Honestly, I don’t know much about politics and it is always been an area that I will avoid talking about or engaging. In my young adult life, I had viewed politics as bad, manipulative and a waste of valuable resources. My take had been that more energy should be spent on getting results instead of “playing politics”.
And it is not only me that felt this way. When I spoke to others, I got the same vibes from people of different walks of life, on politics in general. I have heard and also seen how an average performer had been rewarded, recognized or promoted because they know how to suck-up to the right person (often his /her superior supervisor or someone higher up the corporate ladder). In comparison, another individual achiever, who had put in the extra hours and hard work just seems to be forgotten, ignored and pushed to the side.
Later when I reflected on the people who are sceptical about politics, majority of them were sincere individuals who sincerely wanted to provide good service and made a difference to the people around them. To them, it is perceived that politics in most environment, whether in a small or big organization, government or commercial sectors, is mainly focused on personal gain. But does politics has to be this way or can we avoid this pitfalls and reap the benefits? Are there any good in politics?
Let’s consider this definition of Politics – is an activity that builds and maintains your power so that you can achieve your goals.
In my early years of my career, I was happy just being an individual contributor. There was no thought about having power. It was about performing the job well and producing results that I was proud of. In return, I looked forward to receive recognition and get rewarded.
As my responsibilities expanded, I realized that I had to start working with peers, customers and colleagues across departments. Some of which required me to influence them in order to get the work done, while others I need to depend on their inputs before I could complete my tasks. As I started to manage people, I realized that I often felt sandwiched, balancing between taking care of the interest of my team and my management’s KPIs and/or company’s business objectives. These experiences raised my awareness about the necessity of building effective relationships with the internal allies and external networks in order to deliver.
Having effective relationships with the different stakeholders is just one of the way to build power. This power enables me to move from an Individual achiever to an effective manager or leader, so that I can achieve some important goals for myself, the team and the organization.
It is human nature that we want to be liked or accepted by a group. And there is always a tendency to side those who favour us, even if we don’t mean to practice favouritism. As leaders, we need to be careful that we don’t send out wrong signals that encourages subordinates to exaggerate their praise and discourage them from giving authentic feedbacks.
The first step that leaders can take to stop encouraging this behaviour is by being aware of how much positive recognition do we give our direct reports. And second, ask if there is a strong correlation between that based on their contributions to the company and its customers OR is it based on how much do they like us?
Recently I was reflecting on Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (LKY). He passed away on the 23 March 2015. There were much news and information after his passing on his achievements and deeds; tributes came pouring in. Clearly he was a man who had a heart for the people and his passion was to make Singapore a better place. But without power and influence, LKY would just be an idealist who has a passion. And he would not be able to carry out his dreams to build a small poor nation to a developed country without the support of talented ministers and the closed relationship he had with world political leaders.
I learnt from LKY’s governance that Politics can become constructive when it works in the Service of others. When we listen and understand the hopes, needs and dreams of people, and to creativity seek common ground between their goals and ours.
Similarly, organizational politics does not have to be destructive. In fact, it is fundamental and essential in order to have an impact as a leader. Power gives that impact and leverage which allows us to achieve our meaningful, important goals. In order to maintain and grow our power, we need to inspire loyalty rather than mistrust, fear or suspicion. Politics with a Service’s mind-set will guide our action to achieve that.
What is your biggest challenge with your personal or professional life right now ?
Samuel worked with literally hundreds of working Executives with their careers and life goals, so he should be able to support you to unlock your potential and help you reach your meaningful, important objectives. Just drop Samuel an email at firstname.lastname@example.org