Being Politically Savvy
How do you successfully navigate office politics? On this edition of “Inspiring Women,” host Betty Collins discusses the skills needed to be politically savvy. “Inspiring Women” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Betty Collins, CPA, Brady Ware & Company and Host of the “Inspiring Women” Podcast
Betty Collins is the Office Lead for Brady Ware’s Columbus office and a Shareholder in the firm. Betty joined Brady Ware & Company in 2012 through a merger with Nipps, Brown, Collins & Associates. She started her career in public accounting in 1988. Betty is co-leader of the Long Term Care service team, which helps providers of services to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and nursing centers establish effective operational models that also maximize available funding. She consults with other small businesses, helping them prosper with advice on general operations management, cash flow optimization, and tax minimization strategies.
In addition, Betty serves on the Board of Directors for Brady Ware and Company. She leads Brady Ware’s Women’s Initiative, a program designed to empower female employees, allowing them to tap into unique resources and unleash their full potential. Betty helps her colleagues create a work/life balance while inspiring them to set and reach personal and professional goals. The Women’s Initiative promotes women-to-women business relationships for clients and holds an annual conference that supports women business owners, women leaders, and other women who want to succeed. Betty actively participates in women-oriented conferences through speaking engagements and board activity.
Betty is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and she is the President-elect for the Columbus Chapter. Brady Ware also partners with the Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA), an organization designed to help female business owners develop and implement a strong business strategy through education and mentorship, and Betty participates in their mentor match program. She is passionate about WSBA because she believes in their acceleration program and matching women with the right advisors to help them achieve their business ownership goals. Betty supports the WSBA and NAWBO because these organizations deliver resources that help other women-owned and managed businesses thrive.
Betty is a graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene College, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Betty is also the Board Chairwoman for the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, and she serves on the Board of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gahanna as Treasurer.
“Inspiring Women” Podcast Series
“Inspiring Women” is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. The show is hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and presented by Brady Ware and Company. Brady Ware is committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home. Other episodes of “Inspiring Women” can be found here.
[00:00:01] So today I’ve chosen kind of an interesting topic. Maybe when you hear the title, you’ll understand politically savvy. Oh, yes. Politics. You know, today it’s always had a negative tone. But in today’s environment. Wow. Just not good, right? But, you know, if you take politics in in politically correct or just say politically savvy, maybe I’ll get you to listen. Politically savvy. The why and the how. I will tell you, is it really necessary? Because some people really don’t like that idea of that. I’m going to say a firm. Yes. If you truly want to get where you want to go, you’ve got a you’ve got to learn the art of being politically savvy. So let me set the stage. The term politics is based on words, Polly, and ticks. Poly meaning many and ticks, meaning blood-sucking parasites, totally fits in today’s environment, right? It’s why we don’t like it maybe I don’t know. But whenever people’s priority, their values and their interests come together, chances are some type of politicking is going to take place. So where are your priorities right now? Can you easily define those values? Hopefully it should be quick, you know. What are your interests? So, yeah, you know, it’s necessary if you’re going to make sure that those priorities, values and interests are really going to become reality. Being politically savvy just might have to be in order.
[00:01:36] But no matter where, you know, your office, family, maybe you maybe you volunteer a nonprofit, you’re involved in your local community, talk about politics or politics, politicking. It’s just inevitable. And they involve intentional acts to you and by you to influence and enhance, you know, protect those priorities and those values and interests. So we’re going to talk about today. So, yeah, it’s necessary to be politically savvy to have as the best desired outcomes that you’re looking for. I think the major intention of office politics is about. It’s about positioning yourself. It’s about vested rights that can be dangerous, maybe resources and careers, influence and power. And when all those things are done the right way, it can be really amai amazing. And when it’s done the wrong way with wrong motives, though, it can be pretty dangerous. So be careful when you’re talking in wanting to position yourself, investing yourself and tapping into resources, advancing your career, which can all lead to some good influence and power. Political savvy is the only way to go and it’s a positive connotation. Necessary, my opinion totally the true secret to being politically savvy is that it’s a secret skill. To be successful if the best it’s the best trader ability you have that’s just kind of natural and and you don’t talk about being politically savvy and nobody talks about it.
