If productive influence doesn’t arise from being liked (“I’m
your friend!”) or from fear (“I’m the boss!”), where does it come
from? From people’s trust in you as a manager.
That trust has two components: Belief in your
competence (you know what to
do and how to do it) and
belief in your character
(your motives are good and
you want your people to
Obviously, some organizations handle the politics better than
others, but conflict and competition among groups are inevitable. How do they get resolved? Through organizational
influence. Groups whose managers have influence tend to get
what they need, while other
Management begins with you, because who you are as a person, what you think and feel, the beliefs and values that drive your actions, and especially how you connect with others all matter to the people you must influence.
Unfortunately, many man-
agers deal with conflict by
trying to avoid it. “I hate com-
pany politics!” they say. “Just
let me do my job.”
Trust is the foundation of
all forms of influence other
than coercion, and you
need to conduct yourself
with others in ways that
foster it. Management really does
begin with who you are as a person.
But, effective managers
know they can’t turn away.
Instead, with integrity and
for good ends, they proactively engage the organization to create the conditions for
Manage Your Network
We once talked to Kim, the head of a software company division, just as he was leaving a meeting of a task force consisting of his peers. He had proposed a new way of handling
interdivisional sales, which he believed would increase revenue by encouraging each division to cross-sell other divisions’ products.
They build and nurture a broad network of ongoing relationships with those they need and those who need
them; that is how they influence people over whom they have
no formal authority. They also take responsibility for making
their boss – a key member of their network – a source of influence on their behalf.
Manage Your Team
At the meeting he’d made an extremely well-researched, carefully reasoned, and even compelling case for his proposal –
which the group rejected with very little discussion.
“How many of these people did you talk to about your proposal before the meeting?” we asked. None, it turned out.
“But I anticipated all their questions and objections,” he
protested, adding with some bitterness, “It’s just politics. If
they can’t see what’s good for the company and them, then I
can’t help them.”
Many managers resist the need to operate effectively in their
organizations’ political environments. They consider politics
dysfunctional – a sign the organization is broken – and don’t
realize that it unavoidably arises from three features inherent
in all organizations: division of labor, which creates disparate groups with disparate, and even conflicting, goals and
priorities; interdependence, which means that none of those
groups can do their work without the others; and scarce
resources, for which groups necessarily compete.
As a manager, Wei worked closely with each of her people,
who were spread across the U.S. and the Far East. But, she
rarely called a virtual group meeting, and only once had her
group met face to face. “In my experience,” she told us, “
meetings online or in person are usually a waste of time. Some people do all the yakking, others stay silent, and not much gets
“It’s a lot more efficient for me to work with each person and
arrange for them to coordinate when necessary.” It turned out,
though, that she was spending all her time “coordinating,”
which included a great deal of conflict mediation. People
under her seemed to be constantly at odds, vying for the
scarce resources they needed to achieve their disparate goals
and complaining about what others were or were not doing.
Too many managers overlook the possibilities of creating a real
team and managing their people as a whole. They don’t realize
that managing one-on-one is just not the same as managing
a group and that they can influence individual behavior much
more effectively through the group, because most of us are