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The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle
 
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The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle [Format Kindle]

Kathleen Kelly Reardon
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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The Parameters of Organizational Power and Politics

There are two good reasons why the most coveted prize of business is called "the secret handshake." The first is that most people believe the political savvy necessary to break down barriers to the inner circles of organizations is inaccessible to all but a very few. That explains why there's a dearth of useful information devoted to the topic. Even organization experts consider politics an enigmatic puzzle. The second reason is that the path to the acquisition of this prize is purposely kept ambiguous by many of those who have successfully traversed it. They share sparingly the whereabouts and characteristics of the mazes, obstacles, and dangers that must be overcome in its pursuit. Some even deny that there is a path. After all, if just anyone could achieve the secret handshake, there would be no value in having attained it. It's an exclusive club, and certain conditions must be met for membership--certain hurdles overcome. Many of these hurdles have nothing to do with technical competence.

While the path to acquiring the secret handshake varies across organizations, both the existing research and the practical experiences of the many people I interviewed for this book indicate that political savvy is a prerequisite, more so even than job competence. This is especially true at higher levels of organizations where the signals are ever more ambiguous.

The prized executive offices are scarce, so competition is fierce. Yet at the loftier levels a high degree of professionalism is required. It's important for everyone to appear as though they are above pettiness and petulance. Consequently, political warfare at this level is subliminal and more often comprised of hidden minefields and stealth bombers than hand-to-hand combat. As the stakes get higher, the battle gets rougher, even if you can't see any weapons.

To the successful executive in a competitive organization, day-to-day life is politics. There is no doubt that a high level of field-based competence is needed to get ahead. But choose any two competent people, and the one who has political savvy, agility in the use of power, and the ability to influence others will go further.

Politics in the common vernacular refers to what other people do to get their way; as such it has negative connotations. Politics in organizations involves going outside the usual, formally sanctioned channels, something nearly every successful manager has done at one time or another. The real political moves are the ones not written down anywhere. Simply put, politics is an illegitimate means of getting things done.

So much of life is politics, especially at work. How should you approach a difficult situation? When should you take forceful action to stand up for yourself? How can you predict and prepare for others' reactions? Should you or shouldn't you fight a battle? If you do, how will you identify your allies and enemies? All these questions are part of daily life at work. As Caroline Nahas, managing director, Southern California, at Korn-Ferry International, sees it, there are two choices with regard to politics: "Either sit in the stands or get in the game and be a player." Yet Nahas doesn't see politics as necessarily--or even largely--negative: "To be politically astute, you need to read where the trend lines are, be ahead of the game, and focus on areas that you think will be important." There's nothing underhanded about this aspect of politics. In fact, it's constructive for the individual and the organization. Not all politics is so benign, however.

It didn't take Steve Harcourt, senior executive at a leading sports products company, long to learn this. As he describes it, he thought he'd been hired "to get all the money possible--to make a huge profit for the company." What he learned instead was that the CEO wanted increased profits but not at any cost. When Harcourt insulted one of the CEO's favored guys by suggesting that he do a few things differently, the response was not positive. Harcourt was edged out for a while. The CEO never said anything directly to him, but he got the message. He now believes, "If you ignore politics and make someone above you look bad, you're going to have a short career." So Harcourt's rule of thumb is to ask himself, "Can anything good come out of this?" That has gotten him the label of "political animal" at times, but as he sees it, politics is reality. You have to know when to speak up and when not to. Another Harcourt axiom: Don't tell the boss who doesn't want all the profits you could get for him that he isn't getting them. As Harcourt sees it, you have to know the primary goals and shape what you do to fit them.

Since political tactics aren't overtly sanctioned, they give rise to games that people play to build power bases, defeat rivals, and promote in-group members over those in the out-group. When such tactics work, over time they become embedded in the culture of the organization. At that point, few important things get accomplished in the absence of their application. Worse still, having gotten so used to playing games without having to think about how to do so, few if any of the people playing them are capable of articulating how they work. They can play them, but they can't explain how or why. They're like political robots irreversibly hardwired.

My primary aim in this book is to pull together the information gleaned from hundreds of interviews and probing discussions I've had with CEOs, senior managers, and high achievers in many fields during twenty years of business consulting, to shed light on how politics in organizations works. Moreover, I want to demonstrate how you can use political moves to gain admission to the inner circle of your organization--in short, to learn the secret handshake.

Politics and the Power Equation

While political strategies often operate in the service of wealth, they operate more often in the service of power--a resource for getting things done even in the face of resistance. The interesting thing about power is that it is often both a means to get ahead and the reward for getting there.

People who have valuable expertise, who control important resources or information, and those in positions of great authority not only can make things happen much more easily than those without power but also are in a position to increase their power and retain it. In order to win, the person engaging in politics need not always be the most powerful of those playing, but power does provide an advantage. It enables people to get things done even when others stand in opposition. Where one person has less formal power than others involved but accomplishes an objective nonetheless, it's likely that he or she used politics.

Power is at the heart of politics and may indeed be the heart of politics. Although power has a negative connotation for many people, it doesn't for those who've achieved the secret handshake. Without power they would not have made it. Without politics their sources of power would have been severely curtailed.

The Reciprocal Relationship Between Power and Politics

Even the most celebrated CEOs may never be far from losing power. A sharp drop in earnings, negative articles in Fortune, Forbes, or the Wall Street Journal, or the loss of key employees can bring them down a few pegs or even cost them their jobs. Unless they own the business outright, those executives whose power is supposedly unquestioned are wise not to believe it.

Bill Owens, president of a fast-growing video distribution company, discovered this when he hired an employee named Sam to take on some of the demands of the business. What Owens liked about his new right-hand man was his ability to handle things that clogged Owens's in-box. It appeared that Owens had found himself someone who could even run the show in his absence. When some of his people began to tell him that the perfect new hire had flaws, he assumed they were jealous. "I like to give my people room to fail, so I didn't pay much attention at first. Then I heard that Sam had been telling my people, 'Don't bother Bill with anything. Everything goes through me.' Some of my people warned me that I was giving him too much power. They claimed that he'd begun to say, 'I speak for Bill.' I thought it was a harmless exaggeration. After all, he was getting work off my desk."

It wasn't until a year had passed that Owens began to notice that what he called "the tone" of the company was changing for the worse. But he continued to tell himself that there was no way that such a competent, friendly, flattering person as Sam could be the problem. The increased workload seemed a more likely reason for employee unrest. "Sam stroked people, especially me. But I've since learned that he penalized anyone who tried to go directly to me. While he was flattering me, he was controlling them. He started telling my people, 'Bill's a great guy, but he forgets things.' Then 'Bill's a great guy, but he gets angry easily.' He told customers that he'd be doing something different soon, hoping to lure them away and start his own business. First he took the decision power, and then little by little he undermined my credibility with my employees and customers."

Eventually, Owens recognized Sam's intentions. During a six-hour wait for a tow truck when his car broke down on the way home from a ski trip, Owens realized that the warnings of his more loyal employees had been well founded. When he returned to work, he ousted Sam and spent the next few years undoing the damage.

Owens's experience demonstrates that even very experienced managers can overlook destructive politics. It also demonstrates that it's never too late to learn to recognize and respond to abuses of politics and power. Political savvy is a skill, not a trait. No one is precluded from acquiring it. Yes, there are some people to whom political acumen seems to come more...