[00:03:07] e-justice. It’s who you. It’s it’s who you are. It’s how you can can work the room and work the situation to do what you need to do. Navigating an office or, you know, an organization, even your own household. You know, you got to get comfortable with and then duty, you know, those unknowns. Right? You’ve got to get comfortable with some alliances. Not everyone is easy to align with and be authentic with. That’s why you got to be political savvy. By the way, you know, the thing that we don’t really see a lot in today’s politics is, is those things that people are trying to come together with. But with practice, you know, you can decipher what is often unspeakable and not easy. If you decide the right course of action and just a side note, authenticity is not telling the truth without spilling every single. Your gut every single time. That’s not an authenticity. But truth always wins and it doesn’t have to be dramatic. So as we talk about political competence today and being politically savvy. Really, political competence is the ability to understand what you can and cannot control. You’ve got to know when you take action. And you’ve got to figure out who’s going to resist your agenda.
[00:04:25] I remember it being in a class once for CPE and it was a long, long time ago in my career and she was such a dynamic speaker. If you can imagine, all of us really love talking about managing compilations. OK. Not an exciting subject, but she or I never have forgotten this for her. She said Always figure out who’s going to resist what you want to do when you’re managing. Always figure out and be prepared for it because it will happen. So I’ve always remember that advice from this woman. I couldn’t tell you who it is on compilations of how exciting. You have to know who’s on your side. Absolutely. You know, there is that saying out there, keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. So there’s some truth in that. But you really do have to know who’s on your side, who’s in that circle that will help you through it. And then you have to know about how to navigate through that, the map, the political terrain where you are to get others on your side. So, you know, I’ve said a lot of things that you probably already knew, but being politically savvy is really, you know, for me, I’ve got to make sure that if I’m going to get what I want or I’m going to get what I think the organization needs or do what’s best and align my values and all those things, I’ve just got to learn this skill set. So how do I do that? I’m going to give you some Howse today. Here’s the number one think before you speak. Let me say that again. Think before you speak. You know, to be truly politically skilled. You’ve got to have some impulse control even over this past weekend. I had a situation where I got a a face book message, p_m_, whatever it’s called.
[00:06:01] And it was a very I could have taken that message a hundred ways, but I stepped back and said, nope, I’m going to think about this and try to not hash it over all weekend. But before I speak, I’m going to take my time. It kind of paid off because when I actually had the conversation and step back and wait for a real conversation, not text, it turned into something different.
[00:06:24] So you need to choose your organizational battles wisely. You know, those conversations that size things up before you decide how you’re going to present to others. You have to consider whether or not to voice a thought or a feeling. And timing is everything. Have you ever seen someone try to get something done because they’re passionate. They want to do it. They’re ready. They’re prepared. It’s just not the right time because the person maybe or the situation they’re trying to change. It’s not time. It’s not a good time. You’ve got to think before you speak and you’ve got to think there’s going to be a time when I can do this.
[00:06:58] You have to consider that your communication of yourself, your ideas, your opinions, sometimes look back and see where you said something. And in that prior time, it worked and learned from that. Probably it was the circumstance and the timing that made it work.
[00:07:17] The result that you can have can be pretty ideal if you wait and think before you speak. And chances are you’re probably not going to go off and be real rogue or this situation goes rogue. And you definitely are politicking at that point, but the results are likely be more positive when you think before you speak. Especially when it’s not something simple, especially when it’s something that could be controversial or it could go either way in. So be careful too. You got to manage up to some point. When you are savvy, you must be able to skillfully communicate with the layers above you.
[00:07:52] What does layers mean then? Sound very fun, does it? But it’s your boss, the supervisor. Sometimes I’m referring to even higher up decision makers. Your boss might not be the decision maker, but then you have to look at that layer and say, boy, if I go to his boss or her boss, is that going to be good? So you’ve got to figure out how to manage up to a point. I was just in a meeting where there were two people with the same position and they both had such different approaches. They both managed up, but two to one really did it to the wrong person and one did it to the right person and that person who knew skillfully enough to go, Hey. Think before you say say it, well, that person was making such more headway than the other person over here thinking, I’ve chosen the right person, I’m going to work the room over here and I’m going to. I’m gonna be savvy on this side on the right person to be savvy with. So you have to think about those things.
[00:08:48] Also, political skill involves maintaining good relationships with people, though, in the entire organization. Nearly as good as that team around you. We always hear that.
