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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

3 Things Politically Savvy People Do

Just the word “political” is enough to make most people run for the hills. Most people I talk to say they want nothing to do with workplace politics, but I truly believe that ignoring politics can be a huge stumbling block in your career. Frankly, there’s no way around them. We’re all humans before we’re professionals, and even on the most low-ego teams on the planet, we can’t help our own personal hang-ups from interfering. Doesn’t matter what your seat is today, the political aspects of the workplace are interacting with your growth.

And it doesn’t have to be negative! Sometimes they can be, but they don’t have to be, and you can leverage the positive elements of your workplace’s political culture for good.

So what does it mean to have political savvy?

Nailing the meetings before the meeting

The most politically savvy people I know make an effort to socialize an idea and build consensus around it before the actual meeting takes place. This means identifying the key people at the meeting, approaching them in advance, and getting their thoughts ahead of the actual presentation. It builds cohesion and allows you to get ahead of potential stumbling blocks before they happen. Maybe there’s a budget constraint you weren’t aware of or an impending leadership change that will affect the project. Talking to stakeholders ahead of time is a key example of leveraging your network so that everyone can achieve their goals.

Identifying and understanding your team

Another example of great political savvy is the way that you build relationships and understand the landscape of your office. I like to say that there’s no real difference between personal and professional, because no matter how much we’d like to, we can’t actually check our baggage at the door.

So understanding your network and relationships, finding people who are allies (and the people who aren’t), and getting to know your colleagues is essential.

How do your team members think? Why do they approach challenges the way that they do?

If you understand someone (even if you don’t like them) you can work with them towards a common goal.

Being honest and direct with your feedback and ideas.

For people to rally behind you or trust you, they have to feel like they know you. I’ve shown in the previous examples how important it is to connect ahead of time and build relationships, but remember that neither of those things should be a one way street. You’re not a private eye slinking around collecting data, you have to express what’s on your mind and let people know you.

If some of these examples didn’t really sound “political” to you, that is exactly what I’m trying to show you. It’s not about Game of Thrones style political machinations that will end up ruining friendships and stealing your soul, it’s about positive forward progression for you, your team, and your whole company.

For women and people of color, understanding politics is especially important. I’m not here to tell you that there aren’t sharks. I’ve seen them, and they fight dirty. However, the key for us is to understand the landscape and hold firm in our own value as professionals and our integrity, because showing up as a positive force who gets things done will send those sharks running as the political tide changes around you. I’ve seen it happen.

Need some help navigating the waters? Let’s connect. Click here to get something on my calendar and we can address what’s blocking you.

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