Section One

BELIEFS

A belief is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is true. Your beliefs refer to your attitudes about the world which can be either true or false. Your personal beliefs will drive your behaviour and decision making. There is no intention to question whether your beliefs are right or wrong – they are YOUR personal beliefs!

Beliefs can be powerful allies; however, they can also be unhelpful. Our belief is that you prefer not to continue holding unhelpful beliefs. If anything isn’t clear, please contact us for clarification. Our belief is that your questions will be beneficial to all of us.

A crucial element of improving your political competence is that you understand and are OK with the CORE Belief process, the ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’ – A 3-Stage model. It is shown below.

MY BELIEFS (top circle) – Your beliefs shape your behaviour. In other words, we all tend to behave in line with our beliefs. Example: If your belief is that regular self-examination will improve the chance of identifying breast cancer early, then you are more likely to conduct those checks regularly.

Our behaviour has a strong influence on other people’s behaviour. Example: Consider a customer complaining about a problem in a store. How the supplier reacts to the complaint is highly likely to influence the behaviour of that customer, and the customers in line behind them. A defensive or aggressive response from the supplier is likely to anger the customer. The customers behind now have a belief about how they will be treated, and their communication style will be based upon that belief. The behaviour you observe tends to reinforce your original beliefs about other people.

There are two outcomes from this process:

1) you achieve the outcome that is good for you – a positive outcome

or

2) an outcome that is not positive for you – a negative outcome.

The good news is that you can change the outcome and that is an example of a helpful belief!

How does this help with political competence?

Think about someone that you have worked with, that you didn’t like very much – you can’t like everybody in the world! What was your behaviour towards them like? And, as a result, how did they typically respond to you? Did their behaviour confirm your beliefs back to you? A self-fulfilling prophecy!

Understanding this model is only half of the story because you need to PUT IT INTO PRACTICE if you want to achieve better outcomes for yourself and others. The question is how do you do this? Look at the three dark blue circles again – there are only 2 that you have 100% control over. Your beliefs and your behaviour. Which may be easier to change?

Can you change your beliefs? YES! Many people believe that they can’t change. But are your beliefs now any different from the beliefs that you held when you were 18? Review the beliefs listed and decide what you want to change.

Can you change your behaviour? YES! The power of this process is that it gives YOU the power to influence and to change the behaviour of others. And that is also a helpful belief!!

Successful, influential women hold a set of beliefs that drive politically competent behaviour. You may feel that some of them are very challenging, and many may not fit with your own perception, or experience, of the world – that’s OK! Read them, reflect on them and work on one or two. See what happens. It is highly unlikely that you will have thought about your beliefs before in this way, so be patient and kind with yourself.

  1. Women are just as politically competent as men. Our behaviour may be different, but our competence is the same.
  1. Not everybody in the world is like me. They have different beliefs, personalities, and desires; and that’s not weird, it’s OK. These people help me look at challenges from a different perspective.
  1. However much I wish it, political behaviour in the workplace will never go away, which means it is everywhere.
  1. However well-reasoned my position/case may be, people may still make decisions based on other factors.
  1. Behaviour that is described as ‘political’ can be positive or negative.
  1. I need to actively manage workplace politics in the same way that I manage other aspects of my work.
  1. Other people would love to have me in their network.
  1. I believe that being open and transparent is the right thing to do. Sometimes I can’t be as open as I would like. When this happens, I need to be transparent with people about the situation.
  1. If what I am doing isn’t working, then I need to do something different and work out a different approach.
  1. The organisation chart of my workplace is NOT how it works. I need to learn where the different types of power are and how this may change over time. I need to identify:
    1. Who are the real influencers?
    2. Who has authority, but tends not to exercise it?
    3. Who is respected?
    4. Who champions or mentors others?
    5. Who is the brain behind the business?
  1. I do not have to win at everything. There are some things in the workplace that aren’t right. In an ideal world I would do something about it, but I will let it go, for now.
  1. Even if I don’t think I am political, that may not be the view of others.
  1. Some workplaces are more political than others and sometimes the organisation isn’t fair.
  1. There will always be times when a person, or groups of people are given special treatment.
  1. If someone is underperforming it may be that they are in the wrong position, not the wrong organisation.
  1. It is ok to use hidden/covert methods to get things done, although I need to be clear that others may misinterpret my actions.
  1. If I become divisive to get what I want, there will be repercussions for me in the future.
  1. I need to explain my intentions as people are not mind readers.
  1. When (what time of day/week/month) I choose to influence others should be a consideration.
  1. When I get up in the morning, my mood is my choice.
  1. Both my values and my beliefs are a choice. It is very helpful to believe this.

Please note: There is a crucial aspect of human behaviour that all of us need to know, and which is linked to this beliefs section – and it is this:

It is perfectly normal for people to hold, at the same time, opposing (and therefore by definition conflicting) beliefs and for them to be perfectly comfortable with this situation.

A few examples may help:

‘I know that if I smoke, the likelihood of me dying at an earlier age is higher than if I didn’t smoke. But I will continue to smoke ‘.

‘If I drive really fast and break the speed limit I know if I have a puncture I will have a higher change of dying, but I still continue to do it’.

‘People are promoted here for all sorts of strange reasons that I don’t understand, but I will rely on my good work that I do to speak for me’.

In your self-assessment there were four statements that had the word ‘Should’ in them:

For example, ‘Well-reasoned arguments should always be given priority.’

If you agree with this statement we may agree with you, the only problem is that we know that this is not how it works in the real world – political competence comes from a realisation that there is a difference between how things ‘SHOULD BE’; and how things actually are. They can be 2 opposing beliefs, but nevertheless many people are comfortable holding this position, if this is your position you are perfectly normal!

 

BEHAVIOURS

Your level of skill (skills tend to be groups of behaviours)

Many of the behaviours listed will be familiar to you. In managing workplace politics in a positive way, some of them become crucial. Consider each behaviour and ask yourself: Am I really good at them? What do I need to work on?

Listening   Consider how you may be perceived when you are listening to others.
  1. Are you thinking about what you are going to say next?
  2. Are there some individuals you avoid listening to?
  3. Are there some individuals you find it challenging to listen to – for whatever reason?
  4. Does a person’s appearance get in the way of you listening?
  5. Do you ‘tune out’ on certain topics?
  6. Do you listen mainly for facts and miss out on ‘what is really being said’ – or vice versa?
  7. Does your mind wander when you get bored?
  8. Do you get easily distracted?
  9. Does your body language show you are listening?
  10. What ‘giveaways’ do you reveal to show you are not really listening? – (tapping feet and fingers, stifled yawns, eyes wandering)
  11. Do you jump in as soon as there is a slight pause in the conversation?
  12. How much do you interrupt?
A smart and easy way round many of the above is to practice asking at least 2 questions on what the other person has said before you offer your own ideas/thoughts/perspective. It proves you have been listening, proves you are interested and proves you are working with their agenda and not your own. Paraphrasing what has been said also has a similar impact on the speaker.
Questioning Learn the simple, but powerful process of ‘Reveal and Ask’. Our tendency is to launch into a series of questions that can be misunderstood by the receiver. Doing a small amount of ‘Reveal’ before you ask a question can be very helpful in that it shows the listener that you do not have a ‘hidden agenda’ for the question. People who pursue their own goals rarely use this technique so by using it now and again you are implicitly, and skilfully, showing others that you are following the organisational goals and not your own.
Personality differences It is worth reminding yourself of the differences between the 4 main personality types and the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for each. There are many to choose from although instruments such as ‘Insights’ or ‘Personal Style Indicator’ are a good place to start. It is also worth understanding your own preferences and your relative strengths and weaknesses. It really is worth the time and effort to develop your personal flexibility to be able to manage or communicate with others who have a very different preference to yourself
Networking

A useful exercise is to physically draw your network (defined as people who would know who you are, without explanation, when you phone them and to categorise them into people who can provide: Influence, Information, Expertise, Friendship

And ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a category missing?
Is there an imbalance?
Do I network too much with people I like?
What are the strengths of my network?
In what ways do I need to improve it?
Are there any crucial people that I am avoiding (for whatever reason)?
Do some people get too much attention?
Are there enough people from outside my organisation/family?
Is my network too big? Does it need to be reduced?

