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Drawing your political road map to the top of the office

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Politics,Workplace Communication

Before you can manipulate office politics to work in your favor, you’ll need an organized, clear picture of the lines of power that exist within your workplace. Here’s how:

Start with a blank sheet of paper. Place the names of the highest-ranking people in your unit or company in a row across the top of the page. Beneath the top-ranked people, write the names of the people who report to them. Continue down the chart past your level, leaving enough room for one or two ranks of names beneath yours.

Tip: Don’t forget about “influence agents”—those who may lurk in and around your organization, such as an outside investor who tends to meddle, a hands-on member of your firm’s board of directors or a longtime consultant who has the CEO’s ear. Even though these folks aren’t in the normal chain of command, include them among the highest-ranking people.
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Next, write one or two impressions and comments about each person. Be sure to include information about the type of relationship you have with each one, interests you share and potential areas of conflict. Then, indicate all reporting relationships by putting lines between the circles in blue pen (some of the lines will have to be curved).

Draw red lines to indicate any personal or strong political alliances you have perceived between people, which may or may not coincide with reporting lines.
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This road map allows you to quickly visualize many of the relationships and cross-relationships that exist in your workplace, putting you at an instant advantage over people who try to carry this information around in their heads. Others may base their plans for advancement on the company’s organizational chart, but you are beginning to get a picture of the power centers at work beneath the surface.

You may find, for example, that certain people to whom you report form a power center you had partially overlooked in the past. Perhaps the president and one vice president attended the same college, and maybe a second vice president is a very close friend of the other one. That’s a structure that can have real power.

Knowledge of this structure may enable you to exert influence on the company president by lending support to the ideas and projects of one of the vice presidents in question. Give support to the right person, and positive news about you will travel quickly upward to the president.

Your map can provide knowledge of where you can exert influence on people, often without talking to them directly.

Update your road map every few months without fail. When you’re dealing with a large number of individuals, you’ll be surprised how frequently new situations evolve and power structures change. People leave, and new people come on board. A group of executives falls out of favor with the company president, or their departments lose importance in light of new company agendas.
Drawing your road map is just the beginning. Now, it's time to make your move. The Black Book of Executive Politics shows you how.

Here are just a few lessons you'll learn from this important black book:
  • The Influence Game. Contrary to popular belief, “clout” has nothing to do with your ability to coerce or threaten people. The Black Book documents how taking on risky projects or assuming responsibilities in a restructuring can help you bypass a company’s formal power structure and gain true, lasting influence.
  • Increasing Your Powers of Persuasion. By keeping things simple … structuring your presentation … anticipating objections … and being flexible and inclusive, you can literally DOUBLE your power to sway colleagues to your way of thinking.
  • Acting Out of Character. If you’re a shouter, whispering may get you far more attention. If you’re a whisperer, have you tried shouting? This concept applies to other behavioral traits, too. The Black Book devotes a section to the effectiveness of this shifting of gears – and how it will get your ideas noticed.
  • Emergency Phrases. When a meeting is spiraling out of control, your mettle as a leader faces the acid test. Simply saying, “I would like to make a statement” can bring the room to silent attention.
  • Your Personal Power Inventory. Do you live in the same neighborhood as one of your company’s top executives? Maybe your kid plays soccer with the son of your chief competitor. By assessing your personal relations – everyone from college alumni to that guy who plays poker with your Uncle Jack – you can determine the people who can help you … and which should be avoided like they were sprayed by a skunk.
  • Keeping the Upper Hand. Should you coddle a maverick, or corral him? What strategies can you employ when a subordinate goes over your head? Find out in The Black Book of Executive Politics.
  • Moving Up or Moving On. Face it, a career is like a shark – it has to keep moving forward or it dies. But by tracking industry trends … being intimately aware of your company’s financial status … talking to industry consultants … and cultivating friendships with executives who’ve already moved on, you can read the writing on the wall – and even rewrite it to your advantage.

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