7 questions for figuring out your tolerance for risk

While discussing the push/pull polarities of influence styles at a workshop on Power, Persuasion and Influence I facilitated for a group of Fortune 100 executive women, one women shared a moving observation with the group:  while knowing which style of influence is best to use depending upon the situation is important, the real issue is one’s willingness to take the risk to influence, especially if the status quo is in question.

Her courageous workshop action item was to take that risk.  She said she owed doing so to her colleagues, the organization and herself.

What a powerful moment.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. ~Leo F. Buscaglia

Sometimes the risk is being the square peg in the round hole, wearing kelly green when your colleagues are wearing charcoal grey, daring — albeit politely — to be the corporate contrarian, and/or dancing with the elephant in the room.  Risking your secure place in the corporate food chain by questioning new practices that run contrary to stated values is a high stake gamble.  Will you be rewarded, take a small hit or lose it all?

According to Julie J. McGowan, professor at Indiana University, “Risk taking is hard to adopt among leaders, because recognized leaders have the most to lose and aspiring leaders may be discounted as lacking in knowledge or common sense.”  Risk-taking can yield great rewards and possibilities for learning provided you’ve done your homework ahead of time.

7 questions for assessing your leadership readiness for risk taking

You must have high EQ, PQ (political quotient) and a thorough knowledge of your work culture to assess your tolerance for workplace risk-taking.  Consider:

  • Historically, how has your corporate culture reacted to those who challenged the status quo?  Are you prepared to accept possible negative outcomes?  Are you willing to see your credibility erode? Are you equipped to lose your job?
  • Is this an issue that’s important to you alone, or do others share similar concerns? Will others who think/feel/believe the same speak up after you’ve led the charge, or will your voice be the only one that’s speaking? Are you ready to forge ahead regardless?
  • Are you able to be the center of attention if your topic goes viral within the company?  Are you primed to be a role model and/or attacked?
  • Do you have solid solutions already in mind?  Are you disposed to collaborate with others and devise a solution that integrates the views of many?
  • Have you brainstormed possible unintended consequences, both positive and negative, of the stand you’re championing?
  • Are you OK, mentally and emotionally, with the possibility of failure?  Will your self-esteem survive the hit?  Can your ego resist the adulation of success?
  • Do you have the will to see it through? Do you have a support system that will nurture you throughout, regardless of the outcome?

Risk tolerance is extremely personal.  Only you can decide if high risk/high reward is your métier or if low risk/low reward represents the boundaries of your comfort zone.  Either way, be prepared, be thoughtful and do what’s right for you.




Klout - An Absence of Heart

I Am Not A Number by Michael Tompsett

We’re a nation, a world, in love with numbers. If it can’t be measured, the pundits say, it’s not worthwhile.

So, I have to give props to Klout for its sheer genius in playing into this love of numbers and formulating its influence scoring system. How cool, there’s now a way to quantify online influence, folks exclaimed as they raced to use klout scores for event invitations, advertising, social media ROI, job searches (hello?!), prestige and self-esteem.

People forgot (overlooked?) the fact that a klout score is an arbitrary one-dimensional number seeking to quantify something that’s qualitative.

I left corporate America because of the prevailing mindset that one is only as good as their last set of numbers. Not everything can be reduced to a single totally informative metric. Some matters of the heart, the intuition, or the gut just can’t be quantified.

To those who are unnerved by the reformulated klout algorithms, please repeat after me: I am not a number.

I am not a number.

I won’t let a number determine my circle of contacts.

Like this over-the-top and frankly heartless advice on how to improve one’s klout score: “Make sure you’re engaging with people who have a relatively good to a higher Klout score,” says Klout expert Amy Schmittauer. “When you engage with people who have like no Klout or a really low score it’s reflects poorly on you. Even spam bots have a score of 25 or something, it’s crazy.”

Let it “reflect poorly” on your klout score to share with an up-and-comer, engage with someone who’s lonely and has few online connections, and to show some heart to those in need. It’s good for you and for them. The last I checked, there wasn’t much soul in an algorithm.

I am not a number.