Networking tips to consider:

  • Be curious about other teams within your organisation: find a reason to visit, be interested, ask questions, find out their challenges, build strong relationships
  • Be visible – write articles for inside/outside your organisation, create a blog on your favourite subject, join networking groups like LinkedIn etc
  • Connect with an Institute, professional or trade Association or group linked to your expertise/interest
  • Try benchmarking activities with competitors, community projects or volunteer roles
  • Volunteer internally for anything that is of interest to you
  • Identify potential allies in the organisation and create a reason to contact them – to share learning, a new idea, a possible alliance on potential challenges or something interesting happening in your industry
Generating Trust
  1. Having, discussing, agreeing, and implementing shared goals
  2. Helping others to achieve their goals, through direct action, listening and coaching
  3. Linking what you are doing to the bigger picture/strategy
  4. Being supportive to others, helping them to grow
  5. Being open and honest with others on what you expect of them
  6. Revealing to others what is going on inside for you. The timing and to whom is crucial.
  7. Displaying a positive, glass half-full approach
  8. Presenting problems as challenges
  9. Avoiding the blame game, even when you are right, and they are wrong
How your organisation REALLY works

Organisations are easy to draw on a structure chart, but this is NOT how your organisation works. The way in which it moves information, makes decisions, handles knowledge is all subject to groups of individuals with their own goals, egos, and desires.

If this wasn’t complicated enough the picture can change very quickly, particularly when appointments are made in key parts of the organisation. Our research shows that the best approach is to ask people with whom you have a good relationship and a good level of trust. Asking how the organisation REALLY works can give you insights that you may not have thought about. E.g. ‘How does this place really work? How does this place really make decisions? Who needs to be involved in what and when? Who do I really need to watch out for on xyz subjects? What pet loves/hates does xyz have?

Your network is one channel for improving your visibility within your workplace. Spend time with those who can help get things done.

The grapevine can be a great source of information, as well as disinformation. Handle wisely. Be careful not to fall into the realms of gossip. Keep to what is happening and a practical approach to your questioning.

Personal Branding
  1. Outer brand – consider how you wish to present yourself through your dress, presentation, and communication style; assess the workplace culture for their dress code.
  2. Inner brand –What is your personal story? What are your strong traits? Be true to yourself. Be consistent – Consider what you want people to remember about you – your intellect, compassion, enthusiasm, honesty, energy, etc. Deliver that consistently through your personal brand and your actions.
  3. Communication style – Stay positive, be alert, provide solutions, speak clearly, consider your speed, etc.
  4. Learn how to visually hide your immediate emotions. How can you do this? A helpful belief is that ‘not everyone is great at really expressing what they really mean’. This will help you to ask questions to get clarification on their true meaning and will give you time to hide your emotions until the appropriate time.

Digital Identity

Developing identity and protecting yourself online

Your personal online reputation can influence how others perceive you; a positive online search result supports a positive reputation, but negative search results can have the opposite affect and damage the level of trust others place in you. Personal and business information can be published online without your consent and social media posts, reviews, blogs, and articles can all affect your personal online reputation.

How do you develop and protect your online reputation?

  1. Always protect your personally identifiable information. Don’t share any details that aren’t directly relevant to your work. Review your privacy settings for all your online activities.
  2. Work proactively on your own digital presence – post regularly and consistently with relevant information on social media. This will build up your credibility and help to create your online personality. First, decide on your personal brand. What do you want to be known for? Which of your interests and passions can demonstrate your qualities? Tell stories from your own experience to make them unique and share relevant information to support your values and interests. Review your online profiles, images, and posts – what do they say about you?
  3. Schedule a regular time to monitor what is posted about you online: use search engines and Google Alerts (free and easy to use) to check what has been posted on social media and the internet. You may find negative and positive comments – the positive comments are valuable for your reputation and can be shared.
  4. Deal with any online complaints or negative comments promptly. Take time to decide if this is a genuine threat to your reputation or if it is worth ignoring. Sometimes you could make the issue worse by responding.
  5. It is extremely hard to get information removed from the internet so don’t waste time trying. Spend time and effort on trying to turn the negative into a positive experience and don’t respond in anger. Take time to consider the best approach, ask a few friends or colleagues, and then respond. Some people just want to have their voice heard and at least you know there is a problem – try not to be defensive, respond promptly and your online reputation can be protected.

BUILDING BLOCKS

You can have all of the helpful beliefs and a huge skill bank to draw on, but unless you TAKE ACTION these are worthless.

The final piece is Building Blocks, and here are some practical actions for you to take. Be realistic – don’t choose too many, however enthusiastic you may be.

  1. Develop your inner brand
    1. Be consistent – Become known for your consistency, not saying one thing and something different elsewhere.
    2. Be likeable and engaged – Show an interest in your audience and that you care about them. Consider your audience and tailor your jargon/technical language, checking understanding as you go. ‘Seek first to Understand’ is one of the ‘Seven Habits’ that proves you are interested in other people’s agendas and not simply your own. Be warm and friendly but be cautious of overt flirting that can easily back-fire, reinforce stereotypes and damage your credibility.
    3. Be positive in your body language and verbal communication – Present problems as challenges with a range of possible solutions. Restrict the desire to blame others. Position negativity as ‘the need to improve’.
    4. Talk about your successes – Many women don’t like doing this, associating this behaviour with boasting/bragging. It doesn’t have to be like this. TAKE ACTION. Choose an appropriate time and person to share what you have learnt, what you have done to assist others, areas for improvement, things that can be applied elsewhere etc. You could also ask what others have done/achieved/learnt. Use ‘We’ rather than ‘I’ in your communications.
    5. Avoid negative self-talk – TAKE ACTION on changing your language so that you always position your comments in the positive e.g. instead of ‘I messed up this …’change your words to ‘I’ve really learnt a lot from this experience, specifically xyz that I am now putting into practice’.
    6. Use of Humour – if used positively and carefully, it can lead to improved communication, reduced stress, better leadership and a healthier workplace culture. Consider the following:
      1. If you aren’t comfortable with humour, then don’t try to be something you aren’t – keep to your natural style
      2. Know your audience and focus on what is appropriate to the demographics of that group
      3. Avoid self-deprecating humour as it may suggest a lack of confidence

Avoid aggressive humour that demeans a specific group or entity – it will damage your personal brand.

