How Savvy Are You About Office Politics?

Today’s guest contributor is Bonnie Marcus, author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley, March 2015). You can learn more by visiting her site or by picking up a copy on Amazon.


playing office politics wellPolitical savvy is critical for career success and the good news is that you don’t need to lose your integrity in the process.

Political savvy involves developing relationships and a sensitivity to the culture of the organization.

This can be accomplished over time with the use of keen observation and listening skills.

Using Lisa Mainiero’s work as a guide, I have identified four stages for development of political savvy.

4 growth stages in playing office politics wisely and well

Stage 1: Naiveté

In Stage 1, you are completely focused on your work. In fact, you spend most of your time in your cubicle or office. You most likely work long hours and are not tuned into or even aware of the politics around you. You can be in Stage 1 at the very beginning of your career or when you transition to a new role or company and need to learn the rules of the game all over again.

Then something occurs that catches you off guard and opens your eyes to the culture and decision-making process. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion or see others less qualified than you being promoted. At this point, you begin to move toward Stage 2.

Stage 2: Great Work

In this stage, you see the importance of developing your personal brand and creating visibility and credibility across the organization. You still work very hard, but now you see that relationships are also important for your advancement.

However, you are not actively building relationships for your career or prioritizing this. You are aware of the politics but do not yet engage. You recognize that if you want to get ahead, you need to focus on your career, not just your work. You have yet to figure out how to fit this into your work schedule.

Stage 3: Career Strategy

The next stage, Stage 3, is about becoming strategic. You are looking at where you want to go and creating a strategic plan to get there. Your plan includes building relationships with key stakeholders and influencers.

You are aware that if you want to succeed, you need to delegate to and empower your team and develop your own personal influence and self-promotion skills. You recognize the importance of working with a coach or finding a mentor and sponsor.

Stage 4: Political Savvy

In Stage 4, you have reached a leadership position by leveraging your talent and hard work along with the relationships you have built across the organization.

Now at the top of your organization, you see politics as a way of maintaining your status, promoting your ideas, and helping others to move up the ladder. It’s more competitive on top and you spend much of your time and energy working the politics. Women in this stage are great role models for other women in the company and should actively mentor other men and women to achieve their goals.

Where are you in terms of your political savvy?

What stage best represents where you are right now?

What do you need to do to move to the next stage of political savvy?



Image source:  Dreamstime | A longer version of this post appeared 2/3/15 at


Women, High Heels and L.E.A.D.

Today’s guest contributor is Debora McLaughlin, CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group, executive coach, and author. Debora helps business owners, executives, and managers ignite their inner renegade leader to unleash their full potential, drive their visions, and yield positive results both in business and in life.  


women leadersI’d like to see business women celebrate Women’s History Month by taking the L.E.A.D. and embracing their inner Sofia Vergara.

There’s more to her than meets the eye.  

She’s been the top-earning actress on television for three years running and is a wildly successful entrepreneur who embraces herself, including her own beauty, her 40s, her health as a thyroid cancer survivor, her previous status as a single mother, her multiple endorsement deals from corporations that reflect her life—and she does it all with swagger. She represents a new face in business leadership. Multiple studies have found that personality traits formerly thought of as “feminine” are now seen as preferred leadership features in business.

Solitude: a surprise tool for making important decisions

Edward G. Brown is today’s guest contributor. He is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of Cohen Brown Management Group, the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry. You can connect with Edward on Twitter.


“What? You’re not meditating?” demanded a recent article.

The article went on to explore today’s “mindfulness meditation” mania, so popular that it has already sparked the backlash that we fickle beings accord anything that captivates us for longer than a news cycle.  

(I’ll say this for our hyper-connected world: These days the backlash comes so fast that there’s less danger of your having overinvested in the original craze it’s lashing back at.)  

Gender equality: what will it take to make us pay attention?


gender equalityThe national movement that’s begun in sports to hold domestic violence abusers accountable is gratifying and long overdue.

I live in South Carolina, which for too long, has been one of the worst states for violence against women. State government is currently on a (hopeful) path to finally enacting some meaningful legislation.

Interest and action in South Carolina were spurred by a tremendous series by the Post and Courier—articles were graphic and full of hard-hitting (no pun intended) domestic violence statistics. The movement in sports took off after the horrific video of Ray Rice punching his fiance went viral.

Work on the menace that’s racism is gaining traction and coverage as well. Thanks in no small part to several people sadly losing their lives.

