Browsing the blog archives for February, 2010.

Personal failure of org savvy

Broader role, Geek 5

In the previous post, I presented a definition of organizational politics. One of the keys points is that you must be aware of the politics to spin them for positive uses and to not fall victim to them. Personally I have fallen prey to these issues. Specifically, I always believed that good work would be rewarded and the person with the best ideas would be listened to. The reality that I found was that I occasionally ran afoul of organizational politics, because I did not pay attention to them. Good ideas went unnoticed or even worse, other people got credit for my work.

In one case several years ago, I was in charge of a new project to test e-learning within our organization. At the time, the work was outside of my job description, but the Director of Training position was empty, so I was tasked with the work. I was excited about the project, because I had done significant e-learning work with my previous employers.

The company had no foundation for e-learning and the senior leaders put a tight timeline on getting a pilot going (so they could discuss it with the Board of Directors). I led a fabulous team and we accomplished a monumental task. We had to define the project, set a strategy, get buy in from various parts of the company, find vendors, determine technology (in a company with limited technology resources), plan a rollout, develop content and more. We accomplished great things and delivered a strong pilot.

Soon after the pilot launched, we hired a new Director of Training. All of the thought work was done and we had done and executed all of the very complex planning. I assumed that I would get credit for the success of the project, since I was the leader that did all of the heavy lifting. However, the new Director of Training was a better politician that I was. He also got to be the one to announce the metrics and indicators that proved that it was a good solution.

As I result, I started hearing about what a great job he had done, and the positive impact he made on the company. Everyone seemed to forget that all of the work was done and humming along by the time he came along. In hindsight, my mistake was that I did not do enough to toot my own horn and toot the horn of the team as we went along. I assumed that everyone knew what we were doing. I focused on the task and not the glory. As a result, I wasn’t automatically associated with the project and the success. I lost that battle of organizational politics. I performed as a leader, but I was not seen as a leader.

If I had taken into consideration that I needed to influence the organization and increase my power as the definition of organizational savvy states, I might have gotten more recognition. Fortunately I recovered from this goof.  If you have had similar oversights, you can recover too.

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Defining Organizational Politics

Geek 5, Org savvy

The tagline for Geeks Gone Pro is “Gain professional savvy to advance your career”.  Of the Geek 5, one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome is resistance to a broader role.  Frequently people tell me that they “don’t want to play the political game”.  The reality is that if you are working in a group with two or more people there are always some politics going on.  The key is define what that all means and determine how you can stay true to your principles while it is occurring.

There is a book called Survival of the Savvy by Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman that I use a lot in my work. This book does a terrific job of framing the importance of savvy for career and company success. The authors present a compelling model of the dangers of being under political and the dangers of being over political. They guide readers to find a balance that will serve them well at work. Over the next few posts, we’re going to explore some elements of this book and discuss how they apply to geeks.

On page one, Brandon and Seldman tackle two key issues that I often see when coaching geeks. The first is to recognize that corporate politics do exist. Anyone naïve enough to try to ignore politics will usually find their career at a dead end or at least in a holding pattern. Acknowledging that politics exist is the first challenge. They describe this as a “corporate survival of the fittest.

The second issue they address on page one is the fact that the word “politics” is usually spun as a dirty word. The word connotes manipulation and compromising values for self-serving purposes. Recent events on Wall Street have proven to us that the negative side of politics definitely exist. Even so, Brandon and Seldman  argue that organizational politics can also be positive – they call this “high-integrity politics“. Before you react to this idea, consider their definition and explanation. They define organizational politics as:

…informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or achieve other targeting objectives.

From this definition, politics can be neutral or even positive if the targeted objectives are focused on the good of the company or team and if the influence tactics have integrity (legal and fair).

Get comfortable with the idea that politics exist and that they can be positive as well as negative.  Once you open to that idea, you can identify politics and react to political maneuvering.

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