  1. Develop your outer brand
    1. Having identified the strengths and weaknesses of your network – TAKE ACTION. There are many people in your workplace who are well placed to support you who may be in unexpected roles and/or not employed by your organisation. Spend more timing mixing with others. Visit in person or pick up the phone rather than emailing. Take an interest in reception staff/PA’s/coffee franchise workers, chauffeurs etc. They have masses of information/knowledge.
    2. Ask for feedback – TAKE ACTION. Ask others that you trust for their views, not only on what you do, but how you do it. This builds massive trust because it is a strong signal to others that you interested in improving your own performance and that of others. Regularly and genuinely recognise other people’s successes and hard work through whatever medium you feel comfortable. A hand-written note has an amazing impact on others.
    3. Focus on resolving conflict – We are continually amazed at the length of people’s memories so learn how to never win at the expense of a relationship. TAKE ACTION to learn how to resolve conflicts and to do it as soon as possible – we cannot over-emphasise this enough.
    4. Digital Identity. What should you do or not do?
      1. What you post and how you post it says a lot about you and your personal brand.
      2. What stories are your sharing that support your authentic self?
      3. Your digital footprint will be visible FOR EVER. This raises questions about what you choose to post and how it may be interpreted well into the future.‘Never put anything on FB that you wouldn’t say to your Grandmother’.
      4. To support your personal brand, be confident, share engaging content, talk about your successes, demonstrate your credibility
      5. Consider your email etiquette. Be cautious of the use of REPLY TO ALL, CC and BCC. BCC in particular can be misinterpreted in a negative way.
  1. Develop your organisational prowess
    1. Meetings – before meetings, prepare and do research on the attendees. If possible, ask about what is happening for them: their challenges, interests etc. After the meeting send something relevant/helpful. You’ve proved you were listening, and you’ve made an ally. Become known for delivery and follow through
    2. Boss politics
      1. Find out what your boss’ needs are and how they measure success
      2. Accommodate and make up for your Boss’ weaknesses – help them succeed
      3. Keep your boss informed on crucial issues that you know are of importance to them, bringing in information from outside of the organisation
      4. Ask them if they are interested in 360-degree feedback on their behaviour and be prepared to offer your insights
      5. Modify your behaviour and habits that you know concern your boss – example – many of us have ‘Hot Buttons’ that energise or annoy us. Learn to use the former and minimise the latter
    1. Choose the right battleground. In any workplace you do not have to win at everything. Be selective on those issues that are really important. Some issues, while seemingly important are not worth it in the overall picture; learn to focus on the big picture, not the individual issues, however frustrating that may be. Your credibility will soar!
    2. Timing – this relates to people and the workplace. Consider NOT taking action if the timing is not good – e.g., approaching Finance at year end with a brilliant new idea will not be received well. At an individual level, some people are better approached in the morning, afternoon, or evening. You know this from your personal life so use the same approach in the workplace.
  1. PowerOur research shows very clearly that many people (women and men) are uncomfortable with the idea of consciously developing more and additional sources of power. However, the helpful belief is to consider that more power will give you more influence, so it is not power for power’s sake, it is a means to an end. At work, we want to be more influential and there are many different types and degrees of power. Remember, there is a difference between having power and actually using it. These are two very different things. However, you cannot use power if you don’t have it.TAKE ACTION to Build your Power – consider the 15 power keys listed below and answer these questions:
      1. Which of these 15 sources of power do you use most at work?
      2. What are the ones you don’t use at work?
      3. What types of power would you like to have more of?
      4. Which ones don’t you like using?
      5. How do you develop, or use extra types of power?
      6. Consider practical steps to consciously develop and/or use more power.
  1. Resource– I influence others because of the resources I control, and I am comfortable in negotiating the use of my resources to achieve team/workplace objectives
  1. Information – I influence others because I have/control information that is valuable to them, and I am comfortable using this information to the benefit of both myself and others.
  1. Position– I influence others because I hold a powerful position in the social or workplace structure, and I am comfortable that people recognise the invisible label I wear that says’ ‘I am an important person’
  1. Proxy– I influence others because I am connected to/know powerful and/or important people and I am comfortable using this association with others
  1. Reward (‘Carrot’)– I influence others because I can reward those that comply with my ‘requests’, and I am comfortable giving rewards (of all types)
  1. Sanctions (‘Stick’)– I influence others because I can impose sanctions on those who do not do as I ask, and I am comfortable using this power when appropriate to achieve objectives. I may rarely use this type of power but what is key is that others recognise it is an option that I have
  1. Favours– I influence others through Building Blocks ‘banks’ of favours with others, and am comfortable asking others for assistance in return
  1. Expert (or ‘Technical/Functional/Specialist’) – I influence others because I possess expert knowledge that they consider to be valuable, and I am comfortable using my ‘technical’ or ‘functional specialist’ expertise to influence others.
  1. Personal – I influence others because of who I am. People like me, and I am comfortable using my likability and personality or by ‘flexing’ my behaviour and preferred ‘style’
  1. Status – I influence others because of the status I have within the group (e.g. most experienced, longest serving, loudest, the highest educated, etc), and I am comfortable using this status to influence others
  1. Charisma – I influence others because others want to follow me (e.g. due to my ‘vision’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘passion’, ‘beliefs’, ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’, etc), and I am comfortable being perceived as a ‘role model’ or ‘example of best practice’
  1. Success – I influence others because I have a reputation for delivering results, achieving targets, exceeding expectations, etc, and I am comfortable being known as being a high performer as it helps me to get what I want.
  1. Social – I am able to influence others because I possess highly developed social skills that put people at ease in social settings and I am comfortable creating and using social events to help me achieve our objectives
  1. Technical – I am able to influence others because of my technical abilities in critical subject areas of importance to them and I keep up to date with Industry/Subject developments
  1. Gender Power. The way in which you use your gender to influence others. Both Women and Men use this type of power, much of the time unconsciously. It is worth developing this power base into a conscious skill.

The 8 tools listed below are included in this Route Map to make your life easier, build collaborative relationships, get things done and to be even more politically competent.

The self-fulfilling prophecy
The 4D influencing tool
Feedback for behavioural change
Stakeholder Relationship Process
Communication – the key pieces
Networking
Managing and Resolving Conflict
Trust and the formula for success, literally…

1. The self-fulfilling prophecy

This powerful model has three interacting elements that combine and then flow into an outcome that can be good (positive/helpful etc) or not so good (negative/poor/bad). It works for everybody, normally at a subliminal level, i.e., most people are unaware that the elements are linked, and that they can be altered for the benefit of both yourself and others around you. Let’s investigate the elements so that you have a full understanding, the key features and then some ideas on how to make it work for you.

Looking at the diagram below, let’s start at 12 o’clock with BELIEFS and move clockwise.

All of us, you included, have a set of beliefs that have been developed over the years, have changed in that time, and may well change in the future. They have been developed as a result of the life experiences you have had, including what you have learnt from your upbringing. The fascinating thing about these beliefs is that they are major drivers of behaviour; in other words, most people, most of the time, behave in line with their beliefs. If you believe you don’t like liver, it’s highly unlikely that you will choose to eat it!

These Beliefs drive the type and sort of behaviours that we display to other people. If you believe (for whatever reason) that Yasmin is a lovely, kind wonderful person then your behaviour towards her will likely be different than if you thought she is a nasty, spiteful, aggressive person. Our behaviour, (which includes a lot of body language) in turn communicates to others and influences their behaviour. When we see this behaviour in others it tends to reinforce what we believed about them in the first place.

If we go back to our Yasmin example, at the extremes (and to make the learning point), there are two possible outcomes:

  1. I believe she is lovely, kind, wonderful person who always gives me time, is helpful even when I get things wrong, she never criticises or puts me down. I behave towards her in an agreeable way, I smile a lot, I know she will help me; I am patient with her and give her time to speak because I value her input. She, in turn behaves in the way I believed, and I walk away thinking, Isn’t Yasmin fantastic!
  2. I believe she is horrible. I have interacted with her many times, and she is cruel, she puts me down, she always seems to criticise me and on occasions she is nasty. Before seeing her, I am fearful, I am ready for the inevitable fight that will take place. I meet her with a sullen face, I try to speak first to get my point across, I interrupt her because I know she is going to be horrible to me. She behaves towards me aggressively and I walk away thinking – there she goes again, I knew she is horrible, and she has just proved it.

It is true to say our beliefs are our reality – You may have had experiences with Yasmin as above. Without getting into the philosophical debate about what is ‘truth’ the key question is this ‘Do your beliefs give you the outcome you are seeking?’

In the second example it is challenging to not believe this especially if this is your previous experience of Yasmin – i.e., Your reality.

But how about this? Before you meet Yasmin (in example 2) you take a moment to think about Yasmin in a different way.:

  1. Yasmin is a very busy person and has a lot of work and staff to manage
  2. Her criticism of me is because she wants to improve my performance
  3. She gets frustrated because I talk over her
  4. I need to show her, in double quick time, what I am doing and how it works to her agenda
  5. I don’t know what is going on for her outside the workplace, she could be having some major challenges in her life

It is likely, if this is your set of beliefs before you meet Yasmin, that you will experience Yasmin differently and you may well achieve a different outcome. This in turn then starts to ‘re-inform’ your beliefs about her. What we do know is this – if you continue to behave towards Yasmin in line with your beliefs in example 2, then the outcomes you seek will not be realised.

This is why we have the working definition of politics as Politics is not what I do, it’s why you think I am doing it’. We interpret other people’s intentions behind behaviour, and we could well come to the wrong conclusion.

In summary – This means the way we choose to interpret someone’s behaviour is driven by our internal beliefs that we have about them, which in ‘reality’ may or may not be ‘true’. Our beliefs influence our behaviour towards them. They, in turn, respond positively or negatively to our behaviour. We then choose to interpret their behaviour as confirmation that our initial beliefs about them were correct.