Influence - A Leader’s Energy Drink


Positive Influence by Methec

Do you ever feel envious of that successful work colleague who’s connected to everyone, whose projects and budgets get approved, and whose opinions are actively sought out because people want to know what they think? Don’t waste time being jealous. Rather, focus on improving your abilities in the art and science of influence.

Whether at work or in your personal life, your ability to make an appeal (to influence) based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation is essential for success. Influence and leadership are related in that anyone, regardless of having a job title or not, can be proficient at them. Influence is critical for building relationships, securing support (especially when you don’t have direct control), persuading other people to champion your idea, or when you need to spark someone’s imagination.

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. ~Kenneth Blanchard

People with first-rate influence skills combine interpersonal, communication and assertiveness abilities. The intent of influence is to build a network of win-win interaction between people, not to control or manipulate them.

To determine how effective your ability to influence is, ask yourself:

  • Do I get results through and with people, even when I’m not the boss?
  • Do I have the personal power to shape outcomes and cause things to happen?
  • Do people seek out my opinion?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, polishing up your skills in the following areas will help you increase your sphere of influence.

Become a perceptive observer. Watch what’s going on in your company or around you at home or with friends. Individuals with strong influencing skills examine, ask and validate.

Be knowledgeable and have a bias for action. If you want to have an impact on results, know your organization and its culture, as well as your job, inside and out. Be clear about what you want to achieve. Under-promise and over-deliver on timelines for getting things accomplished.

Note to self: finding a cool quote and writing it in your journal is not a substitute for Getting. It. Done. ~Betsy Cañas Garmon

Be visible by engaging and involving others. Actively listen to what people are saying. People who have highly developed influence skills first pull people to their ideas, and then push those ideas to the rest of the organization through other people.

Be self-aware. Understand and control your own emotions and actions. Know both your limitations and your strengths, and then position yourself to maximize what you do best.

Give, give, GIVE! When you give, people will give back. Never underestimate someone’s heartfelt desire to leave a positive mark. Make your own constructive contribution while seeing, and appreciating, the gifts of others.

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw

Cultivate meaningful two-way relationships. Help before someone asks. Say thank you. Be there when people need you. Be a broker of ideas and information. People like to be around those who make positive things happen.

Be sincere and authentic. Approach situations seeking to find a mutually beneficial outcome; avoid the “I win, you lose” mentality. Assure that your words and your deeds are consistent and rooted in goodness. As Herminia Ibarra, a professor at the Harvard Business School says, “Integrity can be a source of power.”


Leadership Saturday Favs 9.3.11

Exploiting Beauty in the Workplace (HBR post by Gill Corkindale)

Holy moly! Set down your coffee cup and put away anything sharp before reading this post! Gill shares an overview of a new book by Catherine Hakim, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, in which she advocates that “professional women should use their ‘erotic capital’ — beauty, sex appeal, charm, dress sense, liveliness, and fitness — to get ahead at work.” For me, this feels like a giant step back and kinda manipulative, too. What about you?

First Look: Leadership Books for September 2011

If you’re packing a bag to head off for the long Labor Day weekend, Michael McKinney serves up some great reading suggestions.

True North Groups: A Powerful Path to Personal and Leadership Development by Bill George and Doug Baker
The Anywhere Leader: How to Lead and Succeed in Any Business Environment by Mike Thompson
StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution by Marcus Buckingham
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

Sparking Creativity in Teams (McKinsey Quarterly - requires free sign-up)

“Creativity is not a trait reserved for the lucky few. By immersing your people in unexpected environments, confronting ingrained orthodoxies, using analogies, and challenging your organization to overcome difficult constraints, you can dramatically boost their creative output—and your own.”

Trust in Business: The Core Concepts (Charles H. Green, Trusted Advisor Associates)

Trust and credibility go hand-in-hand; lose one, lose the other. “The level of trust in business relationships—whether external, e.g. in sales or advisory roles, or internal, e.g. in a services function—is a greater determinant of success than anything else, including content excellence.” This instructive article goes on define several conceptual frameworks for trust within relationships and for our own level of trustworthiness. The “trust quotient” equation is particularly compelling this week in the GYBO corner.