[00:08:57] So I’m not saying put all your all your energy and your resource in layers above you, because if you don’t have the layer below you, that makes it all work as well. You may end up neglecting that entire team around you. So, you know, when you’re trying to be politically savvy, trying to work through your family organization, your church, your community office, your careers. Think before you speak and manage up to a point. Make sure everyone around you that’s involved is treated well, because those people may they may one day rise up above you. You never know. You have to practice influence. How do you do that? I mean, what does that really mean? Because my next podcast is on influence and becoming that so effective influencers. They build strong interpersonal communication and relationships and they have good rapport with other people. When you are skilled, politically, politically savvy, people are comfortable with those interpersonal communications and skillsets that can be somebody that’s very intimate setting. It can be something that’s one on one. But you have to practice that influence. There’s a really good saying that sometimes influences like a savings account. The more you don’t draw out, the more you have.
[00:10:13] So sometimes throwing influence around doesn’t help you. I really got to witness somebody who’s very good at influence and being politically savvy and having really good impact. And that would be Caroline Warley. She’s an attorney in Columbus, Ohio. She has helped tremendous amounts of women’s organizations start from scratch, get them going. And what she really does well with those things is she connects people to the right people because she is a very connected person. She practices her influence. But you don’t even know it. You know, she’s bringing those people in and she’s she’s making sure that they are connected to the right thing for the greater good, not for Caroline morally necessarily. It’s okay that sometimes it’s for Caroline Worthy. Right. But she practices that influence in all kinds of situations and areas in her life. People who practice influence, they tend to have some good judgment about when they assert themselves and that results in cooperative relationships around them. So skilled influences are not always overly political. They just know how to play the game. Don’t you hate that? But it’s true. There are people out there who really know how to do that.
[00:11:26] Number four, this could be an entire podcast. Hone your power of perception. Don’t you love the person in the room that has no, I dieser just. They think they do, but they don’t. So I love number four. What a statement. Really, it’s an action or trait that is key to being skillfully politically savvy. You have to understand that.
[00:11:52] That when you can know what’s going on and be perceptive, there is power in that can, that’s an entire podcast. One day I was in a meeting and room full of great people and I walk in and they said, Here’s your meeting. I sat down and. And I’m pretty personable. So I start talking to everyone because, you know, I think I am in the right meeting. I have no idea that I’m completely in the wrong meeting until I realized and I said out loud, I’m in the wrong meeting.
[00:12:23] Everybody laughed because there’s a dozen people, but they were very entertained. But it didn’t dawn on me till probably three to five minutes into this meeting. I had no idea I was in the wrong meeting, too. I really then started seeing these people had no clue. I’m hitting out my cards to everybody. The funny part of that story was two years later, somebody hired me from that meeting because I handled it so well. Wish them all a good day. Walked out of there completely humiliated, but I laughed all the way out the door.
[00:12:51] So having the ability to understand now, that was a funny situation, obviously, but people who can hone in and have that perception have some. There’s power in it. And you understand you’ve got to. It’s a skill. This is really a natural characteristic in somebody. I think it’s a hard skill to learn. If you can’t see it, you just can’t. And so if you really have that problem where you’re not being able to work a room, well, get someone to help you with that. You’ve got to know who is around you and what this what the circumstances is. But it really is part of being really good savvy. That’s for sure. You got to learn to network. There’s networking and then there’s networking. Right. Actually, my friend Betty Clark at CPM Media says all the time there’s networking and then there’s connecting. So I could go to lunch three times a day. Sometimes I feel like I have or there’s really where you’re connecting with somebody. And so when you’re being savvy, if you are a person who helps small business, but you are meeting with big time, the large client, middle market bankers, that’s that’s networking. It’s not connecting. So you have to learn the difference a little bit and get in there. And of course, it’s not who you are. It’s who you know. That’s just a fact in life. Effective networking goes well beyond passing out your business cards and smoothing. You know, people who possess a strong networking ability, they build friendships and they see that going to be beneficial for both of you. It’s not about networking with a big name. So you can say you networking the big name. What can you do for them and what can they do for you? Skilled networkers know when to call on others and they’re willing to reciprocate.
[00:14:41] There has to be benefit between the two. The relationships have to benefit. Otherwise, it truly is just having lunch. It’s not networking connecting. So you have to invest in them and they will invest in you. Those are just various things that you can do to get that good politically savvy people are. They think before they speak. They manage up to they manage up to a point, but then they practice influence, they hone the power of perception and then they learn to network. Those are things that you have to take those five subject matters and dive into where you don’t have strength. But really, those who demonstrate political intelligence, they probably have a basic strategy. Of course, I’m a CPA and I’m a practical person. So strategy is great. I love it. If it sits down, if it’s in a book that sits on a shelf, it doesn’t really mean anything.
[00:15:33] So when I talk about they demonstrate political intelligence, they’re actually doing something with this strategy. But these are the things that they do. They partner with their boss. Unless you have a unique and irreplaceable knowledge or skill, which very few people do, actually your boss has much more power than you do. Probably your manager has much more access to those key decision makers. So it’s better to have a boss as a cheerleader than as an adversary. And again, I go back to managing up and you find those relationships. If you really want to get to the CEO of a company or a vice president level. You’re probably not going to find that by partnering with the accounts payable clerk of the company. You know, you’ve got to understand partnering with whether it’s a customer or a prospect or in your own company, partner with the boss. The person who’s up. The person who is the decision person. But at the same time, you’ve got to be a team, a 360 team player, which, you know, what does that really mean? I think it means it’s full circle. You must have a wide network of relationships with in your organization. Missy Heimer, who is a director at Brady, where when she first came to Brady, where which is probably 13, 14 years ago, she was a staff accountant. She kind of had started her career later in life.
[00:16:46] But she was very adamant of wanting to be a director and own a company one day. And one of the people gave her great advice. Young, you know, when she became a senior, she started seeing things happen. Get to know every director of Brady where and not just in the office you work in, but in other offices, because one day you’re in need, all those relationships around you. And so, you know, when it came time to vote for her to be a director, she knew everybody shouldn’t work for them necessarily. She she didn’t have that much interaction, but she definitely had this full circle. And on top of that, she made sure all the managers around staff, everyone, she was a kind of a hub centralized person. The other reason had to be a 360 team player and know kind of everyone within your organization. I mean, our Columbus office has 30 people in it. The more you know and have relationships in and work those rooms, guess what? You’re going a better understand what’s going on in the Columbus office. You’re going to know the things that are happening. And you won’t be maybe surprised then when you get those circles in those teams all collaborating. You can do anything. And that’s part of being politically savvy for sure. Then you have to understand the power map. Organizations are pop power hierarchies, right. And from time to time, those things shift.
[00:18:08] So you might have had the relationship with this person for ever and ever thinking that would hold you there. Well, what happens when that person goes? I learned this early on in my career as I was, you know, trying to know more and more people. And I loved one of my partners, which was with the payroll company. And this person gave me a lot of business and I gave them a lot of business. It was great until all the sudden three into three years. Guess what? They go on to something else, like selling medical something. Well, I had no other contacts at that point to refer to me or me refer to them. And so you have to kind of understand that at sometimes, no, that’s not a hierarchy person, but everywhere you have to. I if I would have known his boss, the boss would’ve probably brought me out one of his better reps if I wouldn’t. You know, CEOs come and go, accountants come and go. And you’re in. Really, you’re working for the owner of the company, not the CFO. You have to make sure that your understanding that power map of who has the influence, where you are and where you want to be and making sure that you will always leverage that things could change. So I’ve got to be able to change along with it.
[00:19:16] Then you have to practice subtle self-promotion. That would not be Betty Collins. I tell people on my podcast all the time. And really, if I don’t mean why wouldn’t I promote that? I mean, I work hard at it. It takes time to do. I was at a lunch and we were with a table, people we didn’t know. And so we’re going around introducing ourselves.
[00:19:38] And so one of the women said, oh, ah. I asked her, actually, I said, so how do you like being in the Narva organization? And she goes, Oh, I love it. And so the person next to her said, Oh, you’re with norvo. And I said, Yeah, you know, I’m on the board and I’m involved. And everyone started laughing at the table that was with me. They said, she’s the president of norvo. I don’t know why she’s not telling you that. And they all kind of laughed about it, you know. But the person I was across the table from actually was a really great connection. And so now I have kind of something she’s going to remember buying. I gave her my card and we talked. I could have just said, yeah, I’m very involved. I love the organization and so much so that I’m on the board and I’m the president right now, blah, blah, blah. And go on into those things. So sometimes you have to do those things and we don’t always do that well. Of course, there are those people that do it way too often and it’s very annoying.