The ‘Self –Fulfilling Prophecy’ is a challenging model because it not only makes us accountable for how we choose to interpret other people’s behaviour, but it also challenges our own belief systems and the ‘truth’ of them. The model enables us to understand the key self-reinforcing elements within this psychological ‘cause and effect’ or ‘action-reaction’ cycle, which can generate either a ‘positive’ or a ‘negative’ reinforcing loop.

And here is the magic!!!! — Because no one holds ‘beliefs’ they believe are untrue (for them), the only way of interrupting a negative self-fulfilling cycle, (one where you don’t achieve the outcome that is good for you) and achieve a different and possibly more positive outcome, is for us to deliberately choose to ‘Act as if’ (which occurs between the belief and behaviour stages).

‘Acting as if’ means we do not need to change our beliefs, instead we alter our behaviour and observe if the outcome we are getting from the other person is more helpful or unhelpful, positive, or negative.While doing this will not alter our beliefs about the other person, the conscious and deliberate step of ‘Acting as if’ generates a different set of behaviours from us, and a different set of behavioural responses from them.

An example – I expect we have all done something very scary in our lives – a Bungee jump etc?

The first time you do something like this the belief (quite naturally) is – ‘I am going to die’, ‘the rope will break’, ‘I will hit the bottom’ etc. The resulting behaviour can be that you refuse to jump. You choose to ‘act as if ‘–and jump. Once you have done this bungee jump – practically every person on the planet says the same thing – ‘WOW – that was fantastic, can I do it again? NOW??!!’

What has happened is that your beliefs have changed as a result of your behaviour. You know you aren’t going to die etc and want to experience the thrill once again.

Choosing to ‘Act as if’ gives us all an opportunity to pause and view the behaviours and motivations of others slightly differently, and to experience different outcomes that may well be more helpful to us. When people talk about ‘behavioural flexibility’ this is one aspect that can give you massive advantages in your life.

When thinking about your own beliefs we have found that the following questions are useful:

What self-fulfilling loops have I been into recently?

Which of the above do you think are helpful and also unhelpful?

What are some of my beliefs, that if I changed, I would get a different and perhaps a better outcome?

What is it about other people’s behaviour that upsets me?

What can I do to behave ‘as if’?

Write down what you are going to do the next time you meet with a key stakeholder?

And a final, but important (and challenging) aspect to recognise (repeated from the Beliefs section because of its importance and link to beliefs in the SFP) – There is a crucial aspect of human behaviour that all of us need to know – and it is this:

It is perfectly normal for people to hold, at the same time, opposing (and therefore by definition conflicting) beliefs and for them to be perfectly comfortable with this situation.

A few examples may help:

‘I know that if I smoke, the likelihood of me dying at an earlier age is higher than if I didn’t smoke. But I will continue to smoke ‘.

‘If I drive really fast and break the speed limit I know if I have a puncture I will have a higher change of dying, but I still continue to do it’.

‘People are promoted here for all sorts of weird reasons that I don’t understand, but I will continue to rely on my good work that I do to speak for me’.

In your self-assessment there were 4 statements that had the word ‘Should’ in them: for example,

‘Well-reasoned arguments should always be given priority.’

If you agree with this statement we may agree with you, the only problem is that we know that this is not how it works in the real world – political competence comes from a realisation that there is a difference between how things ‘SHOULD BE’; and how things actually are. They can be 2 opposing beliefs, but nevertheless many people are comfortable holding this position, if this is your position you are perfectly normal!

2. The 4D personality Influencing tool

We know people are different, right?!

The questions are: 1) HOW are they different and 2) What does this mean in terms of how people are influenced or PREFER to be influenced.

Our tool also reveals and explains your own preferences, and how these can help or hinder you when seeking to influence others, particularly where you have little or no authority over them.

The background to personality theory includes a contribution from Carl Jung in the 19th Century, and Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine, who made Jung’s model much more user friendly. Myers and Briggs created a model containing 16 different ‘types’ which gave rise to many of the models seen today. Theories have continued to evolve, and we have used the ‘Big 5’ model as our foundation, and which helps to explain the major differences between people with different preferences. We have purposefully not used the 5th Trait – Neuroticism to make the model more usable and practical.  There are other models that are more detailed, but typically are more difficult to remember. Our 4D model retains its integrity to the research and gives you a pragmatic tool to use for the rest of your life. Please do watch out for stereotyping people into 4 Boxes. The model does provide us all with a useful framework for understanding ‘Why do people do what they do?’

In our 4D model there are 2 axes to remember, and as a result of crossing they form what we call the 4 ‘types’ of personality. We will call them preferences from here on.

The axes explained:

  1. Internalise relates to the preference for thinking before speaking, to be considered and to reflect before responding. They can internalise in a caring and considerate way (Dialogue) or in a detail, concise, detailed way (Detail)
  2. Externalise relates to the preference to speak and/or respond at the same time, or immediately, typically before thinking. They can externalise in a direct, short, focussed manner (Direct) or in a random, creative, variable way (Difference)

This gives us 4 types to understand – they are all influenced in different ways. Let’s look at the key words in each of the 4 preferences to give us some data and clues to how we might spot a person’s likely preference, and what these preferences look like in behavioural terms (What you can actually see and hear).

From these positive attributes it becomes clearer on how each of the 4 preferences like to be influenced. Additionally, they also give you some clues about how to annoy a particular ‘personality type’ by doing the very thing that is NOT their preference.

The top 12 ways to influence each of the 4 preferences, in behavioural terms

Detail Preference

1.      Use written communications over verbal

2.      Send detailed information before meeting

3.      When talking slow down your pace

4.      Talk about details, be objective and stress quality

5.      Take time to understand them – patience

6.      Think and consider before you speak/respond

7.      Be clear, precise, and accurate

8.      Be structured, follow agreed processes/standards

9.      Stick to your word

10. Provide advance notice of any change – No surprises

11. Be focused on the subject/task, don’t drift off

12. Use evidence and data to support your interaction – the past is linked to the future

Dialogue Preference

1.      Explore personal information before work

2.      Be flexible by exploring where their agenda goes

3.      Take time to develop personal relationships

4.      Be co-operative, supportive

5.      Challenge by stating alternative ‘helpful’ approaches

6.      Give personal thanks and how they are valued

7.      Be interested

8.      Use ‘Us’, ‘Together’ ‘Team’ ‘We’ – inclusive words

9.      Listen for, and address concerns/feelings

10. Establish harmony, a collegiate approach

11. Allow them to express their concerns

12. Encourage them to talk

Direct Preference

1.      Be business like, little or no personal talk

2.      Be factual, use specifics

3.      Be goal oriented

4.      Use action words

5.      Make things happen – provide solutions

6.      Be structured

7.      Stick to your word

8.      Keep to deadlines

9.      Focus on results and outcomes

10. Speak clearly, logically and precisely – Avoid, ‘I think, It could be, It might be, Approximately’

11. Be brief – ‘Get in, say it, get out’

12. Answer direct questions

 

Difference Preference

1.      Explore ideas, novelty, and options

2.      Allow them to talk and explore

3.      Concentrate on the future and what could b

4.      Be enthusiastic, positive, and fun

5.      Be flexible, their views will change – sometimes many times

6.      Record important agreements in writing (they are liable to forget)

7.      Give personal thanks

8.      Tolerate their disorganised ways

9.      Allow them to express their concerns

10. Think laterally, creatively and be prepared for ‘Dead ends’

11. Offer help with providing detail

12. Provide informality

And if you really want to annoy or upset them then do the following…!!!

