One of the downsides of having great political instincts and insight is that it increases the need to make political decisions. Once you have worked out what agendas are being hidden and discovered people’s strategies, tactics and games, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to respond?
Your next step is likely to make you a political mover — someone who is an actor in the situation rather than just an observer, bystander or pawn in the game.
From here on, you will attract the attention of other players; potentially you will become a target, especially if you pose a threat to their plans. Once you have taken the next step, it will be difficult to step back into the shadows. And this is why being politically active takes tremendous courage.
Strong determination and a stout heart are a great starting point but, irrespective of these, careful preparation can significantly improve your levels of courage. So, before you step into the limelight, take careful note of these seven ideas:
- Reconnect with your allies. These relationships need to be in excellent shape in case you need some help. Make sure to seek their counsel and gain their support for your moves. If you cannot get that, at least get them understanding and accepting your position.
- Predict responses. When you make your move, how will your opponents respond? What are their most likely actions? Who will they talk to? What will they do?
- Plan detailed action. The higher the stakes, the more important this planning becomes. Of course, you cannot plan for everything, but make sure you cover all of the critical areas, where you are most exposed, with meticulous detail.
- Prepare your escape plan. If it all goes horribly wrong, what will you do? Be realistic and sensible. Yes, burning bridges is an option in military campaigns, but I’m sure you also have a mortgage to pay.
- Make a decision. If you are not sure, don’t do it. If you act hesitantly, you are likely to make yourself look vulnerable and will be more prone to being crushed.
- Take care with your timing. It is very easy to become totally consumed with your situation. This risks missing other things which are going on and may be more important in the wider organisational setting. However shrewd and accurate your move is, if it is badly timed, a savvy operator may easily be able to make you look silly and out of touch.
- Smile. At senior levels, these things are part of the way it works in so many organisations. Keeping a sense of humour and remembering your bigger, personal picture is healthy. Work is important, but life is more important still. The more often you enter into these tense situations, the more comfortable you will become — and this is where the experience counts.
And that is an apt note to end on. Until you start taking these brave steps, you will not become competent at managing the political side of organisational life. The more often you do it, the easier it will become. Prudent preparation ahead of these exchanges is the best way to bolster your courage and get the positive experience to boost your skill.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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