While the engagement and attention are welcome and rewarding on both of these fronts, the need for the proverbial sharp stick in the eye before something happens is puzzling.

Why is that so?

On another front, a recent Pew Research Center study reported that the delta in the numbers between women and men in senior leadership positions is based on perception and gender discrimination. As Aliah D. Wright writes in a SHRM article about this research:

“According to the research, ‘most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders.’ Yet, four in 10 Americans said there is a double standard for women who want to climb into the upper echelons of management because they ‘have to do more than their male counterparts in order to prove themselves.’”

Like domestic violence and racism, sexism has been around for a long time. The dismal statistics about women’s lack of representation in senior positions, on boards, and in politics gets reported over and over—without any significant social movement or business initiative taking root.

Why is that so?

Women in business know, all too well, the gender inequality impacts of unconscious bias, stereotypes, and covert discrimination—impacts that fuel frustration and broken spirits but that don’t leave black eyes, broken bones, or loss of life.

What is it going to take to jolt gender equality to the front page, to a trending social media topic, and to the top of every CEO’s to-do list? Thoughts?

Image source before quote:



IWD 2015: Women & Men Make It Happen

women making their voice heard“In 2015, ‘awareness’ is out—action is in” — reads a TIME post for International Women’s Day.

Agreed, it is time for more action around gender equality, but let’s not totally discard the awareness! Paying attention keeps men and women focused on the issues. Being under the microscope is good because without it progress slows, even stops. (And without it, South Carolina politicians will continue feeling free to think women are *sigh* lesser cuts of meat.”)

I work to challenge stereotypes and gender bias, and see three ways for women and like-minded men to “make it happen” in 2015:

3 things to do next time


what to do next timeEach month without fail over the last several years, I’d volunteered for this group. So seeing a new monthly schedule that didn’t contain my name was a surprise. 

In rapid succession, surprise was replaced with anger (how dare they!), then doubt (don’t they want my help anymore?), followed by reflectiveness (is there a message buried somewhere in here?), and finally, curiosity (what’s going on?).

Years ago depending on where I was in my personal development, I would have gotten stuck somewhere in that chain.

Include Girls in the Boy’s Club

Today’s guest post is from Ritch K. Eich, PhD, a retired U.S. Naval Reserve captain, former chief of public affairs at Blue Shield of CA and Stanford University Medical Center, adjunct professor, management consultant, and author of two books: Real Leaders Don’t Boss and Leadership Requires Extra Innings. Ritch has served on 10 for-profit and non-profit boards of directors and trustees.



women in the old boy clubWhether it’s Hollywood movie studios and their paucity of female directors, the tech industry and their alarming exodus of frustrated women, or the stifling male fraternity culture that dominates Wall Street, women continue to be marginalized in the business world.

The vast majority of CEOs responding to a McKinsey survey noted that hiring females is essential to “getting the best brains.” Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Despite increasing awareness of this issue, meaningful change remains agonizingly slow—less than 20 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and on average, women earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.  

Do’s and Don’ts for Leadership Development


Today’s guest contributor is Ivan Serrano, a business, finance and social media journalist living in Northern California. 


leaders go firstThere are many styles of leadership just as there are many situations that require leadership. At one end of the spectrum of leadership there are aggressive, autocratic individuals like George Patton and Margaret Thatcher. On the other end, there are leaders like Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa whose styles are characterized by empathy and empowerment. Most leaders have a style that is somewhere between these two extremes.

5 ways to make workplace conflict less messy


embracing conflictConflict is a given in most organizations. In families and relationships, too. We see the world through the unique lens of our needs, interests, and concerns.

Depending on our level of tolerance, that diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective can be a powerful tool for innovation, inclusion, and results.

Or it can be a powerful downward drag on productivity and engagement. Research shows that a manager spends between 24 and 60 percent of his or her time dealing with the effects of conflict.

Fiscal Fairy Tales

Today’s post, “Fiscal Fairy Tales,” is from Frank Sonnenberg, an award-winning author who has written five books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of  “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.”


Frank Sonnenberg fiscal fairy tales

Once upon a time, there was a brat named Phil T. Rich. He grew up with everything a kid could want. He had every gadget imaginable, a house that rivaled the Disney castle, and parents who gave him free rein to do whatever he wanted.

Unfortunately, his parents were rarely around for him –– they had high-powered jobs, you know. And when they weren’t working “killer hours,” they were off to the club to play golf and trade gossip with friends.