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Learning To Smile As You Kill

Optimize Blog - October 31, 2016 - 0 comments

Politics in business is an inevitability and so to solemnly declare that you are not going to play the game is rather naive. Simply put, others are playing the game and so you need to engage or be eliminated.  We are often dismayed at the number of times strong participants are tossed to the curb in favour of those who used their carefully honed political strengths to success as opposed to their job skills.
Much of the problem is our misplaced “need to be me” and if we are not good at the politics we immediately label it as wrong. “But what about authentic leadership?” we hear you cry. Well, authenticity is important but it is authenticity in the role that you are being asked to perform that is key…..did we mention that leadership is about playing a role….?
People that make the excuse that “this is who I am” are really missing the point and are ill suited to leadership.  You have to be what the role demands that you be – a leader.
  Of course you need to stay true to your values but framed in the context of the execution of the role as a leader.
But enough distraction from the core of this tale and let’s get back to ‘kill or be killed’ in the metaphorical sense.  In a perfect world we should collaborate, be aligned, respect each other, put ‘we’ before ‘me’ and be happy for the success of others but we’ll leave that fairytale for the next “secret to success” management blockbuster.
Humans by nature are not wired this way and as we add ambition to the mix it can all get quite nasty really quickly.
Knowing when to fight and when to step back are skills hard learned in the cauldron of the business world, as is the ability to operate ‘reading between the lines’….interpreting what is not said as well as what is said.   There really is no short cut – you get good at politics by practicing and like any skills development we try and learn from our mistakes. However, there are a couple of things you can do to help you succeed:

 First build a broad coalition of support – lobby for the respect and trust of your colleagues and forge alliances by sharing credit for successes and delivering results.
 Second you should avoid gossip and backstabbing as this damages your own credibility.  Stick to facts and be direct but tactful as required.
 Third, tailor your messaging and approach to each audience – understand what their priorities are and frame your conversations accordingly.
Our final point here is to say that we are not advocating that you become some type of Machiavellian character but what we are saying is that to be effective as a leader you need to understand and be good at navigating the politics which only get more complicated with higher stakes as you ascend the corporate ladder.
Politics in business is a fact of life. Accept it and don’t forget to play along…..

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