Office Politics Best Practices
I am here today with “Being the Boss” authors Linda Hill and Kent Lineback to discuss the three essentials for being a successful leader. Thank you very much for joining us, wealthy individuals. So, when you discuss network management in your book, which sounds like inter-organizational politics, what is one of the most common errors a new manager might make? I can tell you that I made the error of not doing it. Too many groups were political, and I wanted little to do with it. It didn’t assist me. It took me a long time to learn, and I’m not quite sure I ever did.
That is a grave error. Why do so many managers appear to share this impulse? It’s a waste of my time, and I’m not going to deal with it. I believe that many managers feel this way because they believe that power corrupts you, that it’s a bad thing, and that you don’t want to be using your power or playing with those politics, rather than recognizing that organizations are inherently political entities. Organizations are political because they have three sources of conflict that are part of their nature. There are different points of view, and we have to figure out how to deal with them because they are part of the nature of organizations.
Unless you pay attention to them and learn how to use them effectively, you will find yourself weak and unable to accomplish what you believe to be the appropriate course of action. If you want to behave ethically and productively, you must pay attention to those dynamics and use them to get things done rather than being scared of them or dismissing them, because it’s unlikely that Linda is pointing out something you haven’t already considered.
I had never considered that, but impotence corrupts; if you don’t have authority, you can’t stand up for what you feel is good in an organization, and how many individuals throughout history have said, “I had to do it because they forced me to do it because they were powerless.” At the risk of getting too personal, because you talked about your own experiences, I wanted to ask if you often feel helpless because you didn’t pay more attention to the politics of the company.
I probably would not have called it impotence, despite the fact that it definitely was. I just discovered that several tasks I wanted to do did not get done. I did not construct bridges with other individuals. Something is wrong with them. It did not operate really well. Let’s delve a little more into how someone in such a position may develop these ties. I am aware that you mentioned the requirement for three networks in your book. Could you perhaps elaborate on what they are, and then we can discuss how we can go about achieving that? Why are there three?
Well, I feel there are several aspects to consider. I feel that one of the reasons individuals neglect or don’t pay attention to politics is that they believe they should direct their attention to the people they have official responsibility over. They fail to grasp that you require other people for a variety of purposes, which is why you should focus on three networks. You need one group to assist you get a work, another to help you get a task done, and a third to help you finish the job. Only then will you be able to accomplish your task daily.
Then you need your strategic network, which is a network that you utilize to keep track of what is actually happening and what possibilities are there for your team to take advantage of, as well as the obstacles or dangers for which they must prepare. Your development network is actually your strategic network. To have access to the type of job experience you require, you must have the appropriate connections, as who you know influences what you can do and how much you are paid. If you know who should be in your developmental network as opposed to your operational network, you are aware that there can be overlap between these three networks. So, if you can make this overlap happen, or if it already does, it will be easier to grow these networks, since they all take time and work.
You cannot just remark, “By the way, I suppose when we were younger, we used to ask, “Will you be my friend?” You cannot simply approach someone and say, “Will you be Will you, as my mentor, sponsor me? You can not do it that way; you must first nurture and establish credibility with that individual before determining who should be in those networks. And unless you understand the group’s plan and your own developmental needs, you won’t be in a good position to determine who you should be targeting to try to build relationships with, and you’ll also need to ensure that you can create opportunities to build those relationships in a meaningful way, which requires strategic consideration of whether you might want to be on that task force.
You have access to a person who may be significant to another area of the organization that may be crucial to your group’s future, therefore you must consider this access wisely. Because your goals must align with the firm’s direction and you must grasp how the company is moving, you must also comprehend the company and its direction. To be successful in the future, you must understand how your group’s plans align with that, and if you don’t, it may be a sign of a larger problem, or you could just pay closer attention.
I believe that sometimes we act as if you can formulate a strategy by sitting at your desk rather than writing it down. The following is what I observe. It resembles an analytical assignment, but it is much more than that. In order to make this decision, you must collect information from all of the many constituencies on whom you, your group, and you depend. Consequently, you ensure that your priorities align with those of the other members of the company and that they understand what your priorities are.
