The higher up you coach in an organization, the more politics is a true issue. It’s a base to cover with leaders that turns out to be somewhat of a taboo for some. I have even had people tell me “there are no politics” in their organization. Well, that’s just not so. And “politics” is not a dirty word, either! It refers to shifts in power and the execution of authority in any way in which it appears in your workplace. So, it is the stuff that daily interactions are made of for those seeking influence within the organization.
According to the Politics Portal:
Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions on who gets what. The term is generally applied to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in all human group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions.
Politics consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and refers to the regulation of a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.
What it does NOT entail is being untruthful, ruthless, sneaky or otherwise dishonest. In its highest sense, it seeks justice and fairness, clarity and consistency across decisions. When done ethically, politics is as fascinating as any aspect of human relations. Who is asking for what? Who feels connected to whom? How do powerful players interact in this scenario? More and more, if you are in a top management position and not conciously “doing politics”, you are not in the game!
Cornell professor, Samuel Bacharach in his straightforward video for Inc. Magazine goes so far as to say “If you don’t do politics, you shouldn’t be a CEO” and considers politics, along with managerial skills essential for top leaders. He claims you must be adept at politics to be successful in a top position. And I can only agree with that.
Understanding what each player wants, why they wanted, what pull or push will they exert to get it is critical to negotiating the right agreements for your organization. It takes thorough understanding of the interactions between the people in power (whether their power is formal or informally gained) to navigate the sea of connections and bring people together on the important issues. To be great at politics you need to be a good observer, a great listener and a wise participant in the right interactions. Once you get the hang of it, seeing the links can be rewarding, exciting and interesting. An so can the other aspect of politics: knowing yourself well: your intentions, your reach, your own power and keeping it balanced, true, centered. Welcome to the fascinating world of politics. There’s no way around it, so hop right in!