Monday, March 14, 2011

What should you do to ensure your political behavior is channeled positively?

Note: The following is also posted in our LinkedIn Group (as a discussion topic), The Executive Challenge.

Politics are a part of the human condition; so, business affairs are rife with political behavior.  This really isn’t good or bad.   What maters is how we manage this reality. As executives, we need to wade through political waters effectively by leveraging the positive aspects and minimizing the negatives ones. 

Webster’s defines politics this way: Political affairs of business: competition between groups or individuals for power and leadership.  Anyone with kids has seen this play out from the earliest years.  My twins were keeping score from the time they were infants.  They watched closely for signs that they were receiving their fair share of attention and competed for power in simple and effective ways.  They learned and developed as they competed with one another. They were being political.

Let’s look at business executives. A business leader is expected to bring in the best talent, create a high performing organization, and hit the numbers.  In the thrust and parry of competition, there will be winners, losers and a good dose of political behavior.  When managed correctly, politics are healthy.  When ignored, our competitive drives can lead to bad behavior and hurt a business’s ability to execute.  Bad behavior can play out in many ways and most of us can recite our fair share of examples.

So what should the leader do to ensure political behavior is channeled positively?   

In my mind's eye, it’s all about simply and clearly communicating your values. 

Values act as the lighthouse, keeping your team off the rocks, and focusing them on what’s important. Simple values are best and the fewer the better.  

Here is an example of three simple values that during the heat of competition, can keep your team “off the rocks.”

Straight Talk            Lou Gerstner used this effectively at IBM.  
                                    Tell Lou “your truth,” not what you think he wants to hear.

Teamwork                We get there together

Accountability         We must choose to be accountable and not engage in the “Blame Game”.

Values must be communicated simply, concisely, and FREQUENTLY.  In every interaction, you should consciously model them.  With the passage of time, they will become second nature and ever present.  

You may see the rocks, but you won’t hit them.

When you think about politics, think about values. Your team will appreciate it.

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