Quote of the week: “Leadership is not magnetic personality—that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’—that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of personality beyond its normal limitations.” ~Peter F. Drucker


Leadership Friday Favs 7.15.11

What you see is what you get vs tact (Colin Gautrey on The Gautrey Group)

This is a short post, albeit one with a big message. If you pride yourself on wearing your heart on your sleeve yet have received feedback that you need to improve your ways, chew on the good advice Colin dispenses. People “jump to the conclusion…that they are being asked to cover up what they are really thinking. This starts to create an internal stress and a rejection of the need to change…”

Diagnose and Eliminate Workplace Bullying (Baron Christopher Hanson on HBR Blog Network)

In this spot-on post, Baron encourages leaders to face bullying head on…and to take thorough, thoughtful action. He offers up an acronym - CAPE - to guide the process. If you suspect abusive behavior is occurring, take Baron’s advice that “…bullying has no place in any workplace. Honorable opponents shake hands and even applaud each other at the end of the day. Leaders owe it to the people on their team to Confront, Analyze, Present, and Expose bullies fully.”

Authentic Leadership Development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership (by Bruce J. Avolio and William L. Gardner)

Interested in learning more about authentic leadership - what it is, how it’s different and how to practice it? This 2005 report is from the inaugural summit on the topic as hosted by the Gallup Leadership Institute. There’s some fascinating reading here, and the links and references are a treasure trove of information.

The Changing Face of Leadership Development (Frank Waltmann for Chief Learning Officer)

CEO’s everywhere should read this piece, then seriously reflect on their leadership development program content as well as their performance management programs, succession planning and on and on. “‘The financial crisis raised some tough questions for leadership development,” said David Dotlich, co-author of Leading in Times of Crisis: Navigating Through Complexity, Diversity and Uncertainty to Save Your Business. “Should we teach just what the CEO wants the leaders to learn or does it need to be broader? Leadership development’s aim must be to mold leaders to think and act independently as opposed to just training to a company’s competency model.’”

A great thought to noodle: “You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children,that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.” ~Chief Seattle (1784-1866) of the Duwamish, Suquamish, and allied Native American tribes, in an 1854 letter to President Franklin Pierce


10 ways for women to be strategic in building their careers

Today’s guest blog is from Allard de Jong, a Fortune 500 coach, motivational speaker and rebel rouser who works with women business and management leaders in an effort to speed up their journeys to positions of more power and influence.

What do we mean by being “strategic”? I believe there are three different kinds of women leaders when it comes to managing their career progression and their life at the office in general : the expressives, the conventionals and the strategic.

If you are of the “expressive” kind, you’ll be spontaneous, natural, and living the emotion of the moment with little or no filtering of your communication. Your thoughts come like gum balls out of machine.  Your “career management” is authentic and honest. You spend little time on office politics. The moment you think it, they’ve got it.

The “conventional” type is driven by the question: What’s the right thing to do? We learn that we are supposed to behave in certain ways in certain situations, worry about the “appropriate,” about conventions, etc. What are the conventions in your organization, and how are they different from other places you’ve worked? Convention is a safe place to go - no one will hate you but it may not get you to the top. Anotherpossible downside is that you’re seen as boring, or at least dry.

Now if you are “strategic,” you are aware of conventions but don’t always follow them. “Strategic” means asking: What outcomes do I want to produce and what “ABCs” (appearance, behavior and communication) will get me there? What are the consequences of x, y or z? How do I want to be seen? Some people do this more intuitively, others explicitly.

A word of caution: it’s easy to get “strategic” wrong - by being deliberate in a manipulative way, or too intentional at the expense of integrity, or being “real.” The trick is to be strategic and real at the same time – smart, aware of the consequences…and authentic.

So what are some of the more “strategic” things to do when it comes to getting ahead and building your power to influence? I’m going to differentiate here between “the inner game of career success” and the “outer game.”

“Inner” refers to the invisible thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, ideas etc. that lead to the “outer” elements such as visible behaviors and the tangible environment in which we operate. The “inner” creates the “outer” so we can’t talk about one without examining the other.

Lastly, the word “game” reminds us that there are certain rules involved, but that the process shouldn’t be taken too seriously and that the whole thing consists of learnable skills (good news!). So are you ready?


