Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Managing company politics.

Many senior managers are predisposed by their past success to think and work individually rather than collectively. To characterize them as a top management "team” is often more of a contradiction-in-terms than a fact.

To work together more effectively, senior managers need to:

- see the big picture at all times (rising above their own parochial interests),

- be expert in several different areas of the business (so they can understand the impact of different developments on each other),

- have excellent interpersonal skills (influencing, negotiating, listening, communicating, supporting, leading), and

- be willing to learn from each other and to help each other learn. This is often difficult to do, since saying, “I don’t know” can be seen as a sign of weakness in a highly competitive culture,

You can’t ignore company politics or reduce every decision to a nice, orderly, logical process. Politics is unavoidable in a highly uncertain environment where rewards and penalties are high and outcomes are uncertain. Senior level managers are good at politics - they wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t - and many like playing the game. It makes life interesting and is viewed as a positive source of creativity and innovation, as well as a negative influence on behavior. Mostly, it’s people pressing through their own agendas, or trying to arrange their lives so they have as little interference from others as possible.

To encourage more teamwork at the top, it helps to know where individuals agree, where they differ, and where they genuinely disagree. Top-level meetings can then focus on acknowledging agreements, exploring data needed to resolve differences, and clearly identifying the causes of disagreements. Given that senior executives have enough power to destroy each other, they'll usually avoid efforts to resolve their disagreements in a public forum. So, once the causes of disagreements are clear and agreed to, leave enough space for people to work out their compromises with each other off-line. When they're finished, bring the top management group together again to acknowledge these new agreements.

No comments: