Ten common Questions & Answers on topics where Political Savvy “know how” can lead to the increased ability to get things done in any organization.
Innovation: “How do we stimulate innovation throughout the business?”
Top Management Team Building: “How do I get my team to stop bickering among themselves and actually start woking together as a team? Our corporate survival depends upon it!”
Internal Competition: “How do we stop the ‘turf wars’ and get people to collaborate across the division or department silos?”
Succession Planning: “Tara is top management material, but the others will eat her alive if she doesn’t get coaching to deal with the internal politics.”
Ethical Culture: “How do we build a strong ethical base for our culture?”
High Potentials: “Some of our best technical talent isn’t making it to leadership levels. How do we keep them on track?”
Leadership Development: “Even if politics doesn’t officially exist, we still need ways to prepare our leaders for how to best deal with it. How do we intelligently make it a part of our Corporate University Leadership Programs?”
‘Sharks’ & Shark Repellent: “Increased competition, change, and scarcer rewards seemed to have created more overly ambitious, self serving individuals in our organization. They hurt others, are dysfunctional, and are bad for business. Is there any way to control them?”
New Employees: “School did not prepare our people for dealing with the political realities of organizational life. Is there any kind of early training program we can add so that they don’t get blindsided?”
Women and Minorities: “In a white male dominated business it is particularly hard for women and minorities to catch on to the politics of the place. Is there any thing we can do to provide a more level playing field?’
“How do we stimulate innovation throughout the business?”–CEO A growing number of businesses are realizing that without constant innovation the ability to survive and thrive in a competitive global economy is not likely. “In the past innovation was relegated to the Research and Development division off on some campus like setting away from business operations. It is now clear that innovation needs to come from everyone. Innovation is needed not only in products and services but also in every way that the company operates.”
Successful innovation requires a supportive culture, smart risk taking, knowing how to deal with ambiguity in continously restructuring organizations, and personal leadership initiative in navigating ideas through the system. It is unfortunate that despite initiatives to encourage creativity and risk taking at every level, most innovative ideas never see the light of day and are killed prematurely.
Our research at Political Savvy provides strong evidence that a major reason for the lack of continuous innovation is the inattention to the role that organizational politics plays in the innovation process in almost every business – new ideas that if successful can create a new order of things.
As Machiavelli noted, “…It should be considered that there is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to carry through than to initiate a new order of things. For the innovator makes enemies of all those who prosper by the old order while only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from fear of their adversaries, who have existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience. In consequence, whenever those who oppose the change can do so, they attack vigorously…”
Few works on innovation even mention internal politics and most works on politics seldom get past the micro interpersonal side to address the process of innovation within the business.
Political Savvy is often the missing ingredient essential to making constant innovation an organizational reality.
The Gateway Experience allows executives and people at all levels to discover for themselves the intimate relationship between continuous innovation and political savvy.
Top Management Team Building
“How do I get my team to stop bickering among themselves and actually start working together as a team? Our corporate survival depends upon it?” –CEO
At senior levels of management at least two extra dynamics come into play. First, while unable to say so, several members want the CEO’s job. This creates an underlying tension that cannot be expressed where there may be greater incentives to undermine each other than to work together. Some people would rather be CEO of a less effective organization than a Senior Vice President of a highly effective organization.
A second and separate dynamic is sometimes called “The Land of the Bosses” syndrome. Before being promoted to Corporate Headquarters to head a major function or division, these executives have often been ‘the boss’ at units outside of corporate for years without another ‘boss’ in daily sight. Once promoted to Corporate Headquarters the person who has gotten used to being treated as the boss when they arrive at the office each day is suddenly crammed into an area where everone around them has also been ‘the boss’ for much of their career.
Entering the “Land of the Bosses” is a new experience for them, one they are often not prepared for. A common scenario is that they first act like the boss they have been for some time, but then their fellow bosses won’t let them. So they can’t go sideways. They certainly can’t boss the CEO, though some foolishly try. So they can’t go up.
Then they revert back to their more normal habits of ‘bossing’ those below them in the field. For some reason, many of them seem to forget that when they were bosses in the field they spent a good deal of their time protecting their unit from all the junk that came down from corporate. So they find they can’t quite boss downwards either. All this can become very frustrating, but of course their egos could never allow them to admit it. They can become stuck and quite frustrated. Unless something like political savvy behavior develops, this frustration can act out in ways dysfunctional to everyone around them especially the corporation. After all, this group at the top often represents the most seasoned of the companies best and brightest.
“How do we stop the ‘turf wars’ and get people to collaborate across the division or department silos?” — SVP
Businesses are designed to be collaborative within an organization, in order to compete without. Yet, far too often internal competition is the norm.
The normal process starts off simply and rationally. The business’s overall goal is subjected to the rational division of labor and broken down into smaller goals such as marketing goals, financial goals, manufacturing goals, etc.
These goals are then rationally backed by rewards of which there are not enough to fully go around. A scarce resource and scare reward environment is generally the result. This leads to irrational competition and silos between the very functions or units that are supposed to be collaborating with each other.
As a consequence, much of the organization’s energy goes into internal friction, blame, and self protectiveness rather than towards serving the customer and shareholder.
The Political Savvy Advantage shows how to turn ‘silo’ defenders into silo linkers thus creating a Win-Win Solution.
“Tara is top management material, but the others will eat her alive if she doesn’t get coaching to deal with the internal politics.”— Retiring CEO
It is still surprising to many that one can attain very high levels in the organization and still be relatively ‘clueless’ about the politics going on all around them.
Sometimes such people have excellent technical and leadership track records that political naivété was not a deterrent in reaching their current level. However, more and more studies are identifying lack of political savvy as a key derailment factor for people who otherwise are technically and business savvy.
The higher one goes in the corporation the more likely understanding the inner political workings will be critical to their longer term success. That is why in these cases receiving mentoring or coaching in political savvy can make or break individuals as they rise to the highest levels.
“How do we build a strong ethical base for our culture?”— Corporate Executive
As competition and change builds at a faster pace, the temptation to cut corners will only increase. Recent headlines indicate on the surface what is likely going on undetected in other corporations. Yet it is the ethical nature of a business and the trust it builds with key stakeholders that will play a major role in its long term success. One of the breakthrough findings of the studies was the emergence of the phrase:
For most people operating ethically is a ‘shouldism’, a type of obligation. What clearly emerged from our results was that those identified as politically savvy were seen to operate ethically – resulting in much higher influence throughout the organization than others. [see the ethics is power section of the website]. The political savvy advantage provides a clear grounding for establishing an ethical basis for a culture. Each person has their own personal best. Ethical based cultures bring out the personal best in most people. The result is an increased impact of satisfaction and performance.
“Some of our best technical talent isn’t making it to leadership levels. How do we keep them on track?” — VP Talent Mgmt.
Many organizations have high potential programs. Those with superior technical skills are put on the fast track to upper management. Even if they manage others well, their units do not seem to be making the impact desired.
Often, great technical people are not able to create the informal networks essential to get their units’ work the attention it deserves. Too many fall off the fast track for their inability to learn the informal rules of the road neccessary to be maximally effective.
Those who learn to use the Political Savvy Advantage avoid this premature stalling of their careers and continue on to make greater and greater contributions.
“Even if politics doesn’t officially exist, we still need ways to prepare our leaders for how to best deal with it. How do we intelligently make it a part of our Corporate University Leadership Programs?”–Chief Learning Officer
Because of the ingrained negative stereotypes associated with politics, it is often a very delicate issue to address directly in officially sanctioned leadership programs. Our research findings are the result of seeking the intersection of leadership and organizational politics.
One of the most promising findings is that Political Savvy (sometimes referred to as Organizational Savvy) is the hidden side of leadership. Leaders with Political Savvy were seen as the most effective of all leadership types.
Political Savvy stands for the ethical use of informal influence. Thus Political Savvy leaders were effective in both the formal and informal organization. They were able to influence and lead upward and outward in the business as well as the more traditional downward influence based upon their position power.
The Political Savvy Advantage provides Chief Learning Officers with acceptable ways to bring organizational politics out of the backroom and help leaders address the issue head on so that they can integrate it into their overall leadership approach.
‘Sharks’ and Shark repellent.
“Increased competition, change, and scarcer rewards seemed to have created more overly ambitious, self serving individuals in our organization. They hurt others, are dysfunctional, and are bad for business. Is there any way to control them?” — HR Specialist
These individuals represent the ‘sharks’ or Darth Vaders of the organization who have been seduced by the ‘dark side’. They have always existed and often use Machiavelli’s book, The Prince, as their guide. They are slick and difficult to stop completely.
There are however, some things that organizations can do. There are ways to spot them early, limit their damage, and give others a type of ‘shark’ repellent.
The Political Savvy Advantage works with organizations to set up such processes in the organization. To do so is vital.
One of the clear findings from our work and ongoing research is that if people believe it is the sharks who get promoted, then much of the other programs set up to generate greater commitment don’t work.
“School did not prepare our people for dealing with the political realities of organizational life. Is there any kind of early training program we can add so that they don’t get blindsided?”– Corporate Trainer
It is a sad fact that less than 5% of any type of undergraduate graduate, or even MBA programs, do anything to address organizational politics directly.
It shows how deeply the fear of abuse of power runs in our culture. As a result, people graduate naively believing they are prepared to succeed in the world of work.
Our findings clearly indicate that negative stereotypes can be overturned. Then ‘positive politics’, which actually reinforces the rationality of corporate decision making, can be understood and taken to heart by the vast majority of new employees.
The Political Savvy Advantage is particularly useful at getting new employees started off on the proper and ethical track for corporate and career success.
Women and Minorities
“In a white male dominated business it is particularly hard for women and minorities to catch on to the politics of the place. Is there any thing we can do to provide a more level playing field?’– EEO Officer
There is much evidence to support that any group that is not part of the dominate culture has a tougher road when it comes to effectively dealing with organizational politics.
One of the somewhat contrary findings from our work is that women actually tend to have more natural political savvy skills than most of the men.
While men tend to compete and one up each other, women tend to collaborate and seek connection. These are key attributes of those identified by their colleagues, male or female, of being politically savvy.
The other, more unfortunate, finding is that while possessing more natural political savvy ability, women tend not to use it and instead tend to act more like the men.
The Political Savvy Advantage is particularly valuable in helping women get back in touch with their political savvy abilities to better leverage the talent they bring to business.
Minorities can also gain by better understanding the basic human nature dynamics at play that cross racial lines to create a more level playing field.
Read an Article from a Certified Political Savvy Trainer on Women and Politics …coming soon.
Gain the proven benefits from the Savvy Advantage™ using various forms of Political Savvy research, books and seminars.
Mastering organizational politics through Political Savvy is a proven ethical leadership approach that any organization and any individual can use to both influence positive change in an organization and achieve career success at the same time, even when negative organizational politics are severe.