Author Mike Figliuolo explains the difference between "savvy" and "politics" and how to get your high-performing team to rise above personal agendas and focus on what matters.
- Personal agendas and politics can derail the performance of your entire team and your team will no longer be high performing. You have to get the team focused on what matters and enable everyone on the team to rise above the politics and the personal agendas. Now, there's a difference between being savvy and being political. Savviness is about knowing who's influential in the organization and how you can get things done. You're going to be able to go to them and enlist their aid as you try and advance the agenda of your team. Being political is doing something to get ahead personally and thinking through how you can play people off of one another for your own personal gain. Your job as a leader is to understand the difference between the two and eliminate the latter. Over time, if you let the politics continue you end up with a caustic culture where people are willing to engage in backstabbing, where people are rumor-mongering, and spreading things about other people in order to, again, advance their own personal agenda. So you have to be mindful of what the politics are, but not engage in them. If you're good at this in terms of understanding how to be savvy and understanding that some people will have political and personal agendas, you're going to be able to side step those issues and still help your team achieve what they've signed up to do. A personal example. I worked in an organization where I was tasked with a very difficult project and I told my boss, "I can approach this project one of two ways. "Either I can just be the bean counter "and do things more administratively "or I can take the other end of the spectrum "and I can drive change. "I can help us think about new ways of doing things." Now, with the first approach we're going to get some results and people will push for some initiatives that might be uncomfortable, but mostly people will stay safe. In the second approach, we're going to get a lot more in terms of results, but I will upset people and not just really junior people, but there are some senior people who are going to be very upset with the recommendations that I drive. And he said, "I want the impact." And my boss made the commitment. Now fast forward and the project is progressing, and I started upsetting some very powerful people in the organization. And I upset one of them so much that he went over my boss's head and tried to get me fired because I was driving an agenda that was so counter to some of the things that he wanted personally, that he was trying to eliminate me from the organization. Now fortunately I had been savvy enough on the front end to get my boss to commit to protecting me during the process when that happened and my boss lived up to that promise. So as you assess whether you're being savvy or political, simply ask is the action I'm about to take in the best interest of the organization? If the answer is yes, proceed. And if it's not, stop it immediately. And you have to stop it yourself and you have to stop it if you see it in the members of your team because again, politics can absolutely derail a high performing team.
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