Are you more constructive or destructive? If it isn’t your idea, do you criticize or “find the catch” or do you prefer to add perspectives that might improve it?
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Are you known for being “on the front bench” driving and making things that matter happen or are you sometimes seen more in the opposition ranks criticizing, opposing and “being an obstacle”, allowing your ego to dictate your attitude? How do you think you are seen most of the time by most people around you?
It can be so easy to slip into opposition mode, can’t it? You know, when things aren’t going the way you want, pressure or stress building up, you could be frustrated and you may be going through “a bad patch”? Perhaps in these times we may be forgiven for seeing the “glass half empty” and adopting a somewhat PLOM (“poor little old me”) attitude. Happens to the best of us, right?
I am often reminded of this metaphor when I see or read snippets of State or Federal political activity where it often appears as if the (any) Opposition doesn’t have to do anything else than to put an opposing spin on ideas or policies or initiatives the (any) Government table. It irks me that they can often simply criticize, without providing any better alternative or solution, know what I mean?
Politics in Business
I have found that often to be the case in business as well. It can be seen when there is heightened political activity within an organisation, where for example two departments or divisions are at odds about who “owns” a certain responsibility or a certain market or customer in the light of insufficiently refined objectives or boundaries. This can be particularly intense when the outcome has a bearing on the bonus’ or profit shares of the individuals leading those departments. It is quite extraordinary how much energy can be consumed by these “turf wars” allowing the focus to dwell on personal agendas instead of directing that energy on jointly and mutually beneficial outcomes which serve the success of everyone in the business.
I always used to think how much better off everyone could be if that effort were directed to the company’s competition in the marketplace instead. Politics are usually around individuals focussed on “me, me, me”, often brazenly trying to project themselves in the best possible light and trying to “outplay” or “outposition” those they see in opposition to their agenda’s; often to their own personal benefit, and sometimes even to the overall detriment of the company, right?
It happens all the time, yet most clients I work with usually say that they “hate” these sorts of office politics. I guess it depends somewhat on the objective or purpose, because there is a place for politics in organizations.
I like to differentiate these “politics” from the “drip feeding” or “sowing the seed” type politics, where we develop appropriate spin or strategies to influence or persuade others (within and outside the organisation) to the achievement of better outcomes, but they should “ecologically good” outcomes (that is good for us, good for them and for the betterment of the greater good).
Managing the Waste
Thinking back on my decades of business life in the corporate arena, there are many fond memories of great friendships and relationships, great battles and great winning outcomes, many of which I am extremely proud. I worked with some world class talent in world class teams and world class outcomes.
However, the one most significant factor (apart from the energy required to have to invest in unnecessary and often counterproductive “head office” red tape) that I do not miss for one single moment, is the waste that such large corporations consume of and on themselves. In some of the ancillary blogs I refer to below, I talk about the length of the connection between making a decision and the ability to measure its impact on the bottom line. That’s what I love so much about coaching and mentoring small to medium size business owners, where the length of this connection is so short. The impact of their decisions is felt and seen so quickly. If they get a decision wrong, they correct it, until the desired results are there.
In the larger corporates that length can be so long that we can be forgiven to even care about it any more. The ability to “duck and weave” key responsibilities is rife, and often nobody seems to care. It often appears more important to “cover one’s rear end” than to make decisions that drive things forward. And these kind of “protective politics” in both business and government is by no means restricted to the backbench. Often the leaders themselves play this game to perfection. My frustration, particularly in politics is that once voted in, we seem to lose all our ability to hold them accountable to the expected policies and outcomes promised, and suffer the consequences of the inevitable waste we so often watch play out so helplessly…
Where do you sit? Constructive or Destructive?
So in the scheme of what we are talking about here, where do you sit on the spectrum between “front bench and opposition” most of the time? What are you known for?
Here’s a few “test questions” that may help raise an awareness of what I’m talking about:
- Do you find yourself more prone to criticizing or “finding the catch” in an idea rather than adding perspectives that might improve it?
- When “in opposition” do you provide an alternative or a solution or are you “just against”?
- Are you more prone to creating ideas or challenging other’s ideas?
- And are you challenging them to see where more value can be created or to “shoot them down”?
- How well do you handle your ideas being challenged? Do you get defensive or welcome the additional options or insights?
- If you are standing in a group that is “being negative” do you stay with it in its tone, or try and change the tenor or walk away?
- If I said to you: “if you can’t find something good to say about somebody, rather don’t say anything at all”, where would you sit with that in terms of your own everyday outlook?
- Do people feel uplifted more often than not when they have spent time with you?
- Do you think people want to seek you out because you always have a complimentary word to say and prone to “have a laugh”?
- If I asked those you lead whether you are more overall results focused or how well you can play the politics game, what do you think they might reveal?
Our (business) world is full of people “in opposition” roles: often through conditioning and of course through circumstances. Most people have developed a reasonable balance between where they are most of the time. Depending on what the above questions invoked in you, you might want to make some adjustments.
The key here is that you can. Your attitude is your choice. I hope that with renewed awareness, you will choose wisely, for you, for those around you and for the greater good.
And if you yourself feel uncomfortable with those questions and acknowledge that you need to do something about it, will you have the fortitude and the guts to seek out the help of a coach to assist you in making some changes that just might make all the difference in your career? If so, contact me and let’s Talk Coaching, OK?