Think of the term ‘Corporate politics’ and it may be that negativity dominates your thoughts. People trying to score points, secrecy and subterfuge, and departments competing against each other may be some of the examples you would quote. Work in a large organisation as an IT Business Partner and you’ll probably feel you could write a book on these issues alone!
Corporate politics is about ways of handling difference, which can also be achieved through positive means such as influence, collaboration and teamwork. Participation in organisational politics is not optional – however how you choose to play it is – either positively or negatively, the choice is yours.
Corporate politics and the IT Business Partner
As an IT Business Partner handling the best and worst of corporate politics is an imperative skill. Fundamentally, an understanding of your own political position can help you place yourself into a position where people choose to work with you in a positive way. IT Business Partners are in a position of influence but not always in a position of power, so getting people on board with your plans is not something you can mandate.
As with any good sales person you are selling both yourself and your ideas to your ,colleagues and stakeholders in order to get them on your side. Take a lesson from sales, deploying the techniques they use, and learning from the mistakes they make. Here are some things you can do something about yourself which will help you along the way.
- Make others feel good about themselves - help them to develop their own skills, be positive and enthusiastic about their ideas, ask questions to help them think through the consequences of their own decisions, and get them to talk about themselves. Listen to what they have to say, and show you are actively listening.
- Make them be comfortable with you - help them to understand your values and opinions, be honest, show you can be trusted and that you have integrity. Be approachable.
- Develop a support network - cultivate friends and allies who can support you when dealing with a difficult individual.
- Look for the win-win – if you want somebody to do something for you, always consider why they should do it; the ‘what’s in it for them?’ question.
Don’t underestimate the power of people skills
IT Business Partners can make the mistake of thinking that being knowledge of the business and competent in IT processes is enough to do the job well. Occasionally it is, but when you need others on board then people skills are not to be underestimated.
Small things like saying hello to people as you pass in the corridor, or sitting with someone at lunch from a different department (remember lunch?) all build up the relationships you need to be able to get buy-in to that tricky project and make it a success for everyone.
That time you spend at the water cooler, or leaving early for drinks, or just taking the time to chat to someone who might need to blow off some steam won’t be time wasted. While you, as an IT Business Partner might be thinking of 100 other ways you could be spending your limited time, you need to approach this ‘wasted’ time as an investment in getting things through quicker in the future.
Good Partnering is about managing relationships as much as it is about managing business.
We are proud to welcome on board Dr Robina Chatham, who is an expert in IT Business Partnering and motivational coaching. You can learn more about her and her work here