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Sometimes people complain that a coworker is “too political”. This may mean that the person is seen as a groveling toady or backstabbing manipulator. But most politically successful people are simply being smart about their career. Like athletic ability, political savvy seems to come naturally to some people, while others have to learn. So here are some strategies to adopt if you want to demonstrate more political intelligence.
1. Partner with your boss.
Unless you have unique and irreplaceable knowledge or skills (or are related to the CEO), your boss has more power than you do. Your manager also has greater access to key decision-makers. So it’s better to have your boss as a cheerleader than an adversary. Politically savvy people know how to “manage up”.
2. Be a 360° team player.
With a wide network of relationships, you will have more information about what’s going on. And if people are willing to cooperate and collaborate with you, you will produce better results. Politically savvy people develop positive relationships in all directions – with management, peers, and employees.
3. Understand the “power map”.
Organizations are power hierarchies. And from time to time, that power shifts. To succeed, you need to know where the leverage lies – who has influence (formal or informal), who doesn’t, and how much you have yourself. Politically savvy people always understand the leverage equation and recognize when it may be changing.
4. Practice subtle self-promotion.
No one can appreciate you if they don’t know what you’re doing. But that doesn’t mean you should become an insufferable braggart. Find natural ways to mention achievements and challenges, like sending regular progress reports to your boss or chatting about your projects at lunch. Politically savvy people share information without being obnoxious.
5. Connect with the power people.
The big decisions about your career will be made (or endorsed) by people above your boss, so you need to be sure they know who you are. Since you may have limited access, look for interaction opportunities and be ready with a question to ask or information to share. Politically savvy people enjoy talking to folks who have power (which is not the same as sucking up).
6. Commit to the business.
An indifferent, apathetic attitude never impressed anyone. If you want decision-makers to think well of you, you need to be interested in and excited about the business – because you can bet that they are! Politically savvy people choose a career that they find interesting and energizing. You can’t fake enthusiasm for long.