Recognizing the “Political Realities” to Improve the Power of Leadership Influence

Recognizing the “Political Realities” to Improve the Power of Leadership Influence

Achieving success for leaders often requires understanding and navigating the political realities of organizations, its executives and its culture.

During my many years of coaching executives I have been amazed at the lack of understanding some of them have had in recognizing the political realities of their own organizational situations. One example that comes to mind recently is from a senior executive who was having challenges in her interactions with her boss, the CEO of the company. The CEO felt that she was not timely in delivering on her commitments to him. This often resulted in his being frustrated and feeling like she did not take him seriously; which eventually led to his having the impression that she was trying to undermine him.
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The Leadership Value of having a “We Will Agree” mindset

The Leadership Value of having a “We Will Agree” mindset

One of the key competencies of an effective leader is the ability to negotiate, influence others and manage conflict. Achieving success in such negotiations, however, can be difficult, as multiple barriers often get in the way. How a leader navigates these barriers will, in many cases, determine the outcome.

Many years ago, while working on resolving labor disputes, I had the good fortune of meeting a management attorney during negotiations that were particularly challenging. The union leader involved in the dispute happened to be very difficult to work with, throwing up obstacles, grandstanding and, in general, slowing down the process, thus avoiding or at least trying not to effectively address the issues at hand. Negotiators who had previously dealt with him would come away frustrated and unable to get him to focus on resolving issues. This attorney, however, took a different approach. Rather than get frustrated or emotional as others had, his approach was from the beginning based on the mindset of “We Will Agree”.
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Corporate Mediation

executive coaching for corporate mediationIf you find yourself thrust into the role of mediator in a dispute between team members, functions, or other parties, use these three principles to get you started on the right foot:

  1. Acceptability. You must be acceptable to both parties.  They need to see you as someone who can help them resolve their dispute.  You have to have credibility with them. They must see your skills as being essential to resolution of the issues in contention.
  2. Impartiality. You must be seen as having no vested interest in the outcome of the dispute.  If you convey that you are more disposed to one point of view vs. the other, you are not a qualified mediator.
  3. Confidentiality. Insure that what is conveyed to you in private stays private.  If one party tells you something that is in confidence and you reveal it to the other, you will have a hard time regaining trust and cannot be effective in a mediation role.

Managing Organizational Conflict

executive coaching to manage organizational conflictYou can’t really resolve organizational conflict until you find the underlying root cause or driving force behind the conflict.  Conflict can be much more than disagreement on the substance of an issue, and gaining expedient surface resolution may not allow conflicting parties to do the hard work to reach true resolution.  So the conflict will come up again (and again) in new permutations.

To address the root cause of a conflict, those engaged almost need to have an out-of-body experience, e.g. imagine they are in a helicopter looking down on the parties in dispute.  This will provide a new frame of reference and trigger a more receptive state of mind to ask and answer questions like:

  • Where do we agree vs. disagree, and how can we build on areas of agreement?
  • Regarding areas of disagreement, what has been the history that has led to this situation, and how can we objectively learn from the past without pointing fingers?
  • If you were called in to facilitate a discussion between these parties, how would you try to understand each point of view, and what insight would that give you?
  • What will it take for each party to begin to bury the past and focus on building a collaborative partnership?
  • What would a collaborative relationship look like?
  • What kind of thinking is needed to meet everyone’s needs and begin the process of establishing greater trust?

Win/Win Works with Difficult People

One of the most successful executives I know deals with difficult personalities by establishing a win/win mind set at the beginning of every interaction.  He walks into meetings and declares that no matter what difficulties or barriers emerge, he will find a way to create a win/win outcome. With win/win as the destination, this leader gives context to objections, emotional outbursts, and aggressive behaviors. He keeps the focus on finding areas of agreement.

You, too, can use a win/win approach when dealing with difficult people:

  • Listen to what the other person is really saying (and not saying)
  • Ask questions to uncover conscious and sub-conscious needs
  • Don’t allow anyone to “push your buttons”
  • Focus on the win/win destination to preempt emotional responses
  • Rephrase other peoples’ points of view, and seek clarification of their positions  to show that you really understand where they are coming from
  • Calmly articulate your own needs, and share how what you need will help all of you reach the win/win destination