As an entrepreneur, you’re accustomed to moving fast, speaking the truth and getting things done. You do what’s ethically sound and stay on the right side of HR laws. But let’s face it, if you wanted to deal with a bunch of BS, you would have opted for a more traditional gig.
But now you’re the boss. How do you know you’re getting the truth? As your company grows, the risk of you getting the safe answer vs. the correct answer expands exponentially.
Whether you like it or not, wherever two or more people are gathered, office politics begin. Even if you’re the “tell-me-everything-straight” type, they’re watching your eyes to gauge your heart. The more you react, the more they’re revising their answer.
When the desire to please you trumps the right choice, the business suffers on many levels: wasted time, poor decisions and inferior talent. You begin to lose the entrepreneurial edge you value most.
You’ll never find sucking up on a short list of company values, and yet, office politics is an unspoken part of the decisionmaking process in many companies -- don’t assume you’re exempt just because you personally hate that stuff.
Here's how to immunize your team from the office politics virus:
1. Teach the long view. The dangers of making wrong choices outweigh the short-term comforts. Strong leaders take the long view and say what they mean. You know this. Teach leaders at every level how to understand the big picture and where they come in. Make it easy to question any decision that gets in the way of long-term logic.
2. Drive decisions as close to the customer as possible. Spend serious time at the front lines. Ask your customers and frontline team what feels stupid and why. Give them solid parameters and decisionmaking skills, and then allow them to do the right thing. Reward exceptional judgment.
3. Help them learn. When leaders reinvent history to “protect” those who made the decision or to justify poor outcomes, they sacrifice the important learning that comes from making mistakes. It's much better for the “protected” to admit they’ve screwed up before anyone tries to save them the embarrassment. Help others save face by creating a culture where mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process.
4. Select the right talent for the right reasons. Immunize your HR team first. Don’t settle on hiring a candidate for any other reason than they’re the most qualified. If you need more diversity, keep searching. Be involved in the hiring, but know you too have biases. Ensure your team knows it’s okay to disagree with your view.
5. Make wasted time a deadly sin. Be clear that wasted time is a business risk. Much time is wasted when people tell others what they think they want to hear or spin their words. Be polite, sensitive and kind, but save us all some time and tell the truth.
6. Model the way. Nothing’s more frustrating to employees at the front line than to see their bosses making poor choices for political reasons. Create a culture where “office-politics correct” and correct are as closely aligned as possible.
Your turn. Share your stories. How do you prevent “office-politics correct” from trumping correct in your company?