Most executives, including CIOs, have an aversion to the concept of “organizational politics”–– as if it’s a dirty word: “She’s so political…he got ahead due to politics…decisions around here are all political…I’m not going to play the politics game!” We act like the word stems from the Greek derivatives “poly” (many) and “tics” (blood-sucking parasites)! So we sweep politics under the carpet and abandon the political influence arena to others with less integrity or expertise–– only to diminish our visibility, become marginalized, and sacrifice our seat at the table as a strategic business partner. After all, what do we call an athlete who stubbornly refuses to play a game that’s going on?… A LOSER!
In today’s competitive, complex, volatile, high-pressure world of business, there is a corporate survival of the fittest. There is also a survival of the SAVVY–– executives with political savvy. Fewer chairs exist in the “musical chairs game” at budget time or after a merger, acquisition, or reorganization–– so destructive politics can often surface. But let’s remember that not all politics is evil or shark-like. In the classic sci-fi movie “Star Wars,” Darth Vadar represents the dark side of “The Force.” But Obi Wan Kinobi epitomizes the noble character, ethics, and goodness of the light side of “The Force.”
Some CIOs become so disgusted or intimidated by organizational politics that they quit and leave–– only to find similar dynamics in their next position. Others quit and stay–– only to let their resentment or upset about this organizational fact of life drain their morale, motivation, energy, time, and results as they whine about it at the water cooler. Instead, CIOs need to accept politics and cultivate Organizational Savvy–– a leadership competency that wasn’t even on the map twenty years ago, but is now mission-critical for influence, impact, role credibility for one’s function, career growth, and positive, high-integrity company cultures.
For years, we have performed “fix-it” derailment coaching as a last resort before a person was fired. Fifteen to 25 years ago it was the overly-political players who were in career trouble–– abrasive, low EQ power tyrants who were now too visible to get away with their abuse. In more recent years, just as many leaders hit career plateaus or cliffs by being the opposite–– under-political. They were competent, company-loyal, dedicated, ethical 100% contributors still in career trouble due to under-estimating power and politics dynamics. They were doing water ballet in the shark tank! Or, in less political environments, they simply had not optimized politics as an ethical, positive force for constructive change. So, instead of waiting until it was too late and leaders need derailment coaching, we designed the popular, preventive leadership development workshop, Organizational Savvy–– and the rest is history.
For 17 years, Brandon Partners has taught this cutting edge strategic influence competency in scores of Fortune 500 companies and beyond. At this year’s CIO Peer Forum in Toronto, I’m delivering Thursday’s plenary session, Organizational Savvy for CIOs: Navigating the Enterprise’s Power and Politics Dynamics. We will reframe “politics” from its dirty word connotation into a positive, motivating vehicle for individual and company effectiveness through three messages:
- Ethical Politics Wake-Up Call – Embracing an inspiring business rationale for organizational politics.
- Leveraging Your Political Style – Discovering the strengths and risks of your politics mind-set.
- Organizational Savvy Skills – Identifying 13 vital skills for navigating organizational politics with integrity by completing the online Organizational Savvy Self-Assessment.