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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Don’t Like Organizational Politics? Get Over It.

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At the end of a Next Level Intensive workshop yesterday, I asked the participants for some ideas on topics they’d like to cover in future sessions or what they’d like to see me address in my blog. As people were leaving the room, one of the managers sidled up to me and said she’d really like to see a post on navigating organizational politics. That’s one that I have some strong opinions on so here we are. (And thanks for the request – you know who you are!)

Before I got on the plane, I looked up the root of the word politics on Wikipedia. Here’s the first line of the entry:

Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level.

To be honest, I already knew that the root was from the Greek for the citizenry. That leads to the first of two points about navigating organizational politics. If you want to have any kind of impact as a leader, you have to engage in the politics if for no other reason than organizations are made up of people who are, in the purest sense of the word, political beings.

When I’m out working with groups, I’ll often hear people say “I don’t do politics,” “I can’t stand the politics,” or something else closely related. If you feel that way but want to be effective in your organization, you need to get over it. Politics is literally a fact of life.

So what do you do if you hate the politics but still want to succeed? That question leads to the second point and the phrase in the Wikipedia definition that caught my attention. The phrase is “influencing other people.” That’s what politics is all about and it’s not a nasty, scuzzy thing to do. It’s a leadership skill.

How do you do it? There are lots of good ideas out there. I offered what I think are some good ones in a post last year on Three Ways to Increase Your Influence (The headlines are learn, listen and like.)

So, are you an org politics ninja? If so, please share your best tips with us. Still figuring it out? If so, what are your questions? Hate it, no matter what I say? Feel free to rant in a comment.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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