational politics is absolutely essential for leadership to maneuver the company towards its’ goals. Leaders use political leverage to promote their organizational interests, as well as personal interests occasionally. As an Extreme Global Leader you know that in order to realize a game-changing future, you will need more than just a great gameplan – you must master the political chessboard. A critical component to organizational success is sponsorship and stakeholder engagement. If a leader engages support from above, laterally, and below, s/he is likely to succeed. This equates to political influence – and to influence others requires building relationships of trust and persuading others to follow. That is what politics is about.

Leaders need to quickly identify those likely to support them and build strong coalitions aligning individual needs with organizational goals, in such a way that fulfillment of collective goals results in automatic fulfillment of individual needs at the same time. Leaders must realize 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.

In order to master the political chessboard, Extreme Global Leaders need to take a strategic approach to politics and should employ the following, as appropriate:

  1. Spend time with opponents: Most of us spend time with our allies, who we trust and who agree with us… when the people we have the most to learn from are our opponents.
  2. Never take anything personally: If it is not personal it is far easier to maintain focus on what we are trying to achieve. It is our choice whether or not we will personalize things that happen.
  3. Constantly reframe: It is natural to assume that it is “all about us” – the alternative is to recognize that much of politics is about people working to get things done within a diverse community of interests.
  4. Leverage the power dynamic: Recognize that power can come in several forms: legitimate, referent, reward, expert, and coercive power. Much of politics is based on power – who’s got it and how you can use it to your advantage.
  5. Build on mutually beneficial interlocking relationships: The better you are at networking, the better you will be at organizational politics.
  6. Focus on interests, not positions: In the interest of finding common ground, care about people’s interests and ask more questions. Why is this person interested in …? What is s/he trying to achieve? How can you help? How do interests align?

Leaders need to inspire people to act by creating clarity and unity of purpose and build synergies through organizational values. We can leverage political skills to manipulate others… or to influence them to achieve more than they ever thought possible – which one will accomplish more and move the organization forward faster?

Have you mastered the political chessboard?

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