Positive Politics at work

Tips on positive politics at work.

‘Politics is showbusiness for ugly people’. No matter how ‘ugly’ it is and how frustrating it may be for you as a leader politics at work is something that you are going to have to deal with like any other challenge at work.

Why work politics are inevitable:

  • Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or                 other basis of influence.
  • For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it.
  • Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way .
  • Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict.
  • People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good.

People Power not Pay Grades

Office Politics often circumvent the formal Hierarchy. Sit back and watch for a while and then note who has the most people power as well as traditional grades and job titles.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
  • Who is respected?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organisation”?

Social Networks at work

Ever wonderred why social networking is so popular today? Well before the internet it was happening in work and life and it is an intrinsic part of human nature. In order to use positive politics well at work you need to understand the social networks present.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
  • Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
  • What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
  • How does the influence flow between the parties?

Build Your Social Network

Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.

  • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
  • Ensure you have relationships that cross the formal hierarchy in all directions (peers, bosses, executives).
  • Start to build relationships with those who have the informal power.
  • Build your relationships on trust and respect – avoid empty flattery.
  • Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.
  • Be a part of multiple networks – so you have a wider picture of how things work and make more informed choices

Listen Carefully
When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say  something that will come back to bite you later. Also, people  like people who listen to them.

Make the Most of Your Network

As you build your relationships, you need to learn to use them  to stay clear of negative politicking, and also to promote yourself  and your team positively. It is up to you to communicate your  own and your team’s abilities and successes to the right people,  and you do this through positive political action. Use your network  to:

  • Gain access to information.
  • Build visibility of your achievements.
  • Improve difficult relationships.
  • Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
  • Seek out ways to make yourself, your team  and your boss look good.

Neutralize Negative Play

Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.

  • Understand what motivates these people and what their goals are, and so learn how to avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.
  • Be aware that these people typically don’t think much of their talents (that’s why they rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead).

Govern Your Own Behavior

Don’t pass on gossip, questionable judgments, spread rumors – when you hear something, take a day to consider how much credibility it has.

  • Rise above interpersonal conflicts – do not get sucked into arguments.
  • Maintain your integrity at all times – always remain professional
  • Be positive – avoid whining and complaining.
  • Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
  • When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take an organisational perspective not a personal one.
  • Don’t rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
  • Be a model of integrity to your team, and discourage politics within it.

I would love to hear about how you deal with politics at work, please use the comment box to let me know your experiences with it.

Some help when making those networks… a great TED Video

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions

The 3 R’s to stop you being overwhelmed

Everyone at times can feel as if we have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Many people will grin and bare it, work extra hours and hope that things will get better.

We start saying things like ‘ I wish I had more time in the day’

Sometimes we get through this and sometimes it can have an effect on our home life and health.

The 3R’s is a technique to help.

Relax – Easier said than done, however, putting more and more pressure on yourself is not going to solve anything. Someone once said to me when I was stressing about getting everything done before going on holiday ‘Is anybody going to be physically hurt? Will the department grind to a halt? Is a week away from your desk going to matter?Who can support you when you are away?’. They got me to be more rational about the situation and for me to start seeing who could help.

Ultimately, if you don’t relax and look for support you will burn out and who does that help?

Taking emoition out the equation helps with the next stage.

Review – Take time to review what you have to do

What can you control? Break down everything that you think you have to do using the matrix below. In order to feel more in control and more calm, break down that weight from your shoulders into smaller chunks. What is urgent and what is important. NB. if home life is important to you it should be in the High Importance and Urgent box!

What can you influence? – This is about getting support. We cannot be all things to all people, think about

  • Can I get extensions on timescales?
  • Am I the right person for this task?
  • Am I taking on things because I want to please people around me?
  • Can I delegate some of this work?
  • Is my ego and preference for being in control stopping me from asking for support?

What is outside my control? – Sometimes we put ourselves under pressure by worrying about stuff that is outside our control and influence. It’s a waste of your energy and time. Accept that it is outside your control and concentrate on what you can change.

Re-boot

Just as wehave to re-boot computers when they have taken on new updates or are working inefficiently we should re-boot ourselves after the above.