Detail Preference

1.      ‘Drop in’ unexpectedly – physically or virtually

2.      Be over-optimistic

3.      Get off the subject

4.      Waffle and be vague

5.      Talk about subjects you know little about

6.      Dominate discussions

7.      Concentrate on the future at the expense of the past

8.      Rush them

9.      Get too close, physically and/or get personal

10. Talk about the need to go faster, refuse to provide detail

11. Use subjective/generalised language – ‘I think’, ‘I believe’ ‘it could be’, ‘It might be’, ‘are you happy?’, ‘approximately’

12. Ridicule the process/structure/model/reliability/policies/protocols

Dialogue Preference

1.      Attack personally

2.      Be insincere

3.      Move too fast

4.      Be too structured

5.      Ignore their feelings

6.      Put facts and details before feelings

7.      Dominate discussions

8.      Force them into difficult deadlines

9.      Ridicule concerns, be judgmental

10. Discuss people as a resource or ‘a thing’ – use ‘Them’ ‘You’ ‘Me’

11. Talk over and interrupt

12. Refuse to talk about your private life

Direct Preference

1.      Attack personally

2.      Be ambiguous

3.      Get off the subject

4.      Waffle

5.      Talk about subjects you know little about

6.      Give too many opinions

7.      Waste time

8.      Change your mind frequently

9.      Dominate discussions

10.    Go too slow, providing lots of details

11.    Get in their way

12.    Talk too much

Difference Preference

1.      Talk about details

2.      Dwell on the past

3.      Take issue with (or worse, ignore) their opinions unless they persist

4.      Be too structured/objective

5.      Force them into difficult deadlines

6.      Be too convergent in your thinking, offering limited             time to explore

7.      Put facts before feelings

8.      Move too fast

9.      Be insincere

10.    Ignore their achievements

11.    Be boring

12.    Show surprise at ‘different’ ideas

In summary there are a number of skills to develop

  1. Being consciously aware of your own preference and also your LOWEST preference
  2. Being able to identify, sometimes ‘on the go’, another person’s preference
  3. Being able to shift your own behavioural preference to meet the need of others
  4. Having a belief that this process makes you skilful, not manipulative

Not being afraid to get it wrong and to learn from the process

Identifying other people’s preferences can be a relatively easy task for the majority of the population – they give it away through their behaviour and your observational skills here are critical. For a small proportion of the population the task is slightly more difficult. One of the ways to identify their preference is to ask them, or others who know them well.

A useful tip is to use the 4D box model to plot the names of your key stakeholders based on your understanding of their likely preference. Then plot your own preference(s) on the same grid. Normally, (but not exclusively) your biggest challenges will be with the stakeholders you have in the opposite diagonal from your own preference. Influencing people who have the same preference as yourself is normally easier, but sometimes it’s not always the case.

And finally… the 4 WORST and BEST things you could say to each of the 4 preferences

The worst:

Direct – ‘What plans do you have this year for a holiday?’

Dialogue – ‘I really do think that you care about people too much, they are just a resource at the end of the day.’

Difference – ‘I’d like to show you the detail in my Excel spreadsheet.’

Detail – ‘I’m not sure about that as I’m not into the minutiae, suppose it could be about 50%, give or take a few percentages either way.’

The best:

Direct – ‘I won’t be long, just need to get your OK on this so we can move forward quickly and get it done.’

Dialogue – ‘It’s going to be important to involve others in this process so we can go forward together.’

Difference – ‘I’ve got a load of options here for you to look at and you will probably have a few as well.’

Detail – ‘I’ve got the Excel spreadsheet here with all the details because it’s critical we do a quality job on this.’

Should you be interested in finding out more and/or taking the questionnaire to reveal your personality preference then please contact us.

  1. The Feedback tool – How to change other people’s behaviour

We believe there are only two ways in which you can change another person’s behaviour.The first is by using some sort of unacceptable force and the second is by providing feedback that can be used by people to change their own behaviour. We will focus on the latter!

An effective way for you to demonstrate a high level of political competence is to give feedback to others that makes sense and that they can actually use. It makes you a ‘helper’ as opposed to a ‘criticiser’ and the outcome is always more effective working and personal relationships. The onus is very much on you to make sure your feedback meets these criteria

The E2C2 Feedback Process is a practical 3 step process:


EXAMPLE: Describe the situation in order to locate the person in ‘time’ and ‘space’ (reminding them of where and when they were)

‘Do you remember the Project Team meeting yesterday in the room 25?

Then describe thespecific behaviour that was observed (i.e. the behaviour that theyactually ‘said’ or ‘did’)

‘At the end of my presentation I asked for questions, and you said, ‘Why bother, the bosses won’t change anything anyway, you looked at the ceiling and put your arms in the air’.

Notice the absence of any judgemental words/statements such as ‘you were rude at the end of my presentation’, ‘You were flippant when I asked for questions’, ‘I don’t know why you are so difficult’ etc.

Now describe the EFFECT

Effect: Describe the impact of their behaviour had ON YOU – this is critical- describing the impact of others will open you up to challenge and argument. The impact ON YOU is a fact that cannot be disputed either in emotional or task terms

‘What you said made me feel disappointed and upset, because I wanted to make sure everybody understood what I’d been saying’.


Now we turn to the 2 C’s

Only one is going to be used, depending on the type of feedback you want to provide.

Continue – You would like to provide feedback, so the person continues to behave in this way – i.e., they are doing something well/positive/good.
Change – You want to provide feedback, so they change their behaviour i.e., they are doing something badly/negative/poor.

The Continue option tends to involve you saying something like ‘and I really think you should keep doing that in these circumstances as it seems to work well. Great stuff!’ It is likened to a ’Tell’ approach. Little discussion and communication that is one-way. This option is sometimes called the ‘Motivational’ ending.

The Change option will involve you(most of the time, there are a small number of exceptions) in using a ‘Coaching’ process where you ask the other person what they might do differently in the future. This involves them in solution finding and commitment to future behavioural change will be higher. Should they not have any ideas you can move towards ‘Tell’ gradually by using ‘Suggestion, Recommendation and Advice’. If they still continue to have no practical ideas then you can use ‘Tell’ but recognise that, whilst it is quick, their buy-in to your solution will not be all that high and if implemented and it doesn’t work it will be your fault, not theirs! Avoid ‘Tell’ if you can. This option is sometimes called the ‘Developmental’ ending.

We mentioned that you may need to go into ‘Tell’ mode on occasions. This will probably be for Health and Safety, Legal or Policy reasons where there is no need for a discussion – e.g. ‘When you come onto the Building Blocks site, you must wear your safety hat. No safety hat, no work.’

Additionally, another example may be where the colleague may be someone new or with a low level of knowledge, skill, or experience – they simply may not know what it was they should have been doing in the first place.

Some of the rules of Feedback for it to work effectively

  • Descriptive not judgmental
  • Within their sphere of control
  • Offered not forced
  • Delivered using E2C2
  • Timely
  • Given in person

And finally, watch out for the trap of stumbling at the ‘Example’ stage by using judgemental wording instead of a description of behaviour. It is easy to do, and you will find very quickly that you will be in conflict. Using a behavioural example will ensure that the conflict magically disappears.

  1. Stakeholder Management

Being politically competent will involve you in researching and understanding your various stakeholders that have an interest in you and your work.

The definition of a stakeholder is ‘a person who has an interest in your success, and/or failure’.

We have two tools for you that we know will make your life much easier. The first is the Power/Interest grid and the second is the Stakeholder Alignment process. Both are covered in this Route map.

First, the Power/Interest grid.

There is a need to differentiate your stakeholders into different groups. You will need to do this because:

  1. You will in all probability have too many stakeholders
  2. You will need to understand better their needs
  3. You will need to prioritise your stakeholders
  4. You will need to treat them differently depending on their needs and personality preferences

The Power/Interest grid allows you to plot your stakeholders against your understanding of their:

POWER – Defined as their ability to stop you in whatever you are doing. Your Line Manager/Project/Matrix Leader would rank HIGH. Some of your friends may rank LOW.

INTEREST – Defined as their level of interest in whatever you are doing. Your Line Manager and fellow project team members would rank HIGH. The CEO of the organisation would rank LOW. unless you were doing something critical/particularly important to the future success of the organisation!

If we plot one against the other,we end up with the following grid:

To plot your stakeholders, by name requires you to:

  • Think about the task/activity/issue as the relative importance of stakeholders will change
  • Working through and capturing ALLstakeholders
  • Identify those with various levels of ‘STOPPING’ power
  • Identifying those who may have an interest, or not.

The outcome of this process will be four boxes with your stakeholder names (or initials) in each of the four boxes. If you know their personality preferences, you could also add this information under their names.

