How the Best Leaders Navigate Office Politics

Business competition

For everyone in the United States, November 3rd was Election Day. It’s was day when we got the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for our country’s leaders. Many care deeply about this particular election (myself included). 

While talking about politics can get most people’s blood boiling, there’s another type of politics that deserve your attention — organizational politics or “office politics.”

Before you shrug off the idea or claim you don’t get involved in “office politics,” let’s define what the term means. Politics are the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups or other forms of power relations between individuals.  

There isn’t an organization in the world that doesn’t make decisions in groups or navigates power balance.  What I have learned in working with leaders in different sizes and types of organizations is that the best leaders not only recognize the politics in their organization, they are active participants in it. 

Great leaders are active participants in organizational politics.

Great leaders do this because they recognize that if they want to make positive change, have influence, and be a part of the solution, they must be active participants and not passive bystanders.

Don’t Ignore It; Learn it.

One of the most popular things I hear from people, “I ignore the politics in my organization; it’s not worth my time.”  I can absolutely understand this comment if their organization has more people jockeying for position than working to advance the company forward. However, this isn’t typical and even in organizations like this, ignoring politics isn’t the answer; learning it is.  After studying leaders who navigate office politics well, here are some best practices you can implement to ensure you aren’t ignoring your organizational politics.

1. Rely on Relationships

One of the biggest mistakes any politician makes is thinking they can do it all by themselves.  Many professionals make the same mistake.  Instead of relying on strong relationships, they “go rogue” and are blindsided when their initiatives are struck down or thrown out. Mark Sheilds said it well, “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals and organizations that you can rally around your cause, the better.”

Start early and never stop building strong relationships you can rely on.  As I wrote in Building the Best“Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.”  Build strong trust-filled relationships at every organizational level by being reliable, consistent, and helping others get what they want.  

If you are curious about the strength of a relationship in your organization, ask yourself this question, “Have I given my time or demonstrated my intentions through actions to this person?”  If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes!” it’s time to make a change with them. 

2. Build a Resume of Accomplishments for Influence

John Maxwell declared, “Leadership is influence.”  That’s not all leadership is, but I know you can’t lead without it.  Influence, by definition, is the power to have an important effect on someone or something.  The best way to gain influence is to build a resume based on actions and accomplishments.  

Too often, people assume that influence comes from how long you have been somewhere. While this might have been true in previous generations, it’s becoming less and less important today.  

Great modern leaders care more about your actions than your age.

The fastest path to influence is accomplishing meaningful things with others. When you play an integral part on a team that takes action, solves problems, and gets results, your influence skyrockets.  

3. Understand the Decision Making Process

Decision making is choosing between two or more courses of action. Some decisions are based on reason and others on intuition. Each organization has a decision-making process woven into the fabric of their culture. I have come to define them in two ways:

Centralized Authority:  These organizations make decisions in a slow, pragmatic, and hierarchical way. Centralized Authority decision making is common in highly regulated industries with significant financial or safety-related ramifications in most decisions.  

Dispersed Authority: These organizations make decisions in a quick, decisive, and shared way.  It’s common for team members to be empowered to “make decisions where the information is.”  This is common in entrepreneurial cultures or in technology companies where innovation rules the day. 

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in most situations, the better model is dispersed authority.  You might not be able to change the decision-making process in your organization, but you should be able to answer these questions:  

Who are the key people?  

What are those people’s priorities? 

What do they value most?  

Once you can answer these questions, you can align your initiatives and influence to get things accomplished.

4. Be Patient

I learned early in my career, “patience is a virtue.”  This week Gary Vaynerchuk said, “patience is the core ingredient of success for most people.”  Most people don’t have patience, and instead expect to build relationships, have influence, and make decisions in days, not years.  

The leaders who navigate office politics the best are the ones who are patient and do the right thing day in and day out.  So do your best to stay patient while being an active participant in your office politics.  

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Great Leaders Reinvent After a Significant Setback

Conceptual image of stock market and business crisis

As we met over Zoom, my coaching client told me that his business was down 75% since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. I could relate to his predicament; I too knew what it was like to lose a significant amount of business.  

