Browsing the archives for the power dynamics tag.

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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Reading Power Dynamics part 1

Geek 5, Org savvy

In Survival of the Savvy, Brandon and Seldman discuss two risk points that are especially relevant to geeks – sabotage and power dynamics. In previous posts, we covered the definition of sabotage and how to react to it. In this post, we’ll cover how to read power dynamics and some strategies for dealing with them.

Power dynamics center on who has the power and influence in your organization. Sometimes it is obvious. Official position power refers to people who are high up in the hierarchy and org chart. They have power due to their position. Even so, people with position power have different levels of effectiveness and influence. Sometimes you’ll find a leader who has the title, but functions like a lame duck, because his or her ideas are not valued. Even peers in similar roles can have different levels of influence based on their level of organizational savvy, networks, and of course, their knowledge and competence.

Unofficial influence power is less obvious, because you don’t find it on an org chart. This refers to people who have power without the title. These are people who can make things happen and are considered well-connected in the organization. Sometimes their power is based on having great ideas or a dominant personality and sometimes it is about their network. Part of becoming a politically savvy person is learning to watch and understand individual behaviors and group dynamics. You can identify people with unofficial position power by observing some of the following:

– Who is in the favored, inner circle of the boss or other power players?
– Who always seems to know everything that is going on?
– Who acts an advisor to the boss?
– Who can get away with bending the rules?
– Who can always seem to avoid blame for team issues?

Another group with unofficial influence power is the up and comers, often described as emerging leaders. These are fast-rising superstars who often have access to senior leaders through work and mentoring. High-potential superstars are often very ambitious and aggressive about their careers. Some of them will fall into the over-political bucket. Be wary of anyone who seems focused on his or her own career to the detriment of others and the company.

To effectively read power dynamics, you need to amp up your observation skills. Watch and listen with peers and bosses and teams. Think about situations from the perspective of other folks. Determine their goals and motivations and think abut how those intersect with your own goals and motivations. Watch and think!

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Fighting the flaws

Geek 5, Org savvy

I’ve described some potential risk factors for under political (UP) people. If you are at risk for some of those, you need to focus on becoming more balanced and moving toward the center of the continuum. With balance, you can have a “power of the savvy” style and have impact with integrity.

To get there, you need to:

– Keep your values but add political skill
– Move from selfless to self-ful
– Add influence and impact to integrity

Please notice that these recommendations never suggest that you need to become a ruthless shark in order to succeed. You need to keep the core foundation of your work ethic and integrity. You should just add some additional skills to your repertoire.

Brandon and Seldman identify a series of savvy tactics:

– Map political styles

– Deactivate your political buttons

– Detect power dynamics, agendas, and unwritten rules

– Know the corporate buzz

– Weave a safety network

– Manage the airwaves

– Promote yourself with integrity

– Pump up your power image

– Address hidden agendas

– Defuse sabotage

 In the next post, we’ll delve into some of these – defusing sabotage and reading power dynamics.  For more details on the rest of these, check out the book.

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