SOCIAL CAPITAL: Positive Workplace Politics

Women Advance: Workplace PoliticsI love the title of Jane Horan’s book, because it captures my impulse for starting up Women Advance as an online career accelerator for younger women: “I Wish I’d Known That Earlier in My Career.” The subtitle, “The Power of Positive Workplace Politics,” captures one of the five career accelerator skills around which I’m building the site curriculum: social capital, networking, power, politics. Different words, same meaning: where there are people, there are power dynamics. Ignore them at your own peril.

A strategic consultant based in Singapore, Horan wrote her book in order “to provide a practical, common-sense approach to building the political savvy skills necessary for leadership, for career management, for selling ideas and for navigating organizational change.” She successfully removes the stigma from power, explaining why it’s important to even the least “political” among us: “A better way … to consider power [is] in terms of decision making, organizational effectiveness and how things get done.” (original italics)

That’s the bottom line: if you want to get things done efficiently and effectively (or at all), you need to plug into the power grid of your workplace.

“And how,” I can hear you asking, “do I do that?”

Here is Horan’s advice: Start by figuring out where the real power in your organization lies. Look past the organizational chart and ask yourself:

  1. Who goes to lunch with whom?
  2. Who interrupts whom at meetings?
  3. Who controls or has access to key people and private information?
  4. Who controls resources (budgets, money, people)?

Answer these questions, and you’ll begin to groove a fresh mindset. How does influence flow? Where are you and your team in relation to that flow? How can you move yourself and your team closer to that flow, even enter and shape it?

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“Being connected to power and influence networks,”  Horan reminds us, “is one of the most important steps you can take to build political awareness skills and your career.”

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