Using Politics Positively

Learn how to use politics positively in your and your company's favor.

Let’s explore the ways that you should use politics to your advantage. By advantage, we mean finding ways to positively increase your output as a manager, ensuring your team is well connected and exposed to impactful work, and positively affecting the rest of the department and company.

Connecting with teams and groups

Who makes decisions in your organization? Who is influential? Who are the close groups of individuals that think similarly, and who are the rival factions? Identifying this upfront allows you to navigate sensibly through the political landscape and gives you the best chance of knowing who to confer with to build consensus on particular issues and who to approach differently or even avoid.

Once you’re done, set yourself a challenge to introduce yourself to them and begin building some connections. Remember that to have influence and to make an impact, you’ll need to win hearts and minds. You’re connecting with people to meet your colleagues, offer them your support, understand them better, and help them get things done, and vice versa. Positivity and kindness prevail.

Building consensus

As companies grow in size, projects and initiatives move forward through collective effort rather than just an individual’s force of will. When working, you’ll need to understand that consensus, at least as much as you can get, is important. In small companies and startups, you can just take the proverbial bull by the horns and do whatever you want alone with few repercussions, but larger companies are different.

You can start small and informal. Let’s use an example. If your team wants to do something dramatically different to the codebase for their next project, it’s important to take as many people as you can along for the journey at the same time. It’s likely that your team won’t be the first that has thought of doing something like you’re proposing, so start by having some informal conversations with those that are senior, influential, and close to the matters at hand.

Assuming that informal conversations have been successful, you can announce more widely that you’d like to try a proof of concept pull request, or even just write an idea paper for circulation. It’s important that those you initially talked to sponsor your efforts and offer their support. Also, make sure any work that you propose is just that: a proposal. Build consensus by making others feel like they always have the opportunity to contribute to what you are suggesting rather than it appearing to be a mandate. It will unlock the ability to make wider-reaching decisions.

Being yourself

Appearances and interactions are important. You need to be yourself in a consistent manner to ensure that you’re able to engage well with others and represent your teams correctly and respectfully. Don’t pretend to be somebody you’re not. Don’t act a part to attempt to impress. Just be you. That’s more than enough. You’re great.

Always be open, transparent, respectfully critical, and clear on where you stand. Have the confidence to be open to being proved wrong and to be accepting if you are. Be open to disagree and commit to initiatives. Never push agendas for the sake of serving only one’s self. Fundamentally your means of conduct comes down to the Golden Rule: treat others how you would wish to be treated and set the bar high.

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