Let’s get real here: politics in the workplace exists, it sucks, and it’s not going anywhere.
It’s one of those truths of work-life that we wish weren’t true.
At its worst, office politics is about power, control, self-interest, career building, and everything but actually doing good work.
e.g. the CEO choosing a direction that the entire rest of the leadership team (and everyone else) is opposed to, but forces them to comply with a “get this done, or get fired” approach.
If you recognise this, I hope you’ve managed to find another place to work.
Or vibrancy on the platform matters. We measure it, we have targets for it. But we need to push for this quarter’s results. Dilemma. Company values and short-term results are in conflict.
So you say: I can hit this quarter’s target but negatively impact vibrancy, or I can miss this quarter and keep vibrancy. What are the guidelines here?
… and you get crickets back from the MT. and we all know what that means.
I’ve seen so many people resist the move up into senior leadership because of the politics they will have to face. And I think that’s such a shame.
You’re bright, you want to have a positive impact. You want to solve people’s challenges through innovative awesome technology.
But politics is standing in your way.
I used to think I’d either have to join them or leave. Because you can’t get rid of it, right? And I didn’t want to play politics, I wanted to make the world better.
I used to think that senior management wasn’t for me.
Until a former manager of mine gave me a master class in leadership for work politics.
This is a good story. Settle in with a cuppa.
I joined a project. It was high profile, it was a pilot for a transformational pivot the business wanted to make.
My job was to implement the new systems and new processes for this pivot. Design work had been done, solutions had been built. Now we were about to roll out.
As I dived into getting up to speed I became puzzled. If I understood things right, our process delivered solution A, but our system delivered solution B.
They did not match, and if we went live with this, it would be a cluster*ck of chaos.
Holy shit. we were just weeks away from going live.
So I went to my manager and told him what I saw. If I was right, we were facing a crisis.
Unfortunately, I was right.
Along the way in the project, a decision to change the process had been made. The IT solution was already being built. We didn’t have time to rebuild. But we couldn’t go live with the solution as is. And we had to go live.
And this is where the masterclass of politics and integrity happened.
Let’s call my manager Alex.
Alex embarked on a plan to enrol.
- To enrol people into recognising that we had an issue, and not to freak out.
- To enrol them into working constructively on a solution, both in the short term, and in the long term.
- To enrol people into providing additional developer resources, solution architects, tech spending.
- To enrol people into solving the issue, and not descending into a blood bath about how this happened, and who was to blame.
- He enrolled me in taking on some of the crisis management. I had said I could create a manual workaround, but I’d need support, and it would buy us time until we got a real fix in place. So that’s what he enrolled me into.
Now you notice I’ve used the word enrol. This is deliberate. I could have said that Alex did these things. The key to this masterclass is in the way Alex did it.
Alex got them onboard.
Influenced, motivated, got an agreement.
Alex got them onboard with
- spending more money on the project, event though all the budget had been used
- assigning additional resources
- managing the communication with external parties
- collaborating and working together
- not using this as another tool in the career assassination game in the race to the top
Alex used the skills of enrolling to get each party to see how it was in their personal interest, as well as the overall business interest, to collaborate.
Alex got them past the “wtf?” stage and into proactively solving the issue.
And Alex did this in just a few days.
The skill of enrolling is vital to leadership. Practice and get better.
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