So what’s this skill called “Political Acuity”?

You have heard that someone has amazing political acuity and are left wondering…. what does this really mean?  This skill is one that takes years to hone and usually gets more developed after we make a series of mistakes in our career. What? So making mistakes do have some real value; you wonder. Making mistakes by forgetting to consider the context or not anticipating the questions that will be asked helps us to grow our political acuity.

The trailblazer in you wants to push ahead with a great new idea.  You are so excited and try to sell this new concept to others around you. They resist or even shut it down.  So why is this?

In your trailblazing way have you may have moved too fast and forgotten to garner support along the way for your idea.

Have you found information about where this idea has worked and did you take the time to convey this information?

It’s always wise to consult the organizational historian about whether this or an idea, which is like your idea has been tried before and find out how it worked. This historian is often not in an official position of power and may be a colleague and not your boss. Often the knowledge they have is a huge benefit to you.

Consider how many new ideas are on the organizations plate at the same time. Try not to tip the scales. Timing is everything. Is this the right time or will there be some event in the future, which will support your idea?

Have you clearly and I mean clearly in plain language described your new idea and why its so important?

If you are overwhelmed now … don’t be.

Just pause to consider these factors and then decide if you need to slow down and do some more homework. This will help you to have a better chance selling this idea to the boss or the politicians and the public.

I call this connecting the dots. Be aware of the important consideration and connections between these factors that will help you gather steam to launch your idea?

Remember you will miss the boat on some of these considerations and you will fail to make important connections between them. Your idea may not fly this time…that’s ok. With failure comes learning which will lead to a sharper sense of political acuity. Next time you will have more success in getting the buy in you need to move the yardstick forward!

There are also so many considerations outside the organization. Oh that’s for my next blog. This political acuity thing is complex but that’s the fun of it.

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Where are you: on the mountaintop or in the weeds?

Moving to a management/supervisory job from a front-line position is a huge step. It’s hard to stay on the mountaintop and out of the weeds. Holding staff accountable for good customer service and operational issues can be tough, and sometimes you will be tempted to walk down the mountain and take over. However, by doing this you will rob your staff of the chance to learn and grow.

Your job, as a supervisor/manager, is to believe in your staff. Your patient support and encouragement will pay off as you empower your staff to do their best.

From the mountaintop you have a great vantage point – set your sights high!

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.”
-Brian Adams

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Cognitive and empathic responses

Leadership requires moving between both cognitive and empathic responses. Think about things deeply and make decisions. Your staff also need to feel your emotions if you want them to follow you.

Did you know 80% of patients with diabetes don’t follow doctor’s instructions? So who does? Those who feel the doctors believe in them to do the right thing. They need to feel connected to the doctor.

How does your staff know that you believe in them? Have you talked to them lately and given them heartfelt support?

Some leaders say that they just leave their staff alone so that they can grow and develop. This is a cop out. Staff at all stages of development needs your connection to them. Set the vision and keep up the connection. Share what’s in both your heart and mind and watch your team blossom.

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Leaders need to percolate with new ideas… it’s worth it.

Often, leaders have great new ideas. They attend conferences, network and read and sometimes get very excited about implementing these ideas in their organization.  They bring these ideas to their team and wonder “why are they not as excited as I am about this new idea?” Why does there seem to be such resistance? This is so confusing for the leader who really believes this is the right thing to do.

Has this leader achieved any buy-in from the team?  Or does the group feel like this new idea is another in a long list of commands from the boss? It was just a suggestion but because you are the boss, some feel they have no option but to do what you are suggesting. These same people will get behind the leader if you take the time for an important process called “buy in”.  So how about just planting the seed?

Mention you heard about a new idea that might really help your organization. Ask for some of your staff to learn about the idea and then bring their thoughts to the next meeting. Be patient while they learn and maybe get excited themselves. Be open to their feedback. Maybe they will love the idea or have some different ideas.

Let others share your passion. Collaborative leadership builds strong teams. Are you up to giving this a try?

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Getting ‘push back’ from the team

A senior director had been getting some “push back “ to his new ideas from his team.

Before the meeting with them he said to me, “Ok now I have to go into a tough meeting with my managers.”

I replied, “If you believe it will be tough I can assure you it will be that exactly.” So I asked him to think about how else he could describe this meeting?

“Ok,” he said, I am going into a collaborative meeting with my managers to see if we can find solutions to difficult challenges.”

After the meeting he called and was very excited. He said, “that shift I made in attitude before the meeting really helped. The idea exchange blew me away and boy did we ever come up with some amazing ideas! I can’t believe how your coaching has helped me to find the answer within.”

As a leader your energy and attitudes impact those around you in very powerful ways. Before a meeting stop and check your assumptions and beliefs. Expect the best and you will get the best. Look at your part in the dynamics. Drop the blame and limiting beliefs. Stay open and see what happens to the group. Try it just once and see what happens. Leaders with positive energy are contagious and their teams excel. Give it a try and let me know what happens!

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Your words and actions influence everyone

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Ronna Hope Warsh, Leadership Coaching and Consulting
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