As a leader, how often do you feel that you are expected to brag and beg to get the resources needed to be successful in achieving your organization’s mission? How often do your employees feel the same way about their careers and professional success?
Regardless of their type, organizations inherently are political entities. While some, such as those in the public sector, are more overtly political than others, internal and external politics seldom are far from the surface. Consider the politics intrinsic in these common scenarios:
Despite the fact that success depends heavily on their adeptness at navigating internal and external political processes, few leaders are willing or feel able to embrace that aspect of their jobs. One reason might be that politics in general have a bad reputation. For example, in a recent article, Washington Post columnist George Will quoted an individual who explained his reluctance to run for public office by saying, “Your parents warn you not to brag about yourself or beg, and what you do in politics is brag and beg.”
The fact is that while negotiating the relevant political system(s) effectively is part of an organizational leader’s job, bragging and begging are not necessary. Those who have been successful in navigating their political white waters engage effectively in at least four activities: (1) assiduously cultivating relationships, (2) learning and following the relevant political process(es), (3) demonstrating the value of the anticipated outcome to those affected, and (4) allowing stakeholders to make decisions along the way. Most notably, leaders who can show positive results communicate a powerful message. As St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean famously proclaimed early in 1934 when he predicted that his team would win the World Series that year, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” It turns out he wasn’t bragging.
Navigating the political process successfully without bragging or begging is a skill that can be learned and improved. To read about some time-tested, universal lessons in political acumen accumulated over the years by a fire chief who has been successful in guiding stakeholders through their political white waters, take a look at our article How to Succeed in Public Safety Politics without Bragging or Begging.
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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.
The ability to set and, perhaps more importantly, to implement organizational priorities is a critical success factor for leaders. When there are dozens of things to be done, someone must step forward to bring order out of chaos. Too often, however, workplaces are filled with employees who feel discouraged because they are spinning their wheels, or frustrated by the lack of clear and consistent direction, or burned out because everything should have been done yesterday.
Here are some reasons why people find it difficult to set and implement priorities:
- Indecisiveness due to fear of making the “wrong” choice.
- Reluctance or inability to make hard decisions.
- Mistaken belief that good intentions are enough.
- Low level of importance or urgency.
- Lack of accountability – i.e., there are no consequences for non-performance.
Consider these facts:
- Priorities involve choices about how to use time.
- There can be only one “top” priority: by definition, there is a rank order to choices.
- Priorities are what you DO, not what you SAY you will do.
- When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
Here are ten ways to improve your ability to establish and implement priorities:
1. Realistically determine importance and urgency by asking and truthfully answering two questions: (1) “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do/don’t do XYZ?” And (2) “Can I live with that outcome?”
2. Only people, things, and tasks that are directly aligned with achieving the mission or goals can be priorities.
3. Treat the setting of priorities as a resource allocation issue: develop realistic, WRITTEN time lines and schedules that indicate when you will accomplish what is needed to achieve each priority.
4. Use effective, easily utilized and understood decision-making tools (e.g., ranking, paired comparison, matrices, other forms of analysis).
5. Specify decision criteria BEFORE you start making choices.
6. Have someone hold you accountable for achieving your stated priorities.
7. Set your priorities BEFORE you make commitments that require your time.
8. Focus on the end result or “big picture.”
9. Identify a reasonable number of priorities at any given time; add others as you complete them.
10. Find a process that works well for you and follow it consistently.
If you could do only one thing to increase the quality of your life, it would be this: make self-care your #1 priority – not “one of the top” priorities or “a” top priority, but THE top priority. Why? Perhaps counter-intuitively, tending to your own needs enables you to do a much better job of taking care of others. There’s a very sound reason why airline flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to assist others: if you pass out, you are no good to anyone, including yourself. In fact, you have just become part of the problem.
As an added bonus: the techniques suggested above work just as well in personal situations as they do in the workplace.
© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.
If you have worked for nearly any organization in any capacity for any length of time, no doubt you have learned this fact: not everyone is capable of being a manager. Often employees are promoted to a supervisory/managerial position because they were really good at the job they were doing. Unfortunately management requires different skills, abilities, and competencies that they may not have. Sometimes the people who are hired or promoted have great potential, but their organizations don’t invest the resources in helping them be fully successful managers. In other cases, people are promoted to manager despite the fact that they don’t want the job: although they’d rather continue what they were doing, for some reason they felt compelled to accept the new, unwanted responsibilities.
Chances are very good that during your career you have had the misfortune of working for someone who never should have been a manager, or you’ve observed others (employees or supervisors/managers) in that situation – or perhaps you have been that person yourself. It’s not a pretty sight. And the results of this type of mis-match between person and position cause harm to the manager, the people he/she supervises, customers, vendors, and ultimately the organization.
So how do you know who is or is not capable of being a manager? Recently I saw a question on this topic posed by a journalist: what are some signs that people are NOT cut out for management? Although I prefer to answer questions from a positive perspective – in this case, pointing out signs that people ARE capable of being managers – I think there is some value here to identifying the characteristics that ought to disqualify candidates for managerial positions. Below are my answers to the original query. You are not cut out for management if you:
- don’t like people.
- don’t like working with others.
- don’t have passion for the business.
- are unwilling and/or unable to delegate tasks and responsibility.
- are unwilling and/or unable to give and receive constructive feedback.
- are unwilling and/or unable to act like a manager.
- are unwilling and/or unable to take on management tasks instead of doing whatever you used to do.
- are unwilling and/or unable to take responsibility for your employees’ poor performance.
- are unwilling and/or unable to develop your employees.
- need people to like you.
- need to be one of the “guys” instead of the boss.
- are a poor communicator.
- are inflexible.
So what about it? Are YOU capable of being a manager? If not, let others be the boss. You are better off pursuing a career path that allows you to be fully successful using the talents and competencies you DO have.
© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.