Présentation de l'éditeur

In The Secret Handshake, top corporate consultant and USC management professor Kathleen Reardon explores and reveals the hidden rules on the ins and outs of corporate politics that you won’t find outlined in any employee handbook.
Based on hundreds of candid interviews with executives at Fortune 500 companies who have achieved their goals and joined the inner circle, The Secret Handshake lays bare the unstated conventions that govern and shape corporate hierarchies. Taking readers inside boardrooms to learn firsthand how the top decision-makers view and assess the employees under them, it offers invaluable advice on such career-building tactics and skills as getting noticed, networking, persuading others, knowing which battles to fight, and mastering the art of the quid pro quo. For all those who aspire to be part of the decision-making body of their organization, The Secret Handshake is the ultimate intelligence report on whom to trust and whom to watch out for, how to manage the inevitable conflicts that will arise, and how to read between the corporate lines.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 726 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 272 pages
  • Editeur : Crown Business; Édition : 1 (25 mai 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004ZZJ8MW
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°152.335 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Secret Handshake 30 mai 2013
Par JMC
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This book is just a "Must Have"!! No need to follow strictly what is written into it but this just opens up your mind.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 étoiles sur 5  39 commentaires
104 internautes sur 112 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Defensive Aid for the Politically Challenged 3 février 2001
Par Donald Mitchell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
To my knowledge, this book is the first thorough look at the subject of office politics. As such it will surely stand as the foundation of all work in this field for many years to come.
The book obliquely alludes to the secret fraternity handshakes that men use to identify each other as "brothers" and often help to accelerate the formation of relationships. Instead, Professor Reardon refers to "The Secret Handshake" as "the acknowledgment one in-group insider gives another . . . ." which is the broader form of this phenomenon.
Those who like to work the political side of any situation hardly need any more tips. The downside of this book is that the moderately adept influencers will become more skillful in their apple polishing. The upside of the book is that those who are getting creamed by office politics will have a better idea of how to defend themselves by finding environments where they can prosper. This appropriateness of this book will be as controversial as Machiavelli's Prince has been. In my view, this book has both great potential for harm and for good. It all depends on who uses it . . . and for what purpose. Unfortunately, the author has framed the book in terms of personal career advancement. That will increase the likelihood of misuse. She is aware of the issue and addresses it in the book, but I think her good intentions exceeded her effectiveness in implementing those intentions.
Basically, this book is all about ways to overcome the communications stall. There is much fine work in here on that subject, which is why I graded the book at five stars. If I were grading the book for its likely impact on the effectiveness of organizations, I would rate it vastly lower. So if you see this book starting to show up in your office, beware!
The best parts of the book come in two quizzes you can take to determine your own leadership and negotiating styles. These quizzes are very well designed, and I found the results very valuable for me. In particular, it helped me to understand how my own style differs from those of others I see by articulating the alternative styles in good depth. Then, Professor Reardon provided good information on what types of organizations would make best use of your or my style. She also points out ways that we can shift our styles slightly to make them better fit the circumstances we are in. At that point in reading this book, you would be well advised to read NLP Business Masterclass for specific ideas for shifting your effectiveness.
Your understanding of the psychological bases for the points she makes would be greatly expanded by reading Robert Cialdini's classic book on this area, Influence. When you read that book, you will be much impressed by how he handles the ethical dimensions of helping people to be more persuasive.
A great strength of this book is also to be found in the examples. Professor Reardon conducted hundreds of interviews and discussions as background for this book. Unlike most books about working, this one has as many examples from women leaders as from men. As a result, female readers will find much of relevance for their specific situations of how to exercise influence in environments where most other leaders are men. Male readers will benefit from hearing about the special problems that women face.
A valuable contribution to sociological research comes in the ways that Professor Reardon has characterized working environments by their degree of politicization. She astutely points out that each degree of politicization can exist inside the very same organization, in different places.
The book does not do enough to help the reader understand how to reduce the politicization of an organization, or to shift it into more productive paths. I hope that Professor Reardon's future work will focus more on improving organizational effectiveness, and less on career management for the individual. The former task is a far more important one for leaders than the latter one.
Reading this book should cause you as a leader to think about what sort of working environment is optimal for what you want to accomplish. How can you identify the elements that need to be changed in your environment? How can you make it appealing to everyone to make the needed changes to enhance group and personal effectiveness and career progress?
Basically, the challenge is to overcome the problem that the optimization of one person's career is usually the sabotaging of the organization's opportunities and thus everyone's progress. For example, Professor Reardon tells the story of one executive who artificially created problems that he could solve as a way to get promoted every 18 months. That's just horrible!!!
Communicate the need to cooperate for building more . . . in improved ways!
34 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 best I've ever read, by far! 13 juillet 2002
Par Chen Sun - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I'm half way through reading this book, and am surprised by the diversity of reviews and ratings. This is a "foundation of basics" type of book, that provides a workable framework to then enhance one's skill set. It's fast, short reading, and, unlike most business books, worthy of being reread.
I think highly of this book because I'm one of the politically challenged type of person--no idea what's going on. One of these guys walking around the world, wondering why everyone else is doing the funny things they're doing. And I think it takes someone who is from outside the social-realities world to really appreciate this book.
This isn't Plato or Machiavelli that describe the full implications of power, but this is the best I've seen on how to get power. Most of the popular how-to-get-power books describe common-day tips and anecodotes. This book though, gives a set of simple principles, hence a framework, that one can use to assess a situation and oneself to then deploy how to get and use power. As such, I'd say that it's a better book on how to get power than (dare I) Machiavelli's the Prince, which claims to teach about power, but doesn't really say much on how, in my opinion.
I find it's actually very difficult to "see properly" without a framework. Most people learn about power naturally. I had to read this book, before I could see. Perhaps that explains the wide range of opinions here--some reviewers who understand power think this book is obvious and silly. Others, like me, believe it's simply the best set of principles to use to start learning about power.
A truly fast reading book--I've learned more that's valuable about business, politics, and social relationships in the estimated 3 hours it'll take me to read this book than I've learned about anything in semester long textbooks.
28 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Politics 101 26 septembre 2005
Par Dr. Cathy Goodwin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
As a career consultant, I'm always looking for books to recommend to clients and ezine readers. While we tend to assume corporate managers are all savvy, in fact many are surprisingly naive and we all can stand to learn more.

