Chapter 22

Navigating Politics

In your role as a trusted advisor, you do not need to be a skilled politician, but you must be aware of the role of politics and be respectful of, and not cowed by, its power. This chapter addresses why and how political situations present opportunities to serve others and create an environment richer in trust. We explore in depth the specific case of political situations when you are in a consultative role, and introduce a five-step model for navigating client politics. We also offer practical advice on what you can do when you are put on the spot, and best practices for dealing with organizational politics in any context.

The word politics has a negative connotation in organizations, and it really shouldn’t. Politics is not a sign of dysfunction—it is an inevitable dimension of organizational life.

In this chapter, the word politics is used in these senses:

1. Competition between individuals or groups for power and leadership.

2. The total complex of relations between people in an organization.

Politics is not a sign of dysfunction—it represents an inevitable dimension of organizational life.

There has probably never been an organization that didn’t naturally deal with issues of power, leadership, competition, and the myriad other concerns that arise when groups of people come together to pursue a common purpose.

Typical political challenges include:

  • Dealing with multiple agendas, opinions, priorities, goals.
  • People who seek public acknowledgment. ...

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