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How Good Are You at Office Politics?

Posted by Louellen Essex on January 16, 2014 in Leadership

It takes more than hard work to build a successful career. While the words office politics often conjure up negative images of ruthless people who will do anything to get ahead, effective leaders don’t shy away from engaging. They carefully analyze how power is accessed and utilized in their organizations. They cultivate influence so they are better able to achieve the results they desire for the work units they lead. Most importantly, they reject the notion that politics is always nasty business. They build coalitions to garner the resources they need to get important work accomplished.

Test your political savvy by answering the following questions with yes, somewhat, or no:

1. Are you aware of how leadership success is measured in your organization?

2. Are you engaged in top priority organizational initiatives?

3. Can you describe how things get done in your organization?

4. Have you established credibility as a results-oriented performer?

5. Do you know who are the most influential people in your organization?

6. Have you built effective relationships with the influential people who are key to your success?

7. Do you have a wide network of positive relationships spanning several areas and levels in your organization?

8. Are you a strong advocate for the work unit you lead?

9. Are you able to communicate persuasively?

10. Can you adjust a message for a given audience?

Add the number of times you gave each response. Give yourself 3 points for each time you responded Yes, 2 points for each time you responded Somewhat, and 1 point for each time you responded No. Then, add the three numbers. Here’s what your total suggests.

Your political acumen is exceptional. Continue to use your awareness to build a strong base of influence. Define the results you and your staff want to achieve and use the influence you have built to make a significant impact.

You have a good start at understanding office politics. Develop a keener sense of observation and study your organization more carefully. Note the strategies influential people use to further their initiatives and incorporate them, if they are a good fit, into your work style.

You have a “flicker” of political savvy. Conduct a careful analysis of your organizational culture and begin to strategically build a base of influence. Foster relationships, while focusing on strategic initiatives that will make your work valuable to your organization. Move quickly or your success, and the success of your work unit, may be at risk.

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You are apparently unaware of office politics! That puts you at risk for being blind- sided by events that could derail your career and compromise your work unit. Develop a relationship with a mentor or coach who can help you learn the ropes.

Becoming more aware of the power dynamics in your organization allows you to be more strategic in working through the organizational maze to get things done. Amassing influence for personal gain is only self-serving. Doing so to further your work unit’s mission is only good leadership.

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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex