This article was first published in the February 2014 International edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Want to win in the career race? Of course you do. So think about the extent to which you disagree or agree with the following statements:
- I am able to make most people feel comfortable and at ease around me.
- I pay close attention to people’s facial expressions.
- I am good at getting people to like me.
Congratulate yourself if you strongly and wholeheartedly agree with those statements. Because you’re probably strong on a skill called organisational savvy.
My new book, How To Win, presents advice culled from published research on what has been shown to predict success. One key finding is that people – spanning diverse groups such as finance analysts in the US Midwest, construction workers in China, and experienced managers in Germany – get ahead when they have the skill of organisational savvy.
Organisational savvy is also known as ‘interpersonal style’, ‘political finesse’ and ‘street smarts’. But what it is called matters less than what it measures: the ability to understand people, build relationships and persuade others to side with us on projects.
The research tells us that our performance at work is judged as much on our relationships – our ability to form them, strengthen them and rally support for ventures through them – as on our completion of mere tasks. Push a plan through to completion in spite of how people feel and you may end up making more enemies than friends in the long term. But if you can persuade others that they have a stake in your project, then you will win both in terms of getting the work done and building a coalition of allies for the future.
That’s how the world works nowadays. Simply presenting an idea (however fantastic) to colleagues or proposing a project that is good for customers is not enough; we need to pitch things to people so they personally get something out of it, too.
I’m not saying that this state of play is necessarily desirable or even healthy. All I’m reporting is what the science tells us. Whether we like it or not, those individuals who invest in ‘reading’ their colleagues and focusing on the relationships as well as the tasks tend to get promoted more frequently.
To hone your organisational savvy, make it a priority to observe your colleagues more intently. Spend more time with them. Try to work out why they behave the ways they do. Are they motivated by money, recognition or status? Do they act out of greed, fear or passion? Do they have the organisation’s best interests at heart or their own? The more time you spend with people and the more you immerse yourself in the language of their inner motivations, the more you will understand how to influence and persuade them.
Sure, there are people who win the career race without organisational savvy. But then there are those who succeed without a good education too. It just makes life more difficult if you don’t have it. And why make life harder for yourself than it already is?
Dr Rob Yeung is a psychologist at leadership consulting firm Talentspace and author of more than 20 career and management books including his latest, How To Win: The Argument, the Pitch, the Job, the Race (Capstone, £10.99). Accounting and Business readers can receive a 10% discount off Rob's book, use the link above and enter the discount code VBF62 at the checkout.