(A guide to “survival in the wacky new world of work”)









Examine your beliefs about your potential – whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right (Henry Ford). We act in accordance with our predominant beliefs, and those actions   create our results. If your beliefs about yourself, about your abilities or about others do not empower you, ask yourself why you are holding on to them. Beliefs are built on the past: on things we have heard, seen or experienced. They are not right or wrong, they are only opinions. Become aware of your beliefs, understand where they come from and disassociate from them if they no longer serve you.


Build self-confidence – handle your inner critic. We all have it, that little voice inside our heads that tells us that “we can’t”. You need to understand that you are not that voice, in the same way that you are not your foot or your hand. You are more than that. The little voice, your mind, has good intentions: it wants to protect  you, to keep you safe. In order to keep you safe it will tell you to stay where you are, to not step out of your comfort zone. Self-confidence comes from “feeling the fear but doing it anyway” (Susan Jeffers), in spite of the little voice, seeing it for what it is: an over protective mother smothering you with advice (add vice?).


Choose your thoughts carefully  – what we focus on, expands. You may have heard the saying “energy flows where attention goes.” Truer words were never spoken. What words do you use to describe your experiences? Your life at the office will reflect those words! Want more positivity? Think more positive thoughts. If you think your thoughts express your truth, you’re wrong. They only express one truth about you and the world you live in. You affect your world with your thoughts. Don’t like what you see? Change what you think!


Be open to change – everything flows, nothing stands still (Heraclitus). It’s been said that our mind is like a parachute: it simply works better when it’s open! How open to change are you? Many of us will resist change, we will even negate it if given the chance. The trick is to explore the new opportunities that come with change  until we eventually come to accept it (which doesn’t mean you have to like it). Roles, responsibilities, challenges etc. will continue to change as more and more women take center stage in our corporations. If you find yourself resisting those changes, ask yourself if you want to be right, or if you want to be happy.


Know what you want – clarity leads to power. The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is because they don’t know what they want. Make sure you have a clear picture in your mind as to where you’re heading. Ïs your career vision clear? Is it compelling? Can you feel, smell, hear, see and almost taste what lies ahead in your desired future? If so, great, you’re on track! If not, spend some time formulating a clear picture of what it is you want to achieve. Set yourself some deadlines. Invent a slogan, a mantra if you’re so inclined,  that will keep you connected to your desired outcome and you’ll be beating the odds.








Fake it ‘til you make it – our attitudes follow our behavior. What skills do you want to develop? What would   you like to change about yourself? Start acting as if you were already the person you want to be around the office. It has been proven countless times that in our desire for internal consistency (the psychologists call it   cognitive dissonance) our being will align with our doing. Want to be more influential? Start acting influential. Soon you’ll feel more influential. Others will see it. They’ll start treating you as an influential person. Soon   you won’t have to “fake it” anymore, you will have become more influential.


Self-promote – “brag” is not a 4-letter word. Most of us were taught not to toot our own horn, so self-promotion make not come easily, and yes, it’s easy to get it wrong by overdoing it. Yet when it comes to life in the office, it’s not just what you do but also who sees you doing it, i.e. who knows about how great you are, that will determine how far you’ll make it in your field. In the increasingly transparent and flat world economy, your reputation will come to matter as much as your skills and achievements – no matter how junior or senior you are. Are you strategic about the kind of reputation you are building? What is your reputation and how do you know? Do take care of your reputation – and it will take care of you.


Know your ABC’s – master your appearance, behaviors and communication. It’s not who you are, it’s how   you’re seen to be. Advertisers know that today’s perception is tomorrow’s reality. Make sure that the way you look, behave and speak reflect the part you’re aiming to play at work. If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust for some honest feedback. Your appearance, behaviors and communication will either be your allies or your biggest stumbling block, no matter how good you are at your job. Not fair? Who said life at the office was fair!


Stay in your circle of control – be happy, don’t worry. Certain aspects of life at the office fall directly under our control. What to wear, how to behave, who to treat well, when to speak, when to shut up etc. Other elements of work lie beyond our circle of control, in our circle of concern. Focus on the things you can do. There’s   always something you can do. When you do get concerned about something and worry about it, ask yourself what you can do about it. Then do it, and stop worrying. Your worrying serves no one. And here’s a secret: the more time you spend in your circle of control, the bigger it get. And similarly, the more time you wander around in worryland, the more disempowered you become.


