We all make mistakes. Leaders are not exempt. Even when the decision maker makes mistakes in his judgment of issues or in policy, your focus should be on helping him through the process of recovering from such errors rather than judging him or trying to belittle his capacity or competence.
Sycophancy or “sucking it up” to leaders is not the way to go in influencing them. Despising them is also a “no no”. Too many times I hear a lot of “Executive bashing” from managers who have no reservations running down the company’s executives or engaging in destructive banter or gossip about their co-workers. Remember that what goes round comes around. If you have a penchant for negative banter about others, there will be a payday! The wheel will eventually turn full cycle. Betrayal is one thing that no decision maker can stand. He can tolerate dissent because he recognizes the fact that those who disagree with him on principles could eventually turn out to be his best cheerleaders. But nobody likes to be stabbed in the back! Spreading negative vibes about the people you work with is akin to giving them a stab in the back.
The Rotary Club International has a code of ethics that it recommends as a litmus test of relational ethics. It is called The Four-Way Test. It comprises four questions that should guide conduct or conversation with others. They are:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
In a corporate environment, it would help to ask what the short and long-term effects of our utterances would be on the organization, its customers, the subject of discourse as well as the one we are having the conversation with. If the conversation will not in any way add value to any part of the chain, then avoid engaging in it.
To influence decision makers, redefine your definition of winning. Winning should never be about you winning while others lose. Your idea must be geared at positively influencing the organization’s outcomes and creating a win-win for everyone in the organization. No matter how good it is, if your idea is not targeted at corporate health and growth, it is inappropriate. Focusing your contributions on your own personal advancement and gratification only shows you as self-centred and a miserable team player. Your mantra should be “I win when we win”. Consequently, the more people in the organization can win with your idea, the better for you. If your idea is about winning in a rat race that you chose to participate in, you may win but remember that you will still be a rat at the end of the race! Keep your main thing the main thing. Even if your proposition is not accepted, do not lose focus. Remember that he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day! Look for a better opportunity to present your ideas if you are sure that they are designed to benefit the collective
Decision makers are futuristic in their thinking. Great leaders think more about the future of the organization than they do about its present comfort or challenges. They are saddled with the primary responsibility of taking decisions that enhance corporate bottom line, an assignment that they embrace as a sacred trust. Ever so conscious of the fact that the buck stops at their desk, they are usually receptive to anyone or suggestions that are designed to move the organization closer to the envisaged future. People who only grumble about status quo and past errors are liabilities to any organization. Such people are wont to sabotage the organization’s future. Decision makers are comfortable with the fact that they are fallible and so do not waste precious time moaning about past errors because they recognize that no one makes forward movement in reverse gear. By placing the emphasis on the future, they empower possibilities and enhance quality relationships around such possibilities. Possibility thinking is a trait that decision makers admire in people around them. Nobody can be inspired by a ‘wet towel’ personality constantly telling them what cannot be accomplished.
In any organization, team players are the best players. Even if you believe that you have a better idea, once a corporate decision has been taken on a matter, as long as that decision does not breach any ethical code or the laws of the land, you share in the responsibility for its successful implementation. If you ever hope to be a decision maker, you must always put yourself in the position of the current decision makers and ask how you would feel if you were deliberately misrepresented or sabotaged by your subordinates. If you are constantly bad-mouthing your superiors in the presence of your subordinates, you are sending a signal to them on what to do when they have issues with you.
Too many workplaces are infested with the Absalom Complex. Absalom was the rebellious son of King David in the Bible. At the onset of his rebellion against his father’s authority, he began to take advantage of the father’s ailment occasioned by old age. He positioned himself at the entrance of the king’s court and intercepted anyone who was coming to see the king on vital issues. I quote the story from 1 Samuel 15:1-6 of the NASB version of the Bible
“And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and it happened that when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me, and I would give him justice.” And it happened that when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. And in this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.”
By the time the entire saga was over, Absalom became a casualty of his own plot. King David was preserved. Organizational dynamics function in a continuum and the organization is far bigger than any of its component individuals.
If your thoughts and ideas are focused on the corporate good and making your bosses win, decision makers will not only value your input, they will court the privilege of your company.
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!