This now provides you with the action plan you need to be politically competent as 70% of your time and effort should really focus on those stakeholders who are in the ‘Delight’ quadrant, 20% to the ‘Satisfy’ quadrant and 10% to the other two quadrants.

This now brings us onto the Second Stakeholder tool, the Stakeholder Relationship Process (SRP), and it involves only those stakeholders who are in your ‘Delight’ quadrant.

The Stakeholder Relationship Process (SRP)

Introduction

If you wish others to view you as politically positive person,you need to ensure alignment of goals throughout the organisation. Over recent years, much effort has gone into providing people with clarity on what they have to achieve and how it fits into the overall, strategic picture. Getting goal alignment is no longer the challenge. But achieving stakeholder alignment is a different story.

The question is – ‘How do you do it?’ - We have designed this SRP to achieve this outcome.

As a tool, it helps to clarify thinking about goals and priorities and develop sound project plans.When adopted as a skill, it encourages both organisations and individuals to challenge the way they operate and relate to others.It recognises that, in today’s complex organisations, we can aid our own success by identifying and fulfilling the needs of others – a ‘win-win’ approach – A key political competence. It is a proactive approach to managing relationships.

Objectives of SRP
To clarify the relative importance of all stakeholders
To promote success through focussing on the needs of others
To promote success through focussing on the needs of others
To develop a comprehensive strategy or project plan which will leave little to chance
To develop Rapport and Relationship Building Blocks
To get your agenda on their agenda

How the SRP works – there are six stages to follow

Stage 1 – Outline the Aim or Mission

This is an initial statement capturing what it is you need to do; it could be as small as a single task or as big as the biggest project, e.g., ‘Deliver product information to X by Y’ or ‘To build the best retailing organisation in the world’. Let us use a practical example to bring the process to life and imagine that we are a member of a mountaineering expedition.Your mission is ‘to reach the top of Everest, and to get back down, safely’.

Stage 2 – Consider all Stakeholders

You need to identify everyone who has any kind of interest in this project – brainstorm as widely as possible. Your list could include the team members, their families, the Nepalese government, our sponsors, the Boss, the media, rescue organisations, travel agents, weather people, other climbers, local businesses, equipment providers etc.

Stage 3 – Prioritise Stakeholders

The stakeholders can then be prioritised, using the four box Power/Interest grid as outlined above.

Stage 4 – the Stakeholders’ Needs and Measures

The key to this technique is to put yourself in the shoes of the stakeholders – what areTHEIR needs from this project, and how THEY will measure whether their needs have been met.

At this stage it may emerge that there is a potential conflict between the needs of differentstakeholders, e.g. the families want the team members to be safe, but the media would like an incident/accident for their front page.In many situations, the needs of the stakeholders may not be clear (or it is only our best guess) and you will needto check with them. This can be done face to face or virtually.

Once you have identified the needs of your stakeholders, you can then look at each one and analyse how THEY will decide whether their needs have been met (decide on the measures).

Examples

Stakeholders Needs Measures
Climbers Achievement Sense of personal satisfaction, big party with loved ones on return Reputation, picture standing on the summit
Safety Get back without significant injury, but ok with ‘minor’ injuries such as a lost digit through frostbite. No accidents
Equipment providers Equipment tested to the extreme No failure of equipment even past widest tolerance
Media exposure Products look good in photos and in adverse conditions e.g., avalanche or some other disaster. No accidents. Column inches, TV minutes
Media Great Story and Media Exposure A disaster that can be serialised and several accidents to report A human-interest story, involving scandal and/or heroism Exclusive story, inside information, link to previous scandal
Families Safety Safest route, no incidents, or accidents Emergency arrangements in place
Information Success reported only in press Regular progress report

This is a good start but much more clarity is needed e.g., what does significant mean? Is the loss of a digit serious for an experienced and motivated climber? It is, if you are a family member.

Additionally, the conflicts of interest give you the opportunity to go back to stakeholders and clarify what is, and what is not, possible i.e. clarify expectations.This is an essential part of proactive Stakeholder Alignment if you are to avoid misunderstandings and, in the eyes of your stakeholders, failing to live up to their expectations. This is typically about ‘How’ you will go about the climb and not the ‘What’.

Stage 5 – Take to Stakeholder for Discussion

Meet with stakeholder to confirm the content of your analysis. Add, subtract, or alter as advised. Position your analysis in line with their personality preferences.

Stage 6 – Put your own needs to your stakeholder

And here comes the magic; once you have followed and implemented the above 5 stages you now have a window of opportunity to put in front of your stakeholder YOUR own needs. Psychologically speaking it is exceedingly difficult for them to refuse.

  1. Communication – The key pieces

The skill of effective communication contains multiple moving parts. To become even more politically competent, two are absolutely crucial to get right:

  • Listening
  • Questioning

Most people would say about themselves that they are good listeners - Most people say that other people are poor listeners – something is not right! To show to others that you are behaving in a politically positively and that you are interested in other people’s agendas, as well as your own, then you can only prove this by having absolutely top-class listening skills.

Let us start with an individual audit for you – a questionnaire that only you will see, so be honest, really honest and answer which ones apply to you. Which actions should you be focusing on to improve how you navigate the maze of workplace politics? We all have them! Write down your actions in your Personal Navigation Plan.
Listening Attention Interruptions
Are there individuals you avoid having to listen to? Do you let your mind wander or pursue thoughts of your own? Are you always ready to jump in with your own ideas as soon as the other person pauses?
Are there categories of people you find difficult to listen to? Do you spend time thinking what you are going to say next? If the other person says something you disagree with, do you interrupt to put your point of view?
Would someone's appearance prejudice you so that you could not listen objectively? Do you listen with an open mind? If you can guess the end of a person's sentence, do you complete it for him/her?
Might a person's accent or way of speaking make him/her scarcely worth listening to? Are you easily distracted by other things going on around you? If so, do you then continue talking yourself?
Do you 'tune out' on certain topics? Do you have ways of kidding the speaker you are paying attention when you are not? Do you ask questions to interrupt the other person or to clarify understanding?
Do you refuse to listen to things that may make you feel uncomfortable? Does your body language (wandering gaze, stifled yawn, tapping foot, or drumming fingers) ever reveal that you are getting bored, impatient, or irritable? Do you try to stop the speaker if you feel he or she is getting angry or upset?
Do you pay attention only to the good things, or only to the dreadful things, you hear?
Do you listen chiefly for facts and overlook expressions of feeling, opinion, or prejudice?
Do you listen purely for your own purposes without thinking what the other person needs?
Do you face the speaker and maintain eye contact?

Questioning

We are going to focus here on only one skill, the skill of being open and transparent. The question often asked is how do you do this? The answer is simple and easy, but unfortunately, not common.We have borrowed a technique from Peter Senge, first seen in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline.’ We have used terminology that we believe will be more useful to our female audience.

Reveal and Ask

In the workplace, when we are busy and short of time it is too easy to jump straight into a question when interacting with others (The ASK) – imagine your Boss saying to you ‘Are you busy?’ – What immediately goes through your mind?

‘Is she/he going to give me more work?’

‘Don’t they think I’m busy enough?’‘

“Do they think I’m slacking?’....etc.

The reason we respond like this internally is that we are not clear as to what is behind the question. The intention behind the question can be misinterpreted, particularly if they wear a certain ‘badge’. Imagine the Finance Director who calls you halfway through the budget year and asks, ‘Have much of your budget have you spent this year?’

This misinterpretation can be easily counteracted and that is to use the ‘REVEAL’ first, before moving to the ‘ASK’.By revealing, we mean telling the other person that you want to ask them a question AND the reason for asking it. It sounds simple and it is, but few people use this technique. The fabulous by-product is that people with their focus on ‘OWN GOAL ALIGNMENT’ will use this technique (it is not in their interest for you to know their hidden meanings)and people who have ‘ORGANISATIONAL GOAL ALIGNMENT’ never do. By using REVEAL and ASK you are communicating to others that you have nothing to hide and that you have the respect for them in helping them to understand your position before asking the question. It is called ‘making your thinking processes visible’.

And finally, how to managethree common communication challenges:

At some time in your life, you will have experienced another person using ‘Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations’.

