Leveraging corporate politics to drive change.

Leveraging corporate politics to drive change.

Change Starts With Alignment

The need to have people on the same page is huge when implementing a major change. This is particularly true when the change involves thinking differently to solve a problem that can’t be solved by doing things better, faster, or cheaper. Enabling leaders to get people aligned is always necessary, but is seldom easy. 

Harness The Power of Politics

Alignment is also an area where an objective outside point of view can really help. The reason for that is corporate politics: the hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) agendas competing just under the surface in large organizations.  Politics in the office have the power to sink a change initiative or catapult it to raging success. To get to the latter, you need to think politically. It’s easy to say but what does that look like in a world where anything close to being, ‘political’ is the antithesis of effective?

Change Your Perspective

Thinking and acting politically is not about joining the bureaucracy standing in the way of progress. It is about taking a very hard and realistic look at the agendas of all the stakeholders involved in a change. It is seeking to understand how their situation relates to the proposed change and how it will affect them, so you know how to plan for and address the transitions they will go through. The concerns they will deal with are very real and will have a huge impact on whether or not they will align behind the change or quietly seek to undermine it. A leading expert in tackling adaptive challenges, Ron Heifetz, perfectly describes how to think things through change from a stakeholder’s perspective in his book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership. For each stakeholder, you need to identify their:

  • Stakes – How will they be affected by the change? Think in terms of them personally, their team and their business. Intangibles like credibility or influence are important stakes to consider.
  • Desired Outcomes – What do they want to happen in terms of this change? It often makes sense to ask them directly in a safe environment.
  • Engagement – How much (or little) do they care about the change? Figuring out where it is on their radar will go a long way to helping you figure out how to make it a focus.
  • Power and Influence – What resources and people do they control and what or who is competing for those resources or time?
  • Values – What commitments have they made and what beliefs do they have that guide their decisions? Positioning the change favorably in terms of what’s important to them will help to create alignment.
  • Loyalties – What obligations and relationships do they have with people outside their group that could impact the change? Don’t underestimate the degree to which they will support an ally’s position.
  • Losses at Risk – What do they fear losing as a result of the change (status, resources, power, etc.)?

The best way to gather this information is almost always to ask directly. The fact is, however, you may not get an honest answer. You’ll need to make judgment calls and do your best to interpret what you hear along with your observations. The other challenge to accuracy here is your own objectivity. It is easy to get caught up in your own agenda of implementing the change. Your own assumptions about other stakeholders can create a blindside if you aren’t able to fly up to a 50,000-foot view and look down at the situation to see it in its entirety. That’s where an objective point of view helps.

The Adaptability Quotient

The Adaptability Quotient


An IQ can help measure your intelligence, and an EQ can help measure your emotional intelligence  but you likely haven’t heard of identifying your AQ  also known as your “adaptability quotient.” According to tech investor Natalie Fratto, adaptability plays a vital role in success, and as the future of work continues to evolve, acclimating to change can be stressful when you’re not prepared for it.

“Adaptability refers to how well a person reacts to the inevitability of change,” Fratto says in a recent Ted Talk. “We’re entering a future where IQ and EQ both matter far less than how fast you’re able to adapt.” Fratto explains that with the accelerating rate of technological change, we’re facing more change than ever before, and we can train our brains to better adapt to those changes. “Adaptability itself is a form of intelligence, and each of us has the capacity to become more adaptable,” she adds. “Think of it like a muscle… It’s got to be exercised.”

There’s no question that change can feel stressful, but Fratto says you can stave off that stress by working on how your mind processes new information. Here are a few ways to improve your adaptability quotient:

Ask yourself “what if” questions

One of the most helpful ways to cope with change is to think about what could happen before it actually happens, Fratto notes. That’s why she suggests constantly asking yourself what could possibly shift going forward in your job. “Asking ‘what if’ instead of asking about the past forces the brain to simulate,” Fratto explains. “Instead of testing how you attain information, it tests how to manipulate a situation, given a constraint, in order to achieve a specific goal.” Not only does this exercise help you prepare for future changes, but it helps your mind adapt faster to those changes if and when they happen. “Change is inevitable,” she adds. “Practicing simulations is a safe testing ground for improving adaptability.”

Become an active un-learner

When change comes your way, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the idea of taking in new information while “un-learning” old information, but Fratto believes this process is key when it comes to managing your stress levels. “Our adaptability is not fixed,” she notes. “Active un-learners seek to challenge what they presume to already know, and instead, override that data with new information.” Fratto recommends returning to a beginner’s mindset when you’re notified of a change, and reminding yourself that you’re entirely able to let go of old information, and absorb new information. “It takes dedication,” she adds. “But each of us has the capacity to improve our adaptability.”

Prioritize exploration over exploitation 

When you think about reaching a goal at work, you probably reflect on what has worked for you in the past, and try to mimic the same process that helped you achieve success beforehand. Fratto says this thought process is common, but it could be holding you back from adapting to potential changes. “Collectively, all of us tend to value exploitation,” she explains. “There’s a sort of natural tension between exploration and exploitation.” Fratto says we’re too focused on exploiting our current workflow, when we should be using exploration  “a state of constant seeking”  to see what’s around the corner. “Never fall too far in love with your wins,” she urges. “Our previous success can become the enemy of our adaptability potential.”

Here to Learn.

Here to Learn.

Most people reading this will want to be happy and successful, however you wish to define it. Fair enough.

So it stands to reason that most of us will need to ask the question eventually, what that actually takes, what are the actual building blocks.

And of course, there are many variables. Where one went to school, who your parents were, whether or not you do your homework, whether or not you let your vices get the better of you, whether or not they let you into Stanford.

But there’s one interesting thing we’ve noticed: that super successful people are never-ending, perpetual learning machines. Somewhere along the line, they got the learning bug, and it’s still with them to this day.

You meet these people and you can tell, be they seventeen or seventy. They’ve got the bug, they’ve got the vibe. You just know.

Whether their schtick was finance, or business, or science or the arts, they just allowed their minds to be open to the universe and take it all in. And they never stopped. Eventually, this led them to an idea or an angle nobody else had, and BOOM. Rockstardom followed.

We may not be rich, we not be pretty, but as long as we’re learning, as long as we’re determined to keep it this way, our lives are truly incredible things. So bear that in mind, and Godspeed to you.

By Gaping Void