Think about your

Focus – Stick to what you have planned. Don’t fall back into dealing with box 4

Openness – Be open to other peoples offers of support and advice. Be flexible, tasks will move around the box

Energy - take breaks even if it is just for a few minutes to get your energy back up. Imagine what it will feel like to tackle what you have prioritised.

I haven’t had a TED video on my posts for a wee while so enjoy this one. Funny and helps to look at our perception

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Tips for building better resilience

Everbody encounters times in their lives when stress starts having a strain on our health (mental & physical). I have noted 15 tips to help you get through the feeling of striving to thriving.

1. Recognise when you are starting to feeling the strain in your life and identify what are the route causes of this strain.

2. After identifying the causes list the ones that you can influence and change and accept what you can’t at this time, change.

3. Re-evaluate your values and purpose in life, we can all lose sight of these due to the pressures of life. Be yourself everyone else is taken.

4. Re- train your brain to step back and look for the positives in situations. I remember someone drawing a black dot on a flipchart and putting their head up to the dot then stepping back. They went on to say that the flipchart was life and when we are under lots of pressure, all we can see is the black hole or all the things that are wrong, we need to step back to see that there are lots of things that are good in our lifes.

5. If you are finding that you can’t cope then you owe it to yourself to ask for help; there are professionals and charities that are confidential and are there to help people.

6. Learn to laugh again, many people with serious illnesses regularly talk about the release that having a laugh has, sometimes about the darker side of their situation

7. Once you have analysed the root cause of the strain make a plan and take small steps to changing things. Lots of small changes are easier and add up to larger change in the long run.

8. Start to look at mistakes or preceived failures as learning opportunities. Nobody is perfect, in fact many successful business people have had ‘failures’, however, they have gone on to be successful again. WD40 was named because there was 39 versions before that weren’t right.

9. Start looking after yourself. Our bodies are like machines and if you don’t get enough of the right food,exercise and rest the body and mind will start to breakdown. Start slowly with things like having a healthy breakfast, go for a walk at lunchtime, make time for just you even if its half an hour to read a book, get some sleep.

10. Accept that things in life will change, most people don’t like change, however if you look back on your life you will see that you survived an enormous amount of change.

11. Learn to say no sometimes. Trying to please everyone is a sure way to take on too much.

12. Look at challenging situations with the problem solving part of your mind; using logic can decrease the emotional / irrational aspects of stress. Rarely does anyone make a 100% perfect decision or plan, so don’t put off decisions until something is perfect, many leaders report making decisions on 70 – 80% probability of success.

13. Keep a journal – writing down or typing your thoughts can help you stop continually mulling over them, especially when you are trying to sleep

14. Build or re-build your support network e.g. friends, family and trusted colleagues. It is easily to lose contact if we are extremely busy,however, this speeds up the process of losing objectivity in our situation and being able to release some of the pressure by talking about it, no matter how hard. The old saying a problem shared is a problem halved still stands.

15. Do something everyday that moves yourself forward no matter how small you regard it to be or when going home reflect on 3 things that went well in your day, you will be amazed at what has.

If you have any techniques or experiences you would like to share please leave a comment I would love to hear from you.

http://www.samaritans.org/?gclid=CJunzey14a8CFaYJtAod5nWbDQ

Motivation in the workplace

Traditionally, many managers use the carrot and stick motivational techniques

‘do better or I’ll get someone else’

‘sell / do more and you’ll make a bonus’

Research has shown that incentive type rewards will only work in ‘mechanical’ type jobs as soon as rudimentry cognative processes are required monetary rewards actually get in the way.

If you want to help motivate people then you need to find out what really motivates them outwith monetary reward or benefits. Hetzberg referred to them as satisfiers.

So when you are having 1:1′s or team days take time to ask your team what these are and ask them about how you can help bring these into their work life.

Or if you are de-motivated at the moment do the exercise yourself and talk to your boss about how you can do this.

For a slightly different slant on motivation

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

For apple users (or if you fancy a change from the normal TED presentation) who can’t see TED videos on my blog try here on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Let me know your thoughts on motivation, hope you have a great weekend 

 

Top 10 characteristics in a great boss?