There are definitions given below so that you are able to spot them, with examples from domestic life (just for fun)!

Deletions

The person you are communicating with conveniently (for them) deletes information that does not fit with the position that they have.

THEM - ‘you never fill the dishwasher’

YOU – ‘Yes I do, I did it on Tuesday’

THEM – ‘Yeah, but that’s once in a million times, you never do it’

Distortions

This is a personal prejudice that twists our perceptions. We amplify or diminish our experience, seeing it differently, as in a hall of mirrors.

THEM ‘You don’t like my mother’

YOU ‘I do like your mother, it’s just that she says some weird things that I don’t agree with’

THEM ‘You don’t like my mother’

Generalisations

This occurs when we reach a global conclusion based on one or two experiences, taking them as representative of a whole class and paying no attention to exceptions.

THEM ‘I had salmon once and it wasn’t nice. All seafood is awful, I’ll never eat it again.’

When you come across people who are using these, the solutions are all the same. A question to the other person is needed, but the key challenge is what question? This will depend on the situation and topic of conversation although in general terms it needs to seek out the REAL issue behind the statement, which at times can be quite a challenge.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea:

  1. ‘People don’t know enough about it.’
    1. To make sense of this, you could ask,
    2. ‘Which people exactly?’
    3. Alternatively - What does ‘it’ mean??
    4. You could ask, ‘What exactly don’t they know enough about?’
  2. ‘This relationship isn’t working.’
    1. Convert – ‘this relationship’ – to specifics by asking, ‘How exactly are we not relating?’
  3. Generalisations - The key words here are all, never, always and every. These simplify our view of the worldand limit us by allowing no exceptions.
    1. ‘You are always out when I need you’
    2. The way to question these generalisations is to ask for the counterexample:
    3. [page-break]
    4. Am I always out? - Was there never a time when I was here?
    5. If you have good rapport with the other party, you can simply express incredulity: ‘Always?!’

    Remember the counter to deletions, distortions and generalisations is always a QUESTION. Refrain from making a counter statement that may also be a deletion, distortion, or generalisation!!

6. Networking

Introduction

There is little doubt that in the modern organisationithasneverbeentruerthatWHOyou know is at least as important as WHATyouknow.Building political capability requires a dedication to building an effective network that operates for YOU. This means that there is no RIGHT network, size, or shape; it is for you to decide what it looks like and what you want from it.It has never been easier to build an effective network and technology can help, but it can also hinder. What follows are ideas and a diagnostic tool that we are sure you will find useful.

Purpose of your Network

Whilst some people build up a network of contactsquitenaturally,itremainsimportanttobe clear on the purpose of your network and to introduce a discipline into finding, building and maintaining relationships with the appropriate people. The foundation of any network is to keep clearly in mind that you start from a giving perspective–beitsupport,advice,guidance, information, knowledge, skill, fun etc, rather than what you can take from your relationships. Those whose focus tends to be on what they can get out of their network generally find that it shrinks rather than grows over time.

Being politically competent calls for a genuine interest in the issues, problems, needs and concerns of others. The more people you know means there are more people who know you. Visibility is important in organisational politics. It also becomes a virtuous circle as you add more contacts because they have their contacts who, in turn, become your contacts. Pretty soon, people will start approaching you because they believe you are worth knowing, on account of your contacts!

Findingtherightpeopleforyournetworkrequires first thinking through the areas where you might be lacking in terms of information, influence, expertise, etc, and then considering suitable channels through which you might come into contact with appropriate individuals. Clubs, societies, professional bodies, conferences, breakfast briefings are some of the places wherethe‘right’contactscanbemadeand, as we have stated above, itwill vary from person to person.

Maintaining your network requires disciplineandhasseveral ‘success’ elements:

Formany people it isquiteachallengetotakethe initiative in making and meeting new contacts. It becomes easierif they are convinced of the importance of it. From research it is quite apparent that there is a positive correlation between successful individuals and the quality of their network. Quantity is not everything. It is possible to have so many in your network that you do not have a meaningful relationship with any of them. Or, of course, it could be that you know many people, but not the right ones! Only you candeterminewho is right in your case but beware thinking short-term. The next development in your career will be easier if you have already established contact with the right people. The potentially difficultcross-functional project relationships will be eased if you alreadyhaveconnectionsinthoseareas.Waitinguntil the moment arrives may well be toolate.

A definition of a person in your network - people who you can contact, by whatever medium, and they will know immediately who you are.

How and where you get involved is down toyou. We all have a different start point and every organisation is different. One thing is common however and that is, those with political competence recognise the importanceof networking and workhardtoensurethey have one that works for them.

Reviewing process

This exercise requires you to use your artistic skills! Do not worry if that shocks you, it is only a means to an end. It involves you drawing your network – everybody you know that meets the network criteria. The biggest piece of paper the better. You put yourself at the centre. You ‘plot’ people you know by putting a line from you to a new bubble with their name in and you represent the width of the connecting line in relationship to your perceived strength of relationship. The better the strength, the wider and thicker the line. If you know people who can grouped together it is fine to put them all in the same bubble. You will end up with several bubbles, lots of lines of varying thickness and it may well look a bit messy!! A real example below…….

After drawing your network and you have all your contacts on the page, answer the following questions and, if you are able, discuss with a trusted colleague. Feel free to add/delete/change to your diagram as needed:

  • What are the strengths of my network?
  • What are the weaknesses of my network?
  • Are there any important people that are missing/being neglected, e.g. difficult people?
  • Are there less important people who get too much attention (likeable people)?
  • Is there a good balance (for me) of internal and external contacts?
  • Is there anything preventing me from developing a stronger and more effective network?
  • In what ways do I need to improve my network?
  • As a result of answering the above, what am I actually going to do? Write it into your Personal Navigation Plan.

7. Managing and Resolving Conflict

People who are politically competent are able to manage conflict (typically between two or more other people) or resolve conflict between themselves and others. It is a high-level skill and many people say they are able to resolve conflict, but in practice this is far from true.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Conflict, by definition, is a physiological process –Your defence mechanism normally gets in the way, the part of the brain that is designed to keep you safe. This ‘stops’ rational thought.
  • The word ‘conflict’ for many people is similar to the word ‘politics’ – it is best avoided and is a strategy that can be seen in daily life: ‘let’s not go there’, ‘let’s agree to disagree’, ‘I’ll come back to this at another time’, ‘now is not the right time’ etc.
  • Few people understand the process that will bring all parties to an outcome that is good for all.
  • Some people have a need to maintain relationships at all costs, even if they are disadvantaged.
  • The skill required to resolve conflict is considerable and requires practice – it does not come naturally.

Beliefs

To start, let’s begin with beliefs about ‘Conflict’ as a word. Many people do not like the thought of being in conflict. People believe different things about conflict:

  1. Some believe it can be fun
  2. Some believe it can be energising
  3. Some believe it can ‘clear the air’
  4. Some believe it can lead to better decision making
  5. Some believe it can satisfy their need to explore

Whatever your belief about Conflict please note that it nothing more than ‘A PROBLEM WAITING TO BE SOLVED’ and it is a unique problem in that it is always between two or more people (you cannot be in conflict with an inanimate object!). This is the helpful belief to hold. Most people, including you, the reader,must have good (or better) critical thinking skills. You have to have them as most organisations recruit people on the basis that they have these skills.

The triggers of conflict

They are many and varied and can be associated with different types of people:

  • Being misaligned, (I am keen to focus on customer service, you are keen to focus on maximising income)
  • Having different behavioural preferences (I like to focus on detail, you get bored with detail)
  • Having lack of, or different understanding (I thought you meant a week, when you actually meant a month)
  • Making assumptions about other people that are not true (because you live in XXX I thought you must like YYY)
  • Having different beliefs (I believe children should sit and be quiet and you believe children should be allowed to express themselves in whatever way they like)
  • Having deep and probably unspoken personality differences (I am a person who always tells the truth, you are a person who is happy to tell small lies to make life easy)
  • ………the list is endless!!

