The difference between politics and communicating


“I don’t do politics”

Many people over the years have told me something like, “I refuse to engage in politics”, and they give this as a reason why their career has stalled.

They consider “politics” a necessary evil to advance in one’s career, but refuse to engage asserting that their “no politics” position is on the high ground, so they are sticking with it.

I think it’s important to talk about what we mean when we say “Politics”.

The issue here is that I see a lot of people using “no politics” as an excuse not just to opt out of politics, but to opt out of communicating.

You don’t need to be political to get ahead, but you do need to communicate.

If you opt out of communicating two things remain true…

1. You are always going to be invisible if you don’t communicate.

2. You cannot build credibility and gain recognition if you are invisible.

Building credibility and gaining recognition is fundamental to getting promoted, but it does not have to be political. At all.

The bottom line here is that…

It is important to connect the dots to make sure that your good work is associated with YOU.

Your company can absorb an unlimited amount of good work from you and never know where it came from.

You need to find a way to share the value of your good work through effective positive communications that benefit others.

That’s not bragging. That’s not self promoting. And it’s not political. It’s simply communicating.

What is political?

So when does communicating = being political and when does communicating not = being political.

For me it’s simple.

When communication adds value, it’s not politics.
When incompetent people get ahead, that’s politics.

1. When competent people proactively communicate with stakeholders about their work in a way that others benefit from knowing about it — That’s not politics.

2. When people generously form network connections by offering help, advice, or being genuinely interested in learning from or helping other people — That’s not politics.

3. When people talk to their bosses and stakeholders about the value of the work they delivered, why it’s important, and make sure the company knows this value has been delivered and the benefits are available –That’s not politics.

As long as your communications add value, you are not being political.

Creating positive visibility

All of those things are positive, productive communications that have the added side benefit of creating positive visibility for your good efforts and your competence.

All of those things will improve how you are seen, recognized and positioned for advancement and success.

To simply dismiss effective stakeholder communications, generous networking, and sharing the value of your work as “politics” is risky.

Sure you can use the “no politics” angle to let yourself off the hook for communicating, but it’s important to recognize that maintaining this position as the only way to stay on the high ground is not actually true, and is not helping you in your career.

You can communicate AND still maintain your position on the high ground.

That positive approach to communicating is not politics even though it has the added benefit of building your reputation, gaining recognition, and making sure that the value of your work is associated with you.

Check out this month’s Executive Playbook on Personal Brand Tune-up if you want to learn some ways to build your reputation without being political.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.


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