Strange are the ways of (mid) life, that it makes you think about many stranger things.
Office politics is one such topic that is widely discussed among friends, peers and in many cases near the coffee machines and office cafeteria. Over the last six months, I started researching this topic with 15 successful leaders in my network who have built their careers by avoiding office politics (This is a personal research, and not scientific yet). Different geographies, functions, seniority, experience levels and company sizes.
The idea behind these discussions was to get answers to the usual questions:
– Does office politics exist everywhere?
– How did they overcome office politics?
– And what did they do differently?
The response was unanimous – Yes, office politics exists in some form or the other (surprise, surprise).
Within office politics you aim to please certain people, but you must keep things simple and can adopt this P.L.E.A.S.E approach to stay away from that.
(Remember Politics was not an option). While there were few other contenders like Patience, all these leaders reinforced the need for exceptional performance and delivering results consistently. There will be low years, bad bosses or tough personal situations, but overcoming them is the important step to succeed.
Learning new skills, about new teams and getting to know the business inside out.
Satya Nadella in his book ‘Hit Refresh’ has mentioned the need for Empathy and it is not surprising that most of these leaders had this as one of their secret mantras. Empathy helps in leading teams, understanding customer needs, managing difficult stakeholders, and importantly in conflict resolution.
Ask for help, support, coaching, mentoring or for answers. As you climb up the ladder, it gets even more lonely. Good leaders acknowledge this fact and ask for needed help. If not anything, ask for feedback and act on it. The other strong contender here was authenticity. I assumed that by asking for help and engaging others, one is already being authentic.
Sense of Urgency:
Many good employees tend to lose their spark and sense of urgency as they progress in their careers. They tend to accept the corporate culture, processes and do not challenge enough. This is when they are relegated to a different pool of leaders and tend to slow down.
The other strong contender was to find a Sponsor. You’ll make many good friends, work with great bosses, but if you can also find a good business sponsor, then it can accelerate your career growth even more.
A good leader should be able to engage and inspire his/her team, peers, network and fellow leaders. For some leaders, this can mean a conscious effort, but it will eventually help in sharing ideas, sharing your vision and will keep you in the race when the next opportunity rises.
These observations fit well with my own growth compass. Might not look like something new, but imagine doing this with the same excitement as you first started your career for the next 40+ years.