Leaning into Political Savvy

Strengthen Your Political Muscles

It’s not creepy, it’s not manipulative, and it’s not about games.

This month in our Intentionaleaders membership, we’re exploring political savvy.  Get a sneak peek here!

Art Petty described Five Unavoidable Facts of Organizational Life that resonated with me:

  1. Everywhere humans gather, a political environment emerges.
  2. In every political environment, some individuals develop more influence than others.
  3. Those who have the most influence decide what gets done and who does what.
  4. Influence doesn’t accrue accidentally—it takes deliberate effort to cultivate the right relationships.
  5. You don’t get to claim, “I don’t want to play those games.” (See number four: those games are all about relationship development.)

For all of us that hate politics.  This sucks. We can’t escape it. So in trying to capture the essence of political savvy, I think about it in this way:

“Political savvy is the ability to understand situations, people and context to influence outcomes and achieve results while not ticking people off (or even better yet, they like, respect and trust you).”

And here’s the good news.  We can get better at exploring and navigating these dynamics.  Though it can sound complicated, rest assured, my goal is to simplify it.

Because so many years ago, this area tripped me up.  I remember the political blunders vividly.  I still recount them in my mind when I don’t have anything more recent to beat myself up about.  Oh, yes, like the one time I insulted my boss, in front of him, and his boss…

At the heart of being politically savvy, it’s about getting positive results.  Isn’t that what you want for yourself and for your team?

4 Foundations to Political Savvy

  • Self-Awareness: We have so many things going on.  And our brain helps us by processing much of our day automatically.  Yay for our brain, boo for our self-awareness.  It’s difficult to be savvy if you aren’t mindful of how you come across.
    • Automatic thinking versus reflective thinking
    • Choose mindfulness, create a way to be fully present
    • Eliminate distractions
  • Situational Awareness: Means being fully present in situations.  Being aware of your surroundings, of dynamics and power bases, and what is really going on…besides the words that are being spoken.  How dialed in are you?  How much do you monitor, and also respond accordingly?  What do you capture in terms of people and organizational intelligence?  Because any encounter we have is potentially ripe with insights and information, if we pay attention to it through that lens.  And those that are political savvy, consistently do so.
    • Prepare for meetings
    • Be aware and contribute
    • In situations, continuously learn information on people and the organization
    • Be reflective
  • Networking: There is a downloadable worksheet to assess your network and it’s strength.  This is not about networking for networking sake, but knowing what you already have, and seeking to build and strengthen it.
    • Consider your network
    • See where it’s strong
    • Be mindful of gaps and close them
    • Tend to your network
  • Organizational Culture/Dynamics: This is a huge area in itself.  And it can quickly become overwhelming, especially the larger and more complex and organization is….but it is a great opportunity for us to understand cultural norms and practices that we need to be mindful of, to achieve our positive results.  I like to think about it in the 4 Ps.  Priorities, players, performance and practices.

Priorities:  Is about understanding the most important targets for the organization, for you, and your team.

Goals, Initiatives, internal and external challenges

Players:  Goes beyond our discussion on your network to consider the people who have power to help or hinder your ability to accomplish your goals and results (i.e., to create your positive outcomes).

Decision Makers, influencers, advocates, adversaries

Performance:  Is exploring the way productivity and performance is both viewed and acknowledged within the organization.

Expected, measured, rewarded, accepted

Practices:  Are the consistent methods or processes used to share information, drive priorities and address ongoing challenges.

Communication, problem solving, decision making, goal setting

Assess these areas, fill in the gaps.

Being political savvy means achieving results.  It means putting in the time and care to be successful in your goals, setting your team up for success and adding value to the organization.

It does not typically happen randomly or spontaneously.   It takes focus an action.  Work and practice.  Strengthening your savvy is like strengthening your muscles.  Sometime there is pain.  Sometimes you will sweat.  Sometimes you need a protein bar.

But in the end, the practice will be worth it.

Want to assess your network?   Download this worksheet:  http://intentionaleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Networking-Assessment.pdf

Learn more about our membership community:  MEMBERSHIP – Intentionaleaders