Anyone in this position would feel understandably insecure about the future of his or her business; what surprised me about this man was his steadfast demeanor.  

“Your team and company has had so much success in the past, only to find the company in a state of decline with no end in sight. How is it that you are calm and speaking about a brighter future? What gives you that confidence?” I asked.

“It gives me an opportunity to not simply rebuild what we had, but to reinvent it. How exciting is that?” he responded.

This is just one example of how the best leaders don’t dwell on the past, but instead look towards creating a brighter future. 

The future is made for leaders who don’t just rebuild but reinvent.

Reject the desire to rebuild

On September 11th, 2001, two airplanes were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110 story towers collapsed, resulting in thousands of deaths and billions in damage. In the months and years after the attack, many ideas were floated as to what should be done with the site of the awful attack.  

Instead of rebuilding the towers as they were, the developers and city planners charted a different path. One World Trade Center was built; the tallest building in the United States that paid tribute to the events that took place in 2001.  

The word rebuild means “to build (something) again after it has been damaged or destroyed.” A conventional approach suggests that if something is destroyed, simply create it again; replace it with an identical replica. In the face of this pandemic, recreating an exact model of your business or team may be a good short-term fix. However, when considering long-term success, leaders need to focus on reinvention.  

Reinvent the Future

There are endless examples of leaders who reinvented themselves, their companies, or even their countries. Howard Shultz of Starbucks; Steve Jobs of Apple; Jeff Bezos of Amazon are names that come to mind and fit into this category.  

Sam Walker wrote in his Wall Street Journal article Getting the Restart Right, “When the Great Restart begins, many leaders will fall back on an idea once espoused by Machiavelli, who wrote: ‘The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities.’ The people responsible for rebuilding will try to reduce the anxiety in the air by restoring familiar routines, procedures, and traditions. The problem is, business as we knew it cannot be recovered. It will need to be reinvented.”

The problem is that in business, as we knew it, cannot be recovered. It will need to be reinvented. – Sam Walker

The word reinvention is best defined as “to change (something) so much that it appears to be entirely new.” While this is scary for most people, it is essential to the future following the pandemic. It takes confidence, courage, skill, and an open mind, and it doesn’t happen without leaders striving for it. 

Counterbalance Doubt

When leaders begin throwing words out like reinvention, it will spur doubt. It’s a natural response to hearing radical change, and uncertainty is on the horizon. Since doubt is rooted in both our intellect and our hearts, leaders must speak to both in order to help their team members overcome it.  

We have all heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words.” While it’s true, both actions and words are key parts of the formula for reaching the hearts and minds of team members in order to help overcome doubt. 

Just take JC Penney for example. The company which filed for bankruptcy protection on May 15th, also gave out millions of dollars in bonuses to key executives just 5 days prior to the filing. Their CEO, Jill Soltau has surely been working tirelessly to reposition the company and reinvent them for a brighter future. However, the actions of taking millions of dollars out of the business to line your own pockets doesn’t inspire action or help employees overcome doubt.

As I wrote in Building the Best, use the 3 C’s of successful communication. Be clear, concise, and conclusive then back it up with your actions on a daily basis. When you are doing this, don’t sugarcoat the current situation or the size of the challenge in front of the team. Define reality, provide hope, and challenge them to reinvent the future.

Think Boldly But Be Patient

As I began working on a new book over quarantine, I decided to write down a long list of all of my favorite life lessons. The first lesson I wrote down rolls off my tongue like I say it every day, “patience is a virtue.” When it comes to reinvention, patience is most definitely a virtue.  

Each person’s willingness to adapt, their ability to learn, and to reinvent the future takes time. The best leaders not only understand this, but they start small and focus on looking at days and weeks instead of months and years. Start by asking a simple question (that may have a complicated answer):

What is going to hold you back from moving forward? Here are a few categories to help you get started:

  • Do I have the right people to reinvent?
  • Are our products correct now and in the future?
  • Which clients will help us reinvent or hold us back?

