Chapter One It's All Politics Like business in general, politics is not a spectator sport. You cannot afford to be apolitical at work if you have any aspirations for advancement. The only way to avoid politics is to avoid people--by finding an out-of-the-way corner where you can do your job. Of course, it's the same job you'll likely be doing for the rest of your career if you remain politically impaired. In any job, when you reach a certain level of technical competence, politics is what makes all the difference with regard to success. At that point, it is indeed all politics. Everyday brilliant people take a backseat to politically adept colleagues by failing to win crucial support for their ideas. Sometimes politics involves going around or bending rules, but more typically it's about positioning your ideas in a favorable light and knowing what to say, and how, when, and to whom to say it. Refusing to participate in what you may consider "the incivility of politics" is exactly what will keep you a political underdog, watching helplessly as your career aspirations evaporate. Ask yourself these questions to see if you're up to snuff on politics 101. * Can you effectively influence and manage people's perceptions of you and your ideas? * Are you able to convert enemies to allies? * Can you manage outcomes long before they're in sight? * Do your ideas get a fair hearing? * Do you know when and how to present them? * Are you in the loop? If you've answered no to even one of these questions, you can learn a great deal from this book. Such political skills determine career success, but they are only the beginning. Politics is a highly complex skill set. Albert Einstein was once asked: "Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?" The great scientist replied: "That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics."1 Politics is more difficult than physics because most of us have not devoted adequate time to the study of it. Most business schools disregard politics completely, even though the success of their students will depend to a large extent on their political skill level. This is the case for the elite scientist as well as the machinist working on a shop floor. Business schools generally ignore an entire type of human intelligence in favor of more technical subjects, and many otherwise talented people suffer as a result. They bumble their way through the workplace, saying whatever is on their minds or failing to say that which they should because they never learned the difference. Security at work comes from being able to manage how people treat you and your ideas. This is true no matter where you are on the hierarchy. I worked with a CEO who'd been in place for less than a year when he realized that certain board members were out to get him. When I met him, he was moderately political, no match for the masters on his board. They were becoming so effective in their attempts to unseat him that even his most ardent supporters were beginning to waver. This CEO invited me to work with him on his communication. He made no mention of altering his political approach. But soon it became evident that this man was about to walk the plank if he didn't learn how to manage belowdecks as well as at the helm. After meeting with his direct reports, I learned from them, as well as from him, about each board member's agendas and political styles. The CEO and I then looked at each board member's alliances and discussed at length what had been said at prior meetings, especially those statements that seemed to be undermining his position. If I had thought that this CEO was a threat to the company, I wouldn't have agreed to help him seeReardon, Kathleen Kelly is the author of 'It's All Politics Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren't Enough', published 2006 under ISBN 9780385507585 and ISBN 0385507585.