Does playing politics feel like a burden? Do you feel pulled away from just being yourself? It’s no fun to pretend by acting differently than you really feel. And it seems unfair. “My ideas should be judged on their merits, not based on who you know and whether they like you.” So it’s no wonder that politics can sound like a dirty word.
But hang on. Politics is simply the practice of influencing others based on addressing their interests and needs. As a leader, you need to understand your stakeholders, how they view the world, and what they care about. And you need to speak to those interests and needs to show that your ideas connect to what they hold dear.
The key is to be politic (synonyms: wise, prudent, judicious, canny, astute) without being a fake. And you can be politic and authentic at the same time. In fact, being authentic is a vital part of influencing others. You need to find ways to be “yourself”– to live according to your own values and standards – while still having an outsized influence on others.
1. Recognize that it is a myth that The Best Idea Always Wins. It’s just not true. The idea that wins is the one that has the most support from the people who get to decide. The merits of your idea will be heard only if you can relate your ideas to their concerns.
2. Listen to what people say, but listen even more closer to what they reveal about their cares and concerns. What’s important to them? Speak to their concerns in a positive way.(If you think they are selfish and care only about themselves, then you have a problem. But the problem is with you and your judgment, not with who they are.)
3. Find the part of yourself that is truly aligned with them. Connect around what you share in common. (Can’t find anything in common? My guess is that you are viewing them through judgmental eyes that keep you from finding common ground. Loosen up and be more generous in your views.)
4. Then (and only then), distinguish your view from theirs. It’s fine to disagree and persuade as a joint exploration for the best solution. Speak your view in a way that is true, useful and respectful.
5. Your Influence Quotient (the other IQ!) will increase as you find ways to be yourself while speaking to the needs of others.