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24 Sep

The office can be a daunting place.  There are people who help you, people who don’t, people who are supportive and, quite frankly, people who are not very nice.  Whether you are a seasoned individual or a novice you will need to deal with office politics so here are some sure fire tips that will see you not only survive but excel without being burned or burning anyone.  They are simple but effective.

1.  Be an Expert 

Everyone needs to create their own speciality.  You need to be the” go to” person for something no matter what it is. The closer it is to the core business the better and do it in an area that no one else is doing.  By being an expert you move towards being indispensable.  People will talk about you and you will be noticed in a positive way.  Don’t be arrogant or conceited.  You always need to show humility and service.  Even the best CEOs show humility.  Additionally, if you study great men of this world they generally showed great skill in a narrow area that was important to the business, industry or area they were working in.  US President Dwight D Eisenhower was an expert in procurement and logistics that seemed remote from war and battle, Bill Gates become and expert programmer when no one knew what programming was about.  Both men are examples of people who had skills that they translated to greater things so, become a leader in your team, department, your division, company or industry.  Work hard at it and you will become special and sought after.  You will survive and you will succeed.

2.  Never Stop Learning

Be committed to becoming better each day.  Develop your own education program to learn specific skills and stick to it.  CEOs and people of influence are often good speakers and good writers.  By continually learning and reading and talking to people about what you have learned you can develop these skills.  There are no shortages of tools available or courses you can go on or groups that you can join.  I joined Toastmasters and it developed my confidence to speak publically.  You can learn the skills and the art of speaking.  I learned to speak extemporaneously- off the cuff- on any subject even not knowing a great deal about it.  If you want to get ahead and get your ideas listened to and acted upon learn to speak and write to your audience.  Read broadly and develop a better understanding of the world around you.  Learn how to draw parallels with different situations and use ideas in one area to improve the things in other areas.     Nothing is perfect and everything can be improved.  If you continually seek to develop your knowledge you will be way ahead of your colleagues, your competitors and at the very least you will be a good conversationalist.

3.  Keep Your Promises

This is particularly important if you really want to become a trusted and sought out individual.  The world is full of people who do not make or keep promises.  There are too many reasons not to deliver on your commitments and they all seem to be plausible and connected with external events.  Let me make it absolutely clear - you break a promise, you will be judged and people will deal with you differently and not in a flattering way.  By keeping your promises you will create trust and build on the relationship.  In the end all business is based on trust.  Become reliable.  Be someone who can be trusted.  This also means that you should have the ability to say No.  What surprises many people is that saying No is not necessarily viewed badly.  Indeed, it can even increase the respect others have for you especially when it is linked to you keeping a promise.  What is fundamentally important though, is to ensure that you promise only what you can control.  This brings me to the next most important part of the unwritten agreement.  If there are major unforseen issues then bring them to the table immediately and discuss the alternatives and the possible outcomes.  If you can do just these simple things you will be held in high esteem and you will be trusted.  Trust is the ultimate currency of business.

4.  Integrity

Honesty and openness is part of building trust.  A variation on the theme is authenticity - being true to yourself.  There is no long term future in misleading people.  You will be caught out and your life and your career maybe ruined forever.  Lance Armstrong was a driven man and his desire to be successful made him do things that were illegal according to the rules of cycling.  The fact that other people in the sport were taking drugs did not justify his actions.  We will never know if he could have been successful in his own right.  His fight with cancer and his charity work have been diminished as he will be forever known as a cheat.  From my perspective authenticity is a key part of honesty and integrity.  You need to be comfortable with people seeing you as you are.  The great thing about being authentic - foibles and all - is that you never have to pretend to be something else which can be a great strain.  The other surprising fact is that you are more effective with people as they see you as one of them.  You are a human being.  It is easier to live your own life rather than to pretend to be something or somebody else and be viewed a phoney.  Be you and be an individual.

5.  Develop Your Network

Success is hardly an individual event.  You generally require many supporters and people who believe in you.  Therefore it is important to develop your network of friends and relationships and be a positive part of this network by helping others to grow and become better.  In the end people do business with their friends and the people who support them in their endeavours.  Be a connector but don’t keep score.  Make your business acquaintances your friends and your friends your business relationships.  This may sound strange to people who believe that they should not do business with their friends because it ruins business or it ruins friendships.  I beg to differ.  It is important to choose the people with similar values and beliefs in business and then develop the relationships.  Like-minded people understand the importance of trust, integrity, values and honesty in business.  Why not make these people your friends for a long term beneficial relationship.  Just look at how much business is done at the highest level with people who socialise and spend time with each other.  The notion that life is transactional without relationships seems foreign to the human condition.  Develop and nurture your relationships and extend your network. Finally remember give first before you receive.

6.  Be Positive

Let’s face it we hate negative people.  You know the type.  They all have something to complain about and there’s always a reason why it won’t work or it can’t happen or it is not what we do.  These people don’t want change or cannot see how to do things better.  Move away from these people and focus on the positive.  This means look at ways things can be made to work.  Look at how new ideas will bring benefits.  History has shown that positive people enjoy better lives, a better state of happiness and are able to do and get more things done.  Sure failure occurs, but on balance positive people more persistent and are more likely to make things happen.  Negative people entirely fulfil their own expectations.
The best part about being positive is that others like being around you and they will support you and your ideas.  You become more approachable and people will be more inclined to discuss issues with you knowing that you will listen and work towards solutions.  People who have a positive approach have a much more constructive attitude to work, people and the business that they are working in.  From a company point of view that translates to a better business.
7.   Be Respectful

All people in the organisation have value and on many levels are trying to do the right thing by the company and their colleagues even if we cannot see it at the time.  For this reason alone, be a friend and show respect.  Talk about us not I and ask people for their opinion.  Involve them and seek contributions.  Acknowledge them and always recognise their skills and talents.  Don’t speak badly of anyone and always try to see the situation from someone else’s perspective.  Never talk ill of anyone and never get personal.  People may do what you think is the wrong thing so address the action not the individual and above all try to understand.
We often find ourselves in stressful situations and research has shown that we don’t make rational decisions under stress.  What one person has decided may be wrong and irrational but under the circumstances would we be more rational?  We need to understand the context of the situation and learn how to be better.  Always be supportive and find ways to engage and remember respect is more than being polite - it is valuing the person and their contribution.