I have been lucky enough to have some great managers in the last 21 years and I thought that I would capture what made them great bosses in a top 10, because by understanding what makes a great leader for me will ultimately help me be a better leader.

1. Took the time to get to know me and my motivations and aspirations and linked these to work I was asked to do

2. Treated people in the orgainisation as peers; everybodies job was important and contributed to the success as a whole from cleaners to CEO’s

3. Set down clear expectation around my role and targets and then gave me the autonomy and trust to go and do it, however, they were there if I needed support

4. Introduced me to their network. They always looked to work across departments in a collaborative way rather than view them as competition.

5. Encouraged discussion, feedback and new ideas

6. Forgive and forget – if I made a geniune mistake I received support to fix it and it was never cast up again.

7. They had my back and had little toleration for disfunctional behaviour against a member of their team

8. Encouraged me to develop myself

9. Helped me see the positive in situations and the value of positive thought in life

10. Let me know the big picture and what was my part in it

How do you rate yourself against this top 10?

What would you add to this list?

What would you take out?

I would love to hear your comments, hope you have a great day

Change Implimentation – A New Hope

Change is a massive part of our business lives and I wanted to take a light hearted look at Kotter’s 8 Stage model.

Note to any true Star Wars fans, I have used some poetic license so please don’t take offence.

Establishing a Sense of Urgency

  • Examine market and competitive realities, and identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities

Princess Leia learns about the Death Star being built and sets out to tell other people of the coming threat.

What would have happened if Leia had decided to ignore the construction of the Death Star, all this new technology is just a passing trend, it won’t be popular, and there is nothing we can do about it.

How many businesses ignore the threats of new technology or competitors?

Creating the Guiding Coalition

  • Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team

Ok so Leia got captured by Darth Vader, however she already had started the process of creating a guiding coalition by bring Obi Wan into the mix as she knew that he could help and had the power to make a difference.

In business terms when we are going through change we get a group together, however we need people who can make decisions and have other important contacts that have experience and knowledge that can help with the transition.

Developing a Change Vision

  • Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision

Now this is where I probably get into trouble with star wars fans…

Obi wan Kenobi upon learning about the death star helps Luke see what could be and formulates a plan to change the situation. He uses language that talks about what was and what could be. He engages people’s values and gives hope.

Ok so he doesn’t have a business vision statement so here’s what Kotter’s says about visions

  • Imaginable: They convey a clear picture of what the future will look like.
  • Desirable: They appeal to the long-term interest of employees, customers, shareholders, and others who have a stake in the enterprise.
  • Feasible: They contain realistic and attainable goals.
  • Focused: They are clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.
  • Flexible: They allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.
  • Communicable: They are easy to communicate and can be explained quickly.

Communicating the Vision for Buy-in

  • Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies, and teach new behaviours by the example of the Guiding Coalition

The rebel alliance didn’t just send out a boring inter galactic email! Everyone involved was talking to other members of the alliance, person appearances, and rousing monologues

Here’s what Kotter says

In communicating the vision for the transformation, there are some things to keep in mind. The vision should be:

  • Simple: No techno babble or jargon.
  • Vivid: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words – use metaphor, analogy, and example.
  • Repeatable: Ideas should be able to be spread by anyone to anyone.
  • Invitational: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication.

In pursuit of simplicity, fewer words are better

Empowering Broad-based Action

  • Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encourage risk-taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions

When they reach the Death Star Obi Wan left Luke, Han and Chewbacca to rescue Leia rather than micro manage and tell them what to do as he knew that they could do it and he was better placed to shut down the shields. They then had to think creatively to do this, take risks but they had the authority to take action for themselves.

Kotter talks about

Removing as many barriers as possible and unleashing people to do their best work

Typically, empowering employees involves addressing four major obstacles: structures, skills, systems, and supervisors

Generating Short-term Wins

  • Plan for visible performance improvements, create those improvements, recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements

The hero’s in star wars didn’t just fly to the death star and blow it up; they became motivated and bonded through short term wins. These were communicated throughout the alliance to raise moral and give hope that things will turn out ok.

