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Reframing Politics

Uncategorized Sep 21, 2020

We often view politics as something negative. 

I would like to reframe politics for you. Think of it as a way to benefit your company, yourself, your family, and the world, in four ways.

First of all, politics is a way for you to gain visibility for your team’s work.  When you view it this way, you begin intentionally engaging in the right kind of activities to move your team forward.

Second, without you engaging in "politics,” people will never understand what your team is trying to accomplish. You will never reach that optimal outcome that benefits the whole company.

Third, politics is a way of building trust by sharing information.

Finally, it is a way to understand the company’s real influence graph, which might be somewhat different than the organizational chart.

These four things will help you better engage in politics in a way that is true to you.


I don't know if I'm live yet, so I'm just going to wait until Facebook refreshes, lets me know. And there it is, I am live everyone. And today I'm talking about politics. Or the situation when product managers come to me and say to me, "I hate politics. Somebody else is doing politics. They are being political. It's awful." And what I want to do today, is I want to reframe politics for you.

Look, most of the time we have a negative view of politics, because we assume it's something that's dirty. That it's just something that's going to keep us back. That we suck at it. That we are really awful at politics, or at the game. That it's something that's up to no good. So, I'm going to reframe politics for you. I'm going to reframe it to help you overcome the obstacles that you currently have, and actually doing well in politics. And starting to both benefit yourself, your company, your product, your career, your family. Now how does that sound?

And by the way, if you already know that you need my help in helping you navigate politics, understand what's going on with you right now, and get to the next stage in your career, go to this website. Leadtheproduct.com, and set up time with me. Got it? Leadtheproduct.com. I'll post it here. I'll post it as a link. So, with that, let's get going with today's content.

So, here's how I want you to look at politics so that you feel excited in engaging in it and you feel that it's the right thing for you, your company, your career, your family and everyone, the world in general. So, first of all, or influencing each other, is a way to gain visibility for good work. It's a way to take all the accomplishments that you already have, and make sure others are aware of it so that they can see what's actually happening. It's work that you're doing that's great, that needs to be recognized, that needs to be taken into account when they think about who gets promoted. Or who gets recognized, or who do we entrust with the next amazing initiative we are going to have in this company.

So, that's one way to look at politics. It's a way to help you gain visibility for the work that you're already doing. I had a product manager that I worked with, and this person has had a negative view of politics for the longest time. And I think the world itself, and the labeling is what's been throwing him off. So, as we went through the shifts, was starting to happen is that she's just much more open and very intentionally engaging in the right kind of activities that move her thing forward. And getting visibility for her good work, but also for her team's good work. I mean, why should they suffer because you're bad at politics, right? So, that's number one.

The second way to look at activities that seem like politics is to getting to a globally optimal outcome. Getting to a globally optimal outcome. What this means is without what we consider politics. Without the negotiation. Without all those things that are going on between you and other organizations, what happens is if you don't really engage in politics, you never get to have other people understand what you're doing, and then you never get to those outcomes that are good for your entire company. Not just for one group in general. Because look, if you're not engaging in this, then people who are engaging, they're winning. And the outcome that's good for them might not be globally the optimal one.

I mean, even at large organizations, Google for example, activity that might be considered political ... We are negotiating amongst product areas, building relationships. These are all a way for us to also figure out what's best for the customer and for the company all together. So, I want you reframe. Start reframing. And, you know what, if possible, stop using the word politics, because language matters. Language changes how we view things. And I want to change your viewpoint here. That's the most important thing.

Number three, it's a way of building trust. What is it? It's a way of building trust by this back and forth, by sharing information with each other. By doing something for each other and expecting something in return. You are now starting to build trust with each other. What could be more important than building trust across the organization. So, the political activities are a way of building trust. And last, but not least, understand the influence graph. Look, very often, the way the organizational chart is structured, that's not really where the power lies. There's also a small set of people ... These used to be called the mavericks. But these are the ... What is that term? I'm missing a term for them. It will come to me later, and I will kick myself like, "Hey Shobhit, why didn't you think of that term when you were live?"

But anyway, it's a way for people who really matter to uncover those and then start to leverage those relationships so that you can do all these other things. Build recognition of work that's good as a way of promoting yourself if you're doing great activities. As a way of negotiating and influencing others. So, coming back to the four main points. What I really want you to do is to start to reframe activities that you consider political as ways of doing these following things so that you can get past the icky factor and start to really progress in your career.

So, here's the four things. Not in the right order. Maybe in the right order. Getting visibility for good work. Getting to a globally optimal outcome. Building trust. And understanding the influence graph. That's what these political activities will help you do provided you do it in a way that's genuine and that's true to you. And look, this is one of those areas that I often work with product managers. I coach them because it's a part that several of us shy away from, and it doesn't come to us naturally. So, trust people who can challenge you. Who've worked with other PMs. Who've helped multiple PMs not just get promoted but feel that they are making a difference in their career. That they are making a difference for their teams, and they're fulfilled. They don't feel like work is a chore. It's just part of what they do, and it's just amazing. They feel fulfilled to be doing this every day.

So, once again, the website is leadtheproduct.com. Leadtheproduct.com. Go set up some time with me and what we'll do is we'll get on a 45 minute conversation. I'll help you figure out what's really blocking you in your career. What could you do to move things forward? We'll build a step by step plan. And if part of that plan is working with me, engaging with me to help you get to the next level, I'll certainly, certainly show you how. This is Shobhit, founder of Intentional Product Manager, and I look forward to seeing you all in the next go live, and very, very soon. Take care.

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