Network – it’s not what you know, but who you know (and who knows you!). I already said life at the office isn’t fair so I won’t say it again. We live in a hyper connected world that has been called a “relationship economy” (2008, Scott Allen et al.). You have to become a relationship manager. Evaluate the strength of your professional network. Are you happy with the people in it? How can they help you? What have you done for them lately? Being strategic also means developing the right relationships, where others become a stepping stone for you and vice versa.  And make sure your network is not “limited” to people exactly like you. New ideas and learning often come from those we see as very different from ourselves.

As you will have noticed, this list does not include “doing a good job” and there are two reasons for this. First of all, the fact that you need tobe good at what you do is implied, your performance is a given. Secondly, and more importantly, being (very) good at what you do is no longer enough. In the evolving world of work you’ll be required to leverage your performance, to publicize and fully own it.

The pervasiveness of the “just world” syndrome (described by Melvin Lerner in the 80′s) would have us believe that the good get rewarded and the bad get struck down. Well, you and I know that doesn’t always happen, far from it. So who does get rewarded? More often than not, it’s the strategic ones!

I hope the above helps you become more strategic, more purposeful and more in resolute about your career and what it is you want to achieve.


Influence and Intentions

This is the fourth and final post in the Playing Office Politics series - a collaborative endeavor between Jennifer V. Miller, Mike Henry Sr., Susan Mazza and myself. We hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Influence. Power. Leadership. Choice. Character. All potent concepts. All inextricably linked for leaders who want to play positive office politics.

Office Politics Research

In 2005, Gerald R. Ferris, Sherry L. Davidson, and Pamela L. Perrewe co-authored Political Skills at Work: Impact on Work Effectiveness, a book which was the culmination of more than 15 years of research into office politics. According to Gerald Ferris,

Politically skilled managers are masters of four behaviors: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability and apparent sincerity.

Influence impacts both our professional and personal relationships. When used on the win-win “light side of the force” (as opposed to I win-you lose manipulation), having influence can distinguish you as a great formal or informal leader. Influence is determined by one’s ability to make an appeal for action based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation, or some combination of all three.

Art by Paul Downey

Do You Have What It Takes?

Positive influence, i.e., the ability to get work  done with and through other people, is a critical skill for leaders to have in their toolkit.

Some outcomes fall within your realm of direct control, others won’t.  For those outcomes for which you don’t have total responsibility, a leader’s power influence can be invaluable to shaping results.

As a manager who empowers others, you will act as a colleague more than a boss, relying on influence, respect and relationships  to work with employees. ~Jamieson and O’Mara (1991).

To assess your influence skills, do a little self-audit:

• Can I get people to move, to act, to get things done?
• Am I capable of gaining support from others to drive outcomes?
• Can I inspire others to act?
• Do I have the ability to create meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships?
• Can I persuade other people to become my champion?
• Can I engage someone’s imagination?
• Do I get results through and with people?
• Is my word and/or my involvement sufficient to make something happen?
• Do I have the personal power to shape outcomes and cause things to happen?
• Do others actively seek out my counsel?

Truly excellent influencing skills require a healthy combination of interpersonal, communication, presentation and assertiveness techniques. It’s about adapting and modifying your personal style when you become aware of the affect you are having on other people, while still being true to yourself — and without manipulating others. Behavior and attitude change are what’s important, not changing who you are, how you feel and think, or what you do.

Amping Up Your Win-Win Influence

1) Be a perceptive observer. Know what is going on by watching, asking and validating your observations. Tune into the cultural dynamics. Learn how to comprehend social situations, e.g. what nonverbal communication is telling you or what elephant remains in the room.

2) Be a broker of ideas and information. Know your job, your organization and its culture inside and out — and educate others, share what you know. Establish allies and stakeholders who share a win-win interest in mutual outcomes.

3) Engage, involve and communicate. Freely share data and information. Invite and encourage participation. Actively listen to what people are saying. Pull people to your ideas then push those ideas through to other people

What's Your PQ?

