When you are clear about what you want to achieve, it is often frustrating to find that others do not share your enthusiasm. A great deal of time and effort is expended building the case, considering the risks and planning the execution. Everything seems to make sense and you are keen to get going – you want to implement swiftly. Then the problems start.
Reaching out to your stakeholders, you begin to find out that some are not interested. They fail to buy-in to your project or, worse, don’t even give you the time to explain your plans. When you do get to see them, they start to share insights with you about other things going on elsewhere in the organisation, which seem to be in direct conflict with what you are working on.
Trouble is, you can see that they may have a valid point. Doubts begin to set in as you realise that what you have been tasked to achieve is not necessarily going to be as straightforward as you originally thought. Indeed, you probably start to wonder why
the people above you can’t agree on what should be done – must be the politics!
If you are facing this situation you will need to get to grips with it thoroughly before your performance starts to suffer. Delaying isn’t likely to be too helpful. Here are a few questions to get you moving…
- Specifically, what agendas are in conflict? Can you list them? Many people struggle to describe exactly what they are up against, and this makes it very difficult to make solid progress. If you don’t know or cannot be specific, start talking to people to get more insight.
- Can you uncover any hidden agendas? There is always a reason. Just because you cannot see it right now doesn’t mean that it is purposely “hidden”. Thinking it is a hidden agenda sets up an unhelpful attitude – one where you might see the proof that it is hidden and miss the proof that it is not. It could be that you have not asked the right questions yet or, the level of trust in your relationship with the stakeholder needs to rise.
- Is the agenda you are up against personal or professional? Handling a stakeholder’s personal agenda requires a higher level of trust and, sometimes, a professional agenda can be a cover for what they are really driving for. Careful questions and investigations can start to uncover what is really going on.
- Which of the agendas would be most beneficial to you if you could remove the conflict? Lay out the different agendas you have so far considered and determine the priority one to work on. If you could only handle one, which would it be?
- What creative options can you think of that would minimise the differences between your agenda and the one you are conflicting with? Sometimes things get lost in translation. It may just be a superficial misunderstanding caused by describing them in different ways. Perhaps, the way you are positioning your agenda could change. From experience, this is often the pivot which creates substantial improvement.
Chapter Five in Advocates & Enemies will give you more questions to help you diagnose what action you need to be taking, and if you have our Influence Workbook, there are several exercises specific to this challenge which will help.
One key question remains…
Should you abandon your agenda? Sometimes, and this is a tough one, your agenda is never going to be realised. Just because it is in your objectives doesn’t make it right. It could be a timing issue, or something else may have changed which now invalidates what you were tasked to achieve. A lot of courage is required here, and if you take responsibility and push for the closure of what you are working on, new opportunities could flow quickly. But be careful!
Dismantling Power Bases: Proceed With Caution
No, this is not a second coming of Niccolò Machiavelli. It is just that sometimes it is prudent to take action to remove powerful opposition – for all the right reasons.
When this is on the agenda with coaching clients, what we are doing is evolving a clear strategy and plan of action to substantially shift power towards them. This means that others will lose a significant amount of power when my client succeeds. Which means, the stakes are high.
Top Ten Most Irritating Political Situations at Work
Over the last month I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the political problems they face at work. This research was initiated to accompany a new online course I am developing, Mastering the Politics.
What I wanted to do is to make sure it is relevant and solves as many of the current problems people are facing as possible. What the research threw up was as fascinating as it was depressing.
So, without further ado, in reverse order, the most irritating political situations people are having to cope with at work are:
Here, it is vital to be able to peel back the layers to expose what is going on beneath the surface, the good, the bad and the ugly. With careful analysis, it becomes possible to see what is motivating people, and how it affects what is happening. At that point, your level of accuracy rises, your stress lowers, and the path towards your goals becomes clear.