So when you go to ask for that large-scale favor, they know you’re well-intentioned and they understand what you’re about, rather than feeling like you’re trying to force them to do something in your interest that they don’t understand because you haven’t taken the time to build a relationship with them and collect information about how your needs are consistent with or need to be reconciled with their needs. Because you cannot have a healthy relationship with someone if you only interact with them when there is an issue. Problems are a poor foundation for a relationship.
As Linda suggests, you must first establish the relationship, after which the problems may be viewed and addressed within the context of an existing partnership. I believe that what happens to individuals like myself is that we all form networks. We do not live in our workplaces and never leave, but we do build relationships with those we must interact with. We have no option but to do the job, and we build networks with individuals we like, while we avoid interacting with those we dislike. I believe that one of the arguments we are making is that you do not have the freedom to make such a distinction.
You must identify the individuals whose assistance you require to complete your tasks and who will place demands on you. You must actively seek out and cultivate relationships with them; personal chemistry plays little role in this. You may enjoy a beer, coffee, or other beverage with some of them, but not with all of them. You must have a connection, which has nothing to do with physical attraction. I believe it is crucial to pay attention to this, especially now that we have multinational corporations.
So I’d like to figure out how to build relationships with people on the other side of the world who have grown up with a very different perspective about authority, about time, and about a variety of other things, and you need to work all of that out with them when there’s not a whole lot of urgency, so that when we’re working on an issue or a problem, we’re taking advantage of an opportunity to understand each other.
We’ve been discussing how the manager in this example perceives others, but one of the things you urged people to do in the book that I believe is really helpful is to ask, “How do others see me?” Do they trust me? “Do they enjoy working with me?” Even if they like you as a person, what are some indications that they may not trust you or like working with you?
I believe that one of the instances in the book, which is a situation I frequently use, is when you attend a meeting and learn that some of the attendees had a meeting before the meeting without you. They determined the outcome of the meeting of the bigger group, and you were not involved. You are excluded for the reasons stated by Linda. You are not seen as powerful. Perhaps people dislike dealing with you. Rarely does someone who likes you exclude you.
Typically, it is the opposite way around. If you are skilled yet unpleasant to interact with, people will avoid you. You must perceive yourself as others do, and you must perceive yourself as Linda. I believe he consistently emphasizes the importance of understanding how others feel while they’re with you, a perspective that most of us in management rarely adopt. It is useful. One of the subjects covered in the book is what happens if you are a competent jerk, which is a highly technical word. One of my coworkers really proposed this, and what you’ll discover is that if you’re a competent jerk, people will deal with you and you’ll be part of a network.
People will seek you out. But the more you insult people or make it difficult for them to work with you, the less they care about your competence. They act as though they collaborate with you, but they do not. They now shun you and no longer involve you. What you will realize is that you will lose your competence because, once again, we get our competence through engaging with other individuals.
This is where expertise originates, and if you’re isolated, you won’t have the most recent expertise, won’t know what’s truly vital, and won’t know how to use that information most effectively in your business. Instead of believing there is a cabal or some type of plot, perhaps you might examine your own behavior and ask, “Am I the best person to deal with?” On the contrary, I do not believe that any of us is naive. There are organizations that are political in a bad sense, and I recently advised a senior executive on this topic, to which I said, “Yes.”
Consequently, there are instances when you draw back. When you do your thing, you remain with your group, which is perhaps another reason why people sometimes avoid politics: when they consider them, they consider the terrible, dark side that might occur.
For instance, there are situations in this cave where you should stay out of them, but in general, the best way to deal with people who try to abuse their influence in the organization is to hunker down and do the work, assuming that the right answer, good work, and all of that will speak for itself. Sadly, this is not always the case, and I think what we say in the book is that if you want to do this right, you’re thinking that the right answer, good work, and all of this is detrimental to the group.
This has nothing to do with your career; rather, it’s about ensuring that your group has the appropriate expectations and resources. So, if you find that you never have what you need, etc., you must ask yourself if this is because you’re not doing enough as a manager, whose responsibility it is to create the conditions necessary for your group’s success. If you’re not doing this, then your group cannot be successful, and they’re highly dependent on you to help them achieve this, so you cannot afford to ignore this responsibility once you move into a managerial position. It is a difficult topic, and there is much to consider.