4) Be self-aware. Understand how others perceive you. Know your strengths, your limitations and play to what you do best. Be there when people need you. Be persistent (in a good kind of way!). Say thank you. Help BEFORE someone asks (use those actively listening skills!)

5) Give, give, GIVE!  Never estimate someone’s desire to leave a mark — and help them to do so. 

6) Let go. If you have a hidden agenda for I win-you lose, influence is impossible. You must sincerely have the other’s best interest at heart if you hope to interact with them and affect their behaviors. As John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

7) Don’t be a conversation or credit hog. Don’t force your ideas on people. Know what they want, watch their reactions and support them through conversation so they see the issue, the answer, the outcome, etc. for themselves. If they end up thinking it’s their idea, so much the better. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of positive win-win outcomes.

As you consider building positive win-win influence expertise, what other behaviors would you add to this list?


Networking Inside the Company Walls

Today’s guest post, the first in the Playing Office Politics series, is by Jennifer V. Miller, the Managing Partner of SkillSource, a training and consulting company that helps emerging leaders “master the people equation”. Her experience as a human resources generalist, training facilitator and corporate manager helps her develop the “people side” of those who want to maximize their influence. Connect with Jennifer at The People Equation blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

One of the four behaviors resident in people who “play politics” in a positive way (as identified by researchers at the University of Florida) is networking. Because I spend a lot of time giving keynotes on the topic of networking,  Jane reached out to me for my perspective on the topic.

Two Types of Networking

If you are in sales, or are job seeking, then it’s a no-brainer: networking should play a key part in your outreach strategy.  Connection-making if this sort is external networking.  See my blog posts here and here for tips on how to network outside your organization.

Even if your job rarely requires you to interact outside your company walls, you still need know how to network.  That’s where internal networking comes into play. Internal networking is when you reach out to colleagues within your organization, even if your job doesn’t require you to do so. It’s going beyond your normal scope of job responsibilities.   Being an internal networker means you are looking outside your immediate, day-to-day activities and thinking about how you can connect with and create value for others in your company. 

Many of the same principles apply for both external and internal networking, but there’s a nuance to the internal process that’s unique. Let’s explore why it’s important to distinguish between the two types of networking.

What Makes Internal Networking Different?

It comes down to mindset: people have expectations about what various job roles “should” be.  For example, people expect outside sales reps and job seekers to be making phone calls and attending industry functions. It’s seen as a required part of their daily work.  With internal networking, however, the mindset shifts. People are a bit more leery of employees and leaders who seek connections beyond their daily scope.  These activities are often perceived as “sucking up” or “playing politics”. The differentiator, as Jane points out in her introduction to positive office politics is that effective internal networkers are those who are always going for the win-win.  They create connections because they believe that reaching out to others will help all involved, including the company.

How Can I Improve My Internal Networking?

The first thing you need to do is a quick mental audit: what’s my mindset on internal networking? If you’re still stuck in the mentality of “networking is for kiss-ups” then the tips below won’t help.  Take a moment and remember a time when you successfully made a connection beyond your department boundaries.  Think about how you benefitted and the other person did too.  In the right frame of mind now?

Great. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a decent relationship with your boss? Ask her (or him) to give you a few ideas on other leaders who you should get to know in the company.  The purpose would be to broaden your business acumen and learn from another leader in the company. Who knows, maybe it will turn into an informal mentoring situation. Plus, it helps to know other business unit leaders if you want to switch job functions in the future.
  • Make a list of key players in your organization that you would like to get to know.  It’s OK if the list has only 3 people. If you’re not comfortable inviting them to meet, find a person who knows both of you and ask person to make an introduction. Arrange to have a coffee break or lunch with the purpose of getting to know what you both do for your jobs.
  • When people are promoted, receive an award, or otherwise achieve something, send congratulations. A quick congratulatory email to someone (even if you don’t know them well) will go a long way towards showing that you are paying attention beyond your cubicle’s four walls.
  • Been assigned to a cross-functional project team? If you’re unfamiliar with the work of the project team members, suggest that one of the initial project team meetings be an “infomercial” of sorts. Have each team member do a 2 minute recap of their role back at their desk. Not only will you learn more about your project team members, you’ll also quickly gather data that may head off miscommunications or misperceptions for the project.
  • Talk up other people’s accomplishments. When in department meetings, be sure to praise other teammates’ wins.  Do the same for people in other departments who have helped you out.  Word will spread that you’re a team player, one who’s not afraid to share credit.

