Friday, December 4, 2015

Don't Threaten the King and Other Medieval Lessons from Game of Thrones

Evidently, I am going to have to wait until April to watch the next season of Game of Thrones, but in the meantime, I can still theorize on how the complex social interactions it portrays could be interpreted in a business sense.

While (hopefully) no one literally gets their head chopped off at your office, even the most open environments have some levels of politics at play. People have desires and ambitions, and sometimes those wants can cause behavior reminiscent of medieval fiefdoms. So how can you navigate the landscape?

Pledge Fealty

Threatening the king will result in your elimination. If you find yourself disagreeing often with your leadership, instead of presenting yourself as an open challenger to their authority, position yourself as a trusted adviser with their best interests at heart. How do you do that? Simple: actually have their best interests at heart. Try to view projects and interactions from the perspective of what the leader (your manager, the CEO, your VP, etc.) needs. Work to enable them to get exactly what they need, and offer private counsel to guide them away from potential pitfalls. But overall, recognize that they are the management, and therefore in many ways, you can enable their success with your loyalty.

Create Alliances

The office workplace should not resemble an episode of Survivor (Is that still on the air anywhere?), with groups of people making backhanded deals and alliances to shut people out or kick them off the island. Instead, find ways to work together with whomever is open to it. Much like the different lords across Westeros in Game of Thrones forge alliances to assist one another, you can reach out to partners in IT, or Marketing, or Operations to develop relationships. You must give to these relationships, though, so they become two-way. Real delivery of business value across departments builds true alliances. You never know who talks to whom at the office, but having alliance partners to whom you deliver real business value will ensure the right tone of the conversation.

Be a Believer

The struggle between the religious leaders and the Queen does not get played out by physical factions in the corporate world, but rather as an attitudinal battle between culture and operations. Don't be a skeptic. Believe in the possibility of improvement, of change. Believe in the good intentions that people bring to the table. Believe in the culture of the organization. Belief opens you up to opportunity, change, and success. Skepticism only leads to inaction and doubt.

What other tools do you have for navigating office politics? Avoid dragons? Be aware of threats of war? Prepare your army at all times? Drop me an email and let me know.

Image credit: skeeze via Pixabay