Since each of the answers could be complicated and without a clear path forward, don’t fret. Start small and be patient. 

Closing

The best part of crisis and struggle is that it requires great leadership to come through to the other side intact and even better. It requires leaders like my coaching client, me and you to rethink and reimagine a better future and others with them. So remember the old African proverb, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”  

Your leadership is needed more than ever. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

4 Essential Career Lessons Great Leaders Teach Their People

People discussing with team leader

Think of the person who has taught you the most important life-lessons you carry with you today. Can you name them? 

When I ask this question during coaching conversations or Building the Best workshops, most professionals say a parent, others focus on a grandparent, some think of a mentor, but occasionally it’s a former boss.  

This makes sense because moms and dads are supposed to transfer essential life lessons, most grandparents are more than willing to share wisdom, but for some reason, many managers drop the ball, and I am sick of it. 

So many young professionals are entering the workforce and their expensive college degrees failed to teach them essential lessons required to have a successful career.  This is why we need leaders at work to transfer meaningful lessons to their people.  

Here are a few essential life and business lessons you should transfer to your people. 

Patience is a virtue

Patience which I covered in a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  While it’s easy to write and comprehend the definition, most of us struggle to practice patience. In today’s instant gratification world, if anything takes more than 5 minutes, we move on.  (I am lucky you got this far in the article.)

There is proof that patience pays off. Starbucks didn’t open its 5th store until 13 years into its history.  Sam Walton only had one Walmart store for the first 7 years of the company. Rachel Hollis wrote blogs and books for 15 years before writing Girl, Wash Your Face and selling millions of copies.  

Focus on readiness, not opportunities

One of my favorite leadership quotes is from Mark Miller of Chick-fil-A,

“Others control our opportunities, we control our readiness.” 

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be ambitious or apply for the promotion, but it is saying the only thing you truly have control over is how ready you are when the opportunities present themselves.  

Usain Bolt won 8 gold medals across 3 Olympics.  To do so, he ran for less than 115 seconds on the track. For those two minutes, he trained for 20 years. Bolt knew all he could control was how ready he was when the gun when off. 

While it can be difficult in the professional world to be ready for the next job, putting in maximum effort on a daily basis towards the development of both your technical and soft skills is something you will never regret. 

Things that matter are hard

We love to think things are going to be easy.  But as Mike Tyson said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

The only thing guaranteed is the struggle, because things that matter are hard. Here are the things I know matter but are hard:

  • A marriage
  • Being a parent
  • A faith journey
  • Building a thriving business
  • Getting elected to a public office
  • Being elite in your current professional role

Things that matter are hard and you and the people you get the opportunity to lead get to decide if you are going to persevere or if you are going to give up.

Nunc Coepi

Since things that matter are hard, it means we are going to fail and make mistakes.  This is exactly when we need to remember “Nunc Coepi.” It’s a Latin phrase that means that I wrote about in Building the Best and it means, “Now I Begin.”

Assuming you aren’t six feet under, you get the opportunity to start anew each day and do better than you did the day before.  This relates to everything in your life. Give yourself and others some grace and go attack the next day. 

When you transfer meaningful lessons like this to your people through both your words and your actions, something beautiful happens.  One day they will be asked, “Who is the person who has taught you some of the most important lessons you carry with you today?” Their answer might be you. 

What lessons did I miss?

What are some other critical lessons you carry with you today or you make a point to teach your team?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades

One Secret You Must Remember To Be Successful in Your Career

Adult Business Man Clicking Pen Under Stress Pressure In Office

Your mindset is the key to your career. That’s right, I said it. Sure, your skills matter and the quality of your relationships are important, but how you think will determine your future. Too often professionals get caught up in all of the external factors without prioritizing their own mindset.

HOW YOU THINK WILL DETERMINE YOUR FUTURE

In the immediate gratification world, we all live in, nothing seems to happen fast enough. Many young professionals are falling into the trap of wanting it all right now. While there is nothing wrong with the ambition and the desire to achieve things in a short amount of time, rarely does it happen like this. Instead, you must remember this one secret:

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

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