[00:20:29] So politically savvy people can share their information, but chances are they’re going to self-promote and no-one’s. It’s not going to be obnoxious. People are gonna be good with it. OK. Here’s one. And you’ll go, why did you put this in here? Connect with the power people. Well, the big decisions about your career, you know, your company or even in the community will be made by people who endorse you. It’s just true. I mean, it can actually other day with someone because I was a link. She’s a LinkedIn friend. You know, we run in circles, but I’ve never done a business with her until she. She. Person who was trying to get her business said, well, we have a common person that I know. And can you call her? And she will give me a reference. I’m not going to tell her that I’m calling. And she said, we made this connection. And these were pretty high up. Well, I we consider high a powerful people. I up now having. Thank you for giving me a good reference. And by the way, here’s a client for you, because now I learn more about you and the person who I’d really like to get declined that she knows. Now, we had a great conversation about just business in general vs. other things that that I usually talk with her about. So those decision-maker people who endorse you.
[00:21:49] People who will make you happen. That was just a simple thing. But in the case of your company, maybe it’s your boss, you know, in your business, maybe it’s getting to that bigger client or smaller ones. You know, I’d rather have 10 big clients than 100 smaller ones. It depends on what you do. But in your community, you know, it’s one thing to note city council members. It’s another thing to know the mayor. You’re probably going to get a lot more done when you know the mayor. You may not know the mayor to, you know, council, though. So you have to look at both of those politically savvy people. Enjoy talking to folks who have the power, of course. It’s not like sucking up and using their coattails to drag along, but the people who are endorsed, you know, they’re going to help you be politically savvy. Again, remember memory, I started this podcast. I said you don’t really want to be seen as politically savvy. Just wanted to have it be happening. And then you got to commit to the business of the day that you do the passion that you’re doing, the organization that you’re in. Nobody likes an apathetic attitude. No one has ever press with, well, you know, I like the commercial that’s out right now where they say, yeah, my French is just okay. And of course, they interpret French as completely wrong.
[00:22:56] So if you want decision makers to think well of you, you need to be pretty interested and excited in what you do and false cheer will get you. So it will only get you so far. So you have to have some politically savvy. You really got to have the why and the what so that the what is simple in your life. But you’ve got to be committed to whatever it is you’re trying to politically savvy navigate through. So knowing the rules of this unwritten, invisible world politically savviness that no one wants to talk about because no one wants to say they’re political. It will help you gain recognition. It will help you get promotion in. It will get you where you probably want to go. Here’s some other things where you can think of. I’m going to be politically savvy, not sleazy. Right. You find the geek gatekeepers. Keep your eyes and ears open. Who are the real people of influence? Who do you need to get to? Who’s going to really make the difference? Often it’s just like any game you need to connect with the person who shuffles the cards. You have to be careful in that, too, because you can’t just try to get to the top first. I had a very interesting person in my my district ran for mayor. Anybody can run for mayor, but the person had never been on council.
[00:24:04] They’d never even been in the chamber. They had never been in CVB volunteering throughout the city. It was really kind of strange. So politically savvy, you know, when we’re talking about a find the gatekeeper. Sometimes you got a fine before you get there. You got to listen. Listed the coffeemaker. Gossip is a bad thing, right? It’s hard. It should be anyways. But tidbits of information sometimes can get you right to the right person. So sometimes just again, listening, kind of when I talked in the beginning of think before you speak. Right. Know when to be quiet. Tom Cruise is the perfect example of this in Jerry Maguire. So in the beginning, he has this epiphany, right? He writes this big story. Right. He goes in and gives everybody the story. And the whole place is quiet and within, you know, an hour of entering that office. Guess what? He was walking out of that office, had a really lot of good things to say and passion that he wanted to do and influence and change. But, man, he just didn’t know when to be quiet. Really blew it as far as I was concerned. And then building strategic alliances. You know, it’s not all about numbers. It’s not about how many people like you on Facebook. It really is probably gathering up your own board of directors.
[00:25:17] That is about your agenda. Whatever it is to politically savvy, savvy, navigate through. That’s better than well, I know all these people now and you don’t really know them. And they’re liking something good for you.
[00:25:30] And then trust your instincts. You know, learn what pushes your buttons and do it. Do something about it. Navigating office politics means getting comfortable with that ambiguity, the unknowns, alliances and authenticity, I talked about that at first and with practice you can decipher was often pretty unspeakable and decide the right course of action. So gonna end with this statement to be human is to be political. Inspired people help you build the right required skills to navigate, navigate politically in organization. And so make sure that as you start this venture of I’m going to become politically savvy, take hard. Get the transcript, because I just gave you a ton of information about trying to navigate through through being politically savvy, it’s not easy to do, but it’s necessary in the world you live in, probably. I’m Betty Collins. Thanks for listening today.