Archive for March, 2014

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Navigating Organizational Politics: No Bragging or Begging Required

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Navigating Organizational Politics:
No Bragging or Begging Required

Alignment solution: Successfully navigating your organization’s political environment does not require bragging or begging.

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:

  • A manager can promote only one of several excellent candidates for a job.
  • A local school system wants voters to approve a bond issue to fund repairs.
  • A non-profit organization aspires to operate a halfway house in a residential area.
  • Managers at a service company are at odds with union members over an unpopular work rule.

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.