Understanding and effectively employing political behavior is a skill that you need no matter whether you work in a company of five people or a company of fifty thousand. There is a balance between being overly political and ignorant of others’ needs, motivations, and intentions. That middle ground allows you to maximize your influence, express your views, and be respected.
Figure out the unwritten criteria for success. Who becomes successful and why?
Your company likely has a performance management or performance appraisal system in place where your manager gives you feedback once a year. While a lot of attention may be paid to this, it is not the only thing that matters, and in some cases it may not carry much weight at all. Many people prefer to make judgments and decisions based on opinions, experiences, perceptions, and gut feelings rather than numbers and evaluation systems.
Manage others’ perceptions of you by acting on opportunities to highlight your ideas, talents, and potential.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a professional brand. Your brand is what people think about you, what gets said about you, what others think you are good at, and what others think you are not good at. Whether the facts are true or untrue, perceptions are the reality and will affect your career sooner or later. When you ignore your professional brand, you miss an opportunity to manage the perceptions others have of you.
“People will forget what you said… but will never forget how you made them feel.”
No matter what is being communicated, you have the power to make it a win-win. Doing so takes skill and mindfulness, and is much more difficult than approaching it from just your own point of view. Win-win conversations require managing your emotions, addressing negative issues respectfully, being mindful of power dynamics, and an awareness of which issues should be approached indirectly, by suggestion, or by questioning rather than head on.
Know how decisions get made, who has what type of power, and how to approach stakeholders.
Build your network proactively and continuously, and take time to reinforce connections. It takes time, so take a long-term view and take advantage of opportunities to get to know others and connect with them on a personal level. Informal conversations can be some of the most important. When approaching your allies with ideas, requests, and potential collaborations, factor in things like timing, their goals, and potentially conflicting issues.