Navigating Politics (Playing the Game in Office & Business)

Navigating Politics (Playing the Game in Office & Business)

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“You are disqualified!” Shouts the football Coach. “Saaransh this is the third time, I have told you that you cannot touch the ball with your hands. If you play football, you need to respect the rules of the game.”

Football vs. Basketball

That was my 8 year son, who came running in tears. He was confused on what went wrong? You see, he was attending basketball and football classes simultaneously and on occasions, he would get confused with the rules of the game. Normally, the Coach would let it go, considering his age but on this occasion, he was disqualified and asked him to leave that game. I simply, told my son that, “Son if you play the game, you need to respect the rules of the game.”

Victim of Politics (the problem)

There was something interesting that happened the following day in office (watch out for a PATTERN). I work in a Bank and you all know we have high pressure jobs (did you ever have to deal with politics in your office?). It happened so, that my colleague Fanny was going through a similar situation and as a part of my work, I also work as a Coach and have a reputation of being that person in the office, to whom people come for solving problems. So Fanny came to me in tears and told me, “I am going to quit!” I inquired, “what had happened?” That just sent her on a roll and she told me on how she was being pressurised by her Boss on unreasonable grounds, somehow he didn’t like her and was putting unreasonable pressure on her to quit. This conversation lasted for an hour and cutting a long story short, I managed to identify the real problem – Fanny was working with the same style of her previous Boss and obviously the new Boss had a different style. Since, I had to run for a meeting, I fixed another time slot to talk through the solution with her in the following week.

In the evening I was meeting a David, who was a big Exporter of garments. Now David was having a similar problem with his American Client who was making unreasonable requests (as per him). However, he was not willing to leave the client as he was very profitable. Nor did he try to re-negotiate the terms. Funny, both the corporate employee and businessman had the same problem in a different context.

Finding the Solution (the hypothesis)

That week, I reflected on my life experiences around the problem and researched through:

  • Numerous Articles
  • Read up 3 Management books
  • Spoke to contacts from the Coaching industry
  • Most importantly, reflected on my life experiences (and daily journals)

Finally, after 7 days (which included my weekend) – the answer came clear.

The problem my 5 year old son and this 35 year old colleague had a similar pattern. In short, they were not following the rules of the game or we can say, they were not respecting the rules of engagement. So I structured my thoughts and prepared for the Coaching session with Fanny the following day.

Coaching the Solution (the validation)

So Fanny met me the following morning in the coffee shop and we had allocated 90 minutes to find a solution to her problem. What followed was an intense conversation but let me not bore you with the details and jump right to the solution we co-created.

Any such situation – Professional or Personal is like playing the game of Football. But the question is, can you use the rules of Basketball in playing Football. No! If you do, you would be disqualified. So that leaves us with 3 choices.

  • 1st Choice> Follow the rules!Whatever, the rules of the game are follow them. If your Boss like  a particular approach, follow that. Don’t go to another extreme and provoke him.
  • 2nd Choice> Change the rules! This should be a slow process. You can’t change all rules immediately. So be gentle and plant the seeds of change and not try to plant a tree. Slowly make your rules of engagement clear. E.g. Had she established the rules of engagement with her Boss, then she wouldn’t have to deal with the issues that followed and once the rules are established, its important to keep REINFORCING them.
  • 3rd Choice> Leave the game!This is the last option as how many games will you leave. You can leave the game if it is beyond your control. E.g. If it is a question of ethics. But be reminded, if you need to survive, you would have to be a part of some game.

That calmed her down and something shifted in her. There was a sparkle in eyes and she made a resolve to use this newly discovered insight and give herself another 3 months.

Co-incidentally, the following day, I had a Coaching session with David. Again, after 90 minutes of a profound Coaching session, I shared the same model with him.

  1. Follow the rules his Client has outlined.
  2. Slowly work to Re-negotiate the rules of Engagements.
  3. Or exit the Client and find another.

Obviously, David didn’t want to exit the client as he was very profitable. So he committed to give it another 3 months.

In the evening, when I came home. I sat with Saaransh (my son) and gave him the same model and his little mind understood what was going wrong and he also committed to follow the rules (obviously changing the rules was not an option here). But he decided to leave one game – basketball, which allowed him to focus on his favourite game and that left little scope of confusion as well.

Success Stories (the results)

Fast Forward 3 months:

  • My son has never got disqualified again and has become a star football player.
  • Fanny is still in the same job but her relationship with the Boss has improved
  • David continues to have the client but he has manage to re-negotiate the terms.

With these 3 true stories or real life illustrations of my 8 year old son- Saaransh, an Executive- Fanny and a Businessman – David. I can assure you that this model works. So friends, “Next time when you have a problem with your job or business. Pause! And Remember, this is only a game which gives you only 3 choices > A choice to FOLLOW the rules, CHANGE them or LEAVE the game.”

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