Have you ever sat in a room and someone brings up an idea and everyone loves it. You sit puzzled and think to yourself…I just said that last week and no one gave it a thought or maybe worse, they didn’t even like it. This scenario plays out every day in groups and companies. It is frustrating. Rather than getting upset, frustrated and stop bringing your ideas out, learn how to be a politician. I know, politics sounds so negative – and many people don’t want to be viewed as political. The art of politics is really not a dirty word. It is how things get done.
Before I explain one aspect of being political, I need you to promise that you care about the message or idea and not about getting credit for bringing it up. Go ahead…promise me out loud. OK, now that you promised, read on!
When you have an idea that you want others to really consider and get attention, you need to know 3 things.
- Who needs to be convinced or accept your idea
- Who the person above trusts and is influenced by
- Your relationship to all these people
If you are not the person that has the relationship with the person that needs convincing, then you need to get your message to the person that can influence that person.
Years ago I was almost fired or put on special projects for not being political. Failing is always the best way to learn. Please learn from my failure! I was on a process improvement initiative which incorporated 3 fairly autonomous business units. One of the suggestions I made to the project sponsor, who was a VP of one of the business units, was that a group of employees needed to be moved from her area to another area. Based on my thorough analysis I figured the reaction would be very favorable. The numbers don’t lie. Wow, was I wrong. In that moment is when I thought I was going to be losing my job. Then when my manager heard what happened, I thought for sure I would lose my job. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
My idea and plan ended up being right, and about 6 months later it happened. I could have made it happen sooner if I was political about it. I did not know much about the sponsor, especially her dedication to her employees and desire to keep her team intact. She also knew nothing about me, what my motivations were, my skill set and expertise and why I was chosen for this initiative. I did not have the influencer relationship with the sponsor. Fortunately, I had a good mentor at the time who explained to me it’s the idea that is important, not the messenger. I wanted to deliver the message because I did all the work. I wanted credit, I wanted recognition. This is pretty natural. In my example, my message did not get through but I did receive recognition. Just not the kind of recognition I was looking for!
After I realized that I wasn’t going to lose my job, I still knew my idea was right. I decided to take another approach and through discussions with my manager, we determined who could best influence the sponsor. Then I had to figure out how I could convince that person. That’s why it took 6 months!
This sounds like a lot of work. You’re right…it is. In your role you need to take time to understand the landscape of your organization. Know who you can influence and who they can influence. Continue to build relationships and become a super influencer. That is one that influences many. This is politics and politics is not a dirty word.
All the best,