Networking inside your company’s walls does not mean that you’ll garner a reputation for being a gamer. Rather, if you keep others’ interests in mind, you will be seen as someone who’s willing to lend a hand.  The well-connected person creates value for all.



Playing Office Politics

Office Politics. Ewwwwwwww, you say, thinking of those smarmy, lying, back-stabbing, kiss-up, brown-nosing, schmoozing manipulators who play the game by one rule and just one rule…I WIN, YOU LOSE. Right? Not surprising.

Art by Jill Stanek

In its very worst connotation, office politics represents influence and power gone awry. I anticipate that many of us have experienced bad office politics via a two-faced someone operating on the “dark side of the force” and have a favorite horror story to tell.

While it’s a lofty dream to hope that someday all leaders will play from a win-win perspective, that’s unfortunately not the reality in many workplaces. The plain truth is that office politics are here to stay; and, based on a fascinating study done by the University of Florida, can be played ‘nice.’

Nice? The study revealed that adept leaders do politics competently – and nicely – and are never accused of playing politics.

In 2005, University of Florida Professor Gerald R. Ferris, Research Scientist Sherry L. Davidson, and Professor Pamela L. Perrewe co-authored Political Skills at Work: Impact on Work Effectiveness, which was the culmination of more than 15 years of research into office politics.

Their findings?

If you have political skill, you appear not to have it,” says Gerald Ferris. “Truly skillful execution of the behaviors associated with politics is usually perceived as genuine, authentic, straightforward and effective. Politically skilled managers are masters of four behaviors: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability and apparent sincerity. Leaders who are not politically skilled come off as manipulative or self-serving.

Any time there are scarce resources, competing interests and ambiguity (sound like most work places?), office politics will exist. The key to success is playing with a win-win orientation versus an” I win-you lose” mindset.

Championing a cause, seeking budget for additional headcount, inspiring an up-and-comer on your team, persuading your boss to let you lead the special project – occur regularly in our jobs and require influence, relationships and social awareness to execute.

Office politics is the art of building relationships that will help you and your team accomplish more than you could on your own. ~Mitchell Kusy, Ph.D, Manager’s Desktop Consultant

A year ago, Mike Henry, Susan Mazza, Jennifer V. Miller and I partnered to produce a month-long four-part blog series addressing the competencies needed for leaders to play “Positive Office Politics.”

Given the ongoing relevance and reality of office politics, we’re repeating the four-part series this week beginning tomorrow.



All the broken leaders

A 10-month period is what we had in common. Ten months of misery. Ten months with a new boss focused on fixing us because we were broken.

His toolkit was full of medieval broken management cures and was toted by a sinister unsmiling sidekick. His favorites:

Only I approve purchases. Purchase approval privileges were revoked for all employees at all levels.  Invoices for equipment, office supplies, uniforms, etc. piled high in his office. Soon vendors thought we broken because we didn’t pay our bills anymore.

I decide where the money is spent. Friday pizza lunches, gift cards and morning donuts were declared a waste of money and banned. Employees started thinking we were broken, too, because all those fun and sometimes impromptu we’re-glad-you-work-here activities abruptly stopped.

Consult with me before making any decisions. Woe unto the leader who had the temerity to call a shot, even a little one. Customers and clients came to believe we were broken, too, since everyone smiled politely and said “I’ll have to get back to you on that” over and over.

Report, in writing, every thing you, and your team, did last month.  A written manuscript, with tens of pages and attachments, detailing qualitative and quantitative activities and results was laboriously prepared and submitted the first of the month. The Fixer must know where all our time was going. Soon, we thought we were broken, too, because where we chose to spend our time was always the wrong choice.

I’ll never forget the day The Fixer was asked to leave. He sat in my office and cried. I cried, too, but for an entirely different reason.