The good news is that all of the above can be resolved to the benefit of both parties by using the following process. We call it the WIN/WIN outcome. Too often conflict is resolved to the satisfaction of one party but not to both. Sometimes it can be resolved by both giving up something and this is not win/win but a second-best outcome called COMPROMISE. This is common in the world as it can save time, but it is not a win/win outcome.

The process for resolving conflict

The following process has been designed from a body of work going back over 40 years and most books on the subject of conflict resolution will use a similar methodology as it works! It is a five stage, procedural process that must be followed in order. Each stage is critical and cannot be missed. If you do omit a stage, you may get stuck or in a loop you cannot escape from.

We give you each of the 5 Stages, with an explanation of each stage underneath.

Stage One

You need to tell the other party that a conflict exists between you (people are not mind readers and may not know) and WITHOUT stating your own position give a little information about what the conflict is about. You also need to tell them that you would like the conflict to be resolved.

This can be a short stage.

Stage Two

This stage is all about finding out from the other party their position on the topic. Open, closed, probing, clarifying questions can be used. Note that there can sometimes be a difference between what people say and what they mean. Continue to ask questions to find out their real needs and concerns. Paraphrasing back to them your understanding of their position is required and you need to do this at two levels:

  • The content of what they are saying (so what I understand is that you need 25 copies, in colour, by 5 pm)
  • The ‘visual’ feedback that you are seeing in this conversation – this could be related to them showing frustration, anger, annoyance etc. (e.g., …and I can see this is really important for you)

Questions need to be asked until you find out all information (you don’t want to get to a later stage to find out that you’ve missed something critical!). If you ask e.g. Is there anything else? And they answer ‘No’ then that is a good sign you have all the information.

This can sometimes be a long stage.

Stage Three

Having found out their position it is now time for you to state your own needs.Remember that whatever the situation, including the position of the other party, that you have a right to state to another human being what your needs are – they do not have to agree.

This can be a short stage and in general terms the shorter the better.

Stage Four

Having established their needs and now stated your own it is time to get into some serious problem-solving techniques. Make sure there is no gap between stage 3 and stage 4 – you do not want to give the other party an opportunity to start challenging your position.

The problem-solving techniques to use are many and varied and here is not the right place to list the many distinct types that are available to you. What is important is that you explore all practical options around the conflict you have identified and then between you to choose the best options – FOR THE BOTH OF YOU. This is how you get to the Win/Win position.

This can sometimes be a long stage, depending on the techniques you choose to use.

Stage Five

This final stage is really the ‘Administration’ stage in that decisions need to be made as to who needs to do what, by when, etc.

A final word on conflict and the challenges we all face.

Not everybody can naturally excel at all five. If we exclude stage 5 (the ‘who does what’ stage) then the four remaining stages can all be linked to a person’s personality preference (refer to the section on the 4D personality model). In general, we will ALL have development needs for at least one of the stages and this is linked to your strengths and weaknesses of your own personality preference. So below is a brief description of the stage(s) that you may find easy and stage(s) that you may find a challenge.

Conflict Stage The personality preference that may find this stage easy The personality preference that may find this stage challenging
1 Detail Dialogue
2 Dialogue Direct
3 Direct Difference
4 Difference Detail

The rationale for this analysis is:

Stage One – For a Detail preference this stage is factual and objective. For a Dialogue preference there may be a fear of ‘falling out’ with the other person so avoiding the conversation could be preferred.

Stage Two - Dialogue preference will enjoy as they are interested in the position of others. Direct preference tends to ‘get bored’.

Stage Three – Direct preference enjoys this stage as its short and it is about them. The Difference preference can be too talkative, and their position gets lost/nonspecific.

Stage Four – The Difference preference enjoys the process of brainstorming and being creative. The Detail preference sometimes has a belief that they are not creative, so best to think about this stage as being about Problem Solving, not creativity.

Remember this aspect if not an exact science but may well give you an additional insight into the design of your Personal Navigation Plan. Do refer to the 4D personality section for further information.

  1. Trust and the formula for success, literally…

We started our journey towards political competence with the fact that some people see politics as a negative and some see it as a positive, and everything in between. If others perceive you in a negative way, for whatever reason, then the level of trust between yourself and others will be affected. It will be more difficult to get things done, influence people, communicate effectively etc. It is therefore important to finish this Route Map with the subject of trust; what it is and how you can increase it.

Unbelievably, there is a mathematical formula that seeks to explain what trust is, which in turn will lead to answering the question, ‘How do I increase trust between myself and others?’

The Formula

The Trust Equation uses four objective variables to measure trustworthiness. These four variables are best described as: Credibility, Reliability, Safety (or Security)and Goal orientation (the individual’s focus)

We combine these variables into the following equation:

TQ stands for Trust Quotient. The Trust Quotient is a number — like your IQ or EQ — that benchmarks your trustworthiness against the four variables.

Let us delve into each variable a bit more:

  • Credibility

has to do with the words we speak and the actions we take. We may think, “I can trust what she says about Project Management; she’s very credible on the subject.”

  • Reliability

has to do with delivering against what we say, “If he says he’ll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he’s dependable and he’s not let me down in the past”

  • Safety (or Security)

refers to the safety or security that we feel when trusting someone, “I can trust her with that information; she’s never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me.”

  • Individual focus

refers to the person’s goal orientation. If is primarily on him or herself we may say to ourselves, “I can’t trust him on this deal — I don’t think he cares enough about me, he’s focused on what he gets out of it.”

One thing that will erode trust is where people assess that you may be acting out of self-interest. So, the extent to which you exhibit self-orientation will diminish the trust people feel. The opposite is also true.

The equation works like this:

  • If any of the numbers above the line are zero, then trust is going to be zero
  • If any of the numbers above the line are extremely low, then trust will be low
  • If the goal focus is on other people, then the bottom number is low, and trust will be high
  • If the goal focus is on myself, then the bottom number is high, and trust will be low
  • If the numbers above the line are all high and the number below the line is high, then trust will be low
  • If the numbers above the line are high and the number below the line is low (goal focus is on US, not ME) then trust will be high.

This is the final piece of our political competence resource section, and probably the key to managing your workplace politics even more effectively and to complete your journey towards complete political competence -If your behaviour in the workplace is seen by others as being focussed on own goals, then the trust levels you will enjoy with others will be low. If your behaviour is seen as more focussed on organisational AND own goals, then the level of trust will be, by definition, a lot higher.

One of the only ways you can find out what your numbers might be in this equation is to ask those people that you trust, as well as those people you do not trust!

Congratulations !

You have made it through to the end of the workplace politics analysis and resources!

By now you should have completed all of the steps in the six-step sequence and will have a Personal Navigation Plan. If you haven’t yet completed it the template is here.

  1. interpretation of the political atmosphere you observe/experience in your workplace to give you a context for the next step
  2. your political competence results to help you determine how to handle workplace politics in a positive way
  3. interpretation of your goal alignment results
  4. time to reflect on your overall results
  5. prioritise your personal development decisions
  6. make decisions about the actions that will drive success for you and others in your workplace and for your career goals and ambitions. Create your Personal Navigation Plan.

We wish you well. If there is anything in the resources that we have developed for you - the Introduction (Part 1), your Navigation profile (Part 2), or this Route Map (Part 3) - that is not clear, then we need you to tell us. We are human as well…and we thank you in advance.

For further information, clarification or any questions and feedback of any kind, please contact us direct. We would genuinely love to hear from you!

Contact Details:

Carole McKellar and Dave Bancroft-Turner, Founding Navigators for The Positive workplace politics Academy.

You may also wish to join our Facebook group, or our LinkedIn group for regular updates and advice. There are links on our home page at pwp.academy.

Acknowledgements

The authors have been working in the area of workplace politics for over 20 years and we are indebted to many, many great and helpful people that we have met along the way. For instance, the original political animal model by Baddeley and James; Dr Don Morley who was one of the original pioneers who brought to life an off-hand request from a client for their people ‘to manage the politics in this place better’; and Training Journal for publishing various articles including the original research by David Bancroft-Turner who was convinced that there was a need for a ‘female only’ instrument having worked with single gender development groups all over the world. Thank you

And finally, to you dear reader, who we hold as the key stakeholder in all that we do.

We wish you every success.

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