Secret Handshake is not as strong as Reardon's first book, They Don't Get It, Do They. The first book included novel and original ideas about a subject the author obviously cares about. But it's worth a quick read - not much more.

Reardon begins by categorizing both companies and employees in terms of their political styles. I'm always suspicious of profiles, but her ad hoc approach offers a face-saving way for people to say, "Hey, I'm just not political."

Overall this book includes useful perspectives, although some readers will not be impressed by the common sense reminders. Most corporate employees can figure out that one-upping the boss is bad timing. But some ideas (like he PURRR technique) will save some careers. The section on getting heavy-handed will be especially valuable.

And some will disagree with Reardon's interpretation of a situation. For instance, a young woman visits a recruiting booth while the company recruiter talks to Reardon. She politely excuses herself for interrupting and insists on leaving her resume. The young woman was interested in a sales job; in my opinion, her persistence should have been applauded!

I read this book after hearing Barbara Ehrenreich speak on her latest book, Bait and Switch. What a contrast! Ehrenreich questions everything that Reardon takes for granted. Reardon warns against "showing up the boss (p 59), while Ehrenreich would point out that stifling disagreement wouldn't be in the best interests of the company in the long run. Reardon accepts corporate values -- or at least implies, "Hey -- that's the way it is." I can just see Ehrenreich rolling her eyes and raising her eyebrows.

There are a couple of minor bloopers on pages 66-67. On page 67 is a reference to Daphne Merion - I think she means Daphne Merkin, a rather outspoken writer for the New Yorker.

And I question Reardon's version of the story behind Madeline Albright's nomination as Secretary of State. Reardon seems to suggest that Albright got the job in part because of her connections to Clinton. But other sources suggest that Clinton actually resisted naming Albright until he was pressured by female legislators. And in fact, some have questioned whether others were equally qualified.

But perhaps the biggest criticism of this book is that, although insights are valuable, it's..well, dull! We need more war stories and more anecdotes. The material has the potential to be as gripping as a novel -- and Reardon's first book (They Don't Get It Do They) managed to come across as much more reasonable.
32 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Corporate Politics equivalent to "Myers-Briggs"! 12 mars 2001
Par Nature Mom w/ 2 children + EE & Management degrees - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Remember the first time you took a personality test and learned your personal style and that of your co-workers? Your eyes were opened to a new style of communication. This book does the same thing for the corporate politics arena. You'll take quizzes to understand your political style (and figure out co-workers and executive management's style too) as well as your company's overall style - and how to stretch your style at times to meet certain needs. Some of the most helpful sections of each chapter are the descriptions of a situation, the various options of actions/words that can be taken, and the potential reactions to each option. You'll also learn how to handle recognition, patronizing behavior, separating offense from insