Reading power dynamics part 2

Favorite posts, Geek 5, Org savvy

In a previous post, we talked about how to identify the power players in your organization.  Once you have identified the official and unofficial power players, you need to continue to pay attention to them and what they are doing.  Paying attention allows you to react appropriately and protect your own interests and the interests of your team and organization.  In addition, you have to pay attention to the priorities and conflicts in the group. 

Here are some suggestions for reading power dynamics:

1. Watch and learn about the power players in your company.  Learn to read their agendas (public and hidden). To do this, you can:

  • Determine their priorities. Where do they give their attention and spend their time?
  • Watch body language and voice tone for signals of approval and irritation.
  • Ask people who know them about their management style and preferences.
  • Find out the leader’s personal preferences, passions and concerns. These can give you insight into the person.  It might also identify a common interest.  One warning – never try to fake an interest in an activity just to connect with someone else.  If you do, you’ll just seem insincere and fake.  Remember, you can be savvy and successful at organizational politics without sacrificing your integrity or values.

2. Pay attention to unwritten rules, so you don’t get tripped up by them.  

3. Don’t just listen to what is said. You also need to pay attention to how it is said and who says it and how other people react to it.  Be aware – watch these interactions.

4. Listen to your gut. If you are listening and watching, you’ll start to determine when something smells like bad politics, a power play or manipulation. Learn to trust your instincts.

5. When you detect problems, don’t react in the moment. Take your time to collect more information, make sure you know the scope of the issue and proceed with a plan.

Following these guidelines will help youto  survive the hidden risks in your organization.  More importantly, you can use your increased savvy to turn negative politics into positive politics that help you succeed and build credibility. 

This wraps up our discussion on Brandon and Seldman’s book, Survival of the Savvy.   We’ve discussed topics such as defining organizational politics, being under-political, overcoming fatal flaws, fighting sabotage and reading power dynamics.   This book is a resource that I use frequently and recommend to the executives that I coach – especially those with deep technical expertise.   We’ll come back to the topic of organizational savvy over time, since it is an important part of the Geek 5.

If you only take away three ideas from this series of posts, they should be:

1.  Organizational politics exist everywhere.  Even choosing not to play is a form of playing.

2.  Organizational savvy is about building relationships that can help you be more effective at your job. 

3.  You can become savvy at politics and relationships without sacrificing your integrity.

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