The title is from a leadership presentation that I do. It’s how I’ve tried to live my life in business, organizations, and relationships. I’d never specifically articulated what “understanding the political fray” means though until a good friend said recently that she’s just not politically savvy. Here are eight general principles I shared with her for being attuned to an organization’s political environment.

  • Understand the organization’s long-term needs. Use your strengths to best address those needs and create results.
  • Know “what” drives the business – which revenue streams and cost centers really matter.
  • Translate that into “who” drives the business. Then figure out where you stand now relative to the “what’s” and the “who’s,” and where you want to stand relative to both in the future.
  • Figure out the organization’s tolerance for variation from the norm in the areas (important and unfortunately, trivial) on which people judge people. Know what the expectation is for fitting a certain type and make very conscious decisions about where you’ll play along (i.e., “fit”), and where you’ll make your stand for being different.
  • Consistently and unequivocally deliver value. Do it for lots of people at all levels of the company – above you, with peers, and at lower levels of the organization.
  • Make sure you’re seen as someone people can talk to and confide in reliably. Ask open ended questions, listen, provide a little bit of sound counsel, and keep confidences. You’ll help others and learn a lot.
  • Always know who you can trust. Challenging issues and situations are great tests of this. The people who support you and / or have your back during the intense times are the people that you should go out of your way to invest in generously.
  • Don’t stop thinking, and don’t say everything you think.
  • Cultivate as many personal options as possible, and know how realistically they can come to fruition.

This list has helped me. Please take the opportunity to share what’s worked for you.

Today’s Get ‘Er Written Approach A non-starter that was rescued. The original approach was too specific. I needed time to come back and generalize it for the blog.

Thanks for coming along on “Get ‘Er Written” week.

Ideally you’ve gotten some ideas in these posts for how to rescue the scraps of paper and incomplete electronic files that may still hold the seeds of creative or strategic value for you. Don’t be reluctant to twist, turn, and gut them in the interest of revealing lessons that could be very relevant for your current situation in business or personal life!

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5 Responses to “Understand the Political Fray and then Stay the Hell Out of It”

  1. Seth says:

    This is all so true. When someone moves to a new location in an office building or a new neighborhood or city, they must quickly find out who they need to make friends with and to what degree!

    Machiavelli’s The Prince is a must-read for anyone interested politics of all kinds (all the way from office politics to personal relationships). Although it is written from the perspective of the one with power, it is still very enlightening (and disturbing), after several hundred years!

    Buy it here:

    Research it here:


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