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iStock_000008269677MediumA young manager called me to discuss a possible coaching relationship. Her goal: To become more politically astute. I thought that that was a grand idea.

All too frequently people miss promotion opportunities even if they have functional history, know and are loved by the people in their department, and have the blessing of their boss. Why does this happen?  Because they have insulated themselves from others in the organization, people who end up with a limited or skewed view of them or their capabilities.

It was interesting to note on a 360 assessment of a coaching client that her boss’s boss had rated this individual drastically lower than her boss or her direct reports had rated her in one key leadership competency.  When I asked my client how much she interacted with her boss’s boss, my client responded, “Almost never.”  When asked what prevented more interaction, my client said, “Nothing really. Just a lack of time, I guess. We’ve been so busy.”

In interviewing leaders for my upcoming book, The Unstoppables – 12 Women Leaders’ Journey to the Top, one trait I noticed many of my interviewees had in common was their intentionality in building alliances with people at all levels of the organization. For instance, if they knew that they didn’t have the credibility they needed with the person who would eventually make the final decision, they garnered support from other places first. That way when they went to the decision maker with their ideas, those influential with the decision maker would support it, and they’d stand a much better chance of their ideas being implemented. The same thing works for those seeking to move up in their organizations, accept larger challenges, and expand their ability to influence.

In my last blog posting, I mentioned the name of Lillian Bauder, one of 12 outstanding women leaders I interviewed.  Nobody expresses the rationale for being politically astute better than Dr. Bauder when she says, “I think a person in a leadership position has to be politically astute. Initially, people are not necessarily astute when they move into leadership roles. But you have to become politically astute; you have to understand that not everyone wants you to succeed. You may get most people on your side, but not everybody will want to support you.

Consequently you need to understand how to build a broad base of support; how to talk to people who oppose you and how to handle that one person on your board who always needs to meet privately with you before a big meeting or he will publicly disagree with you. What was effective for me was to hold a private meeting with this person ahead of time so I could find out his or her concerns and resolve them privately. Political astuteness is absolutely critical in every effective leader.

With our world expanding exponentially, it is common knowledge that diversity adds potential value to an organization and the decisions that get made. With mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring being the order of the day, it is prudent to network, expand your connections, and forge relationships both within and outside the organization. Making these connections gets you visibility and positions you as a leader, not just by your boss and department co-workers, but by those on the outside of your immediate department or organization, those who may be key players when it comes to promotions and hiring for key positions–or simply getting your ideas accepted.

How politically astute are you? Be your own best coach. Ask yourself some politically astute questions:
·    Who are the key influencers in my organization? [These could be formal or informal leaders.]
·    How well do I know these people?  How well do they know me?
·    If I were to ask each of them for help, how could they be of help to me? [Advice? Input? Ideas? Ask nothing that will tax them, but rather demonstrate your interest in them as a person and your respect for their expertise or knowledge.]
·    How might I be of service to each of the above people?
·    What am I willing to do to be of service to the organization so that others will have an opportunity to experience me as a leader?”

Someone once said, “It’s all about new beginnings, laying solid foundations and building strong relationships. Everything we want is in front of us!” Who is in front of you? Who needs to be in front of you? What have you been willing to do to put yourself in front on others and build solid relationships? I welcome your input.

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