Kotter talks about

For leaders in the middle of a long-term change effort, short-term wins are essential. Running a change effort without attention to short-term performance is extremely risky. The Guiding Coalition becomes a critical force in identifying significant improvements than can happen between 6 and 18 months. Getting these wins helps ensure the overall change initiative’s success. Research shows that companies that experience significant short-term wins by fourteen and twenty-six months after the change initiative begins are much more likely to complete the transformation.

Never Letting Up

  • Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision, also hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision, and finally reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

Blowing up the Death Star was not the end of the Empire after celebrating success the alliance had to re-group, re assess what this meant for their vision, and recruit new members to the alliance.

In a successful major change initiative, by stage 7 you will begin to see:

  • More projects being added
  • Additional people being brought in to help with the changes
  • Senior leadership focused on giving clarity to an aligned vision and shared purpose
  • Employees empowered at all levels to lead projects
  • Reduced interdependencies between areas
  • Constant effort to keep urgency high
  • Consistent show of proof that the new way is working

Incorporating Changes into the Culture

  • Articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession

So after the destruction of the Death Star, the alliance celebrated and some people were given promotion, acknowledged the losses, Luke went off to Yoda for further development

This is why cultural change comes in Step 8, not Step 1. Some general rules about cultural change include:

  • Cultural change comes last, not first
  • You must be able to prove that the new way is superior to the old
  • The success must be visible and well communicated
  • You will lose some people in the process
  • You must reinforce new norms and values with incentives and rewards – including promotions
  • Reinforce the culture with every new employee

Tradition is a powerful force. We keep change in place by creating a new, supportive and sufficiently strong organizational culture. A Guiding Coalition alone cannot root change in place no matter how strong they are. It takes the majority of the organization truly embracing the new culture for there to be any chance of success in the long term.

If you would like more information on Kotter

http://www.kotterinternational.com/kotterprinciples/changesteps

Oh if you want to know more about Star Wars http://lucasfilm.com/

Remember this was a galaxy, a long time ago, so I am not advocating, storming your competitors’ premises and dispatching them with light sabres and blasters!

Please use the comment box, I would love to hear about experiences of change or if you have any questions

The Sisyphus Trap

‘In Greek mythology was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.’

‘In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation’

Sometimes as individuals and leaders we fall into this trap, we tried to change things and it didn’t work, this caused us to be fearful so we resolved not to let that happen again and took the safe route. We make compromises with our values, we start saying things like ‘another day another dollar’ (or equivalent currency), ‘I wish I had a job that I enjoyed’

I wish means: wouldn’t it be nice if … If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else. Always wishing life was different. (just like Sisphus) Paul Arden

In fact our brain is hardwired to seek stability and not change as it takes more energy to build new synapsis that are required to retain new information and ways of doing things. Don’t believe me, then think back to when you had to study some new process or qualification, did you feel tired?

To start avoiding the Sisyphus Trap you need to consider

Values & Beliefs Attitude Behaviour

Your values and beliefs influence your attitude and these manifests in your behaviour to yourself and others. When you compromise these too much your attitude will become less positive and this will affect your behaviour.

So step 1 is for you to identify your values e.g. honesty, being creative, team player, recognition, autonomy etc.

Then look at how many you have given up in your current work / home environment. Then plan how you can start to overcome barriers to being ‘valued’ in your life and work. Start with small steps e.g. talking with your boss about other opportunities to be more creative or greater autonomy. When you start planning solutions on how to create links from what you do to your values, you will notice your attitude and behaviour will start to change.

If you are a leader and you notice that your teams attitude, behaviour and motivation is not where it should be then it maybe down to their values being overly compromised. Find out their individual values and help them to see links to what they do. I have run a values exercise with leadership teams many times and it is amazing what sharing values in a safe environment can do.

Summary to escape the Sisyphus Trap

  1. Re-identify your values
  2. Make a plan to connect your values to what you do and take action
  3. Bring meaning and purpose back into what you do in your life through your values
  4. Recognise and appreciate that people’s values are different
  5. Be tenacious and recognise the successes you make

Please use the comment box if you have any questions or have experience of this happening in your working world.

If you would like to talk to me about coaching or team development please contact me at mcdougallmartin@aol.com

It’s Better to Regret What You Have Done Than What You Haven’t

I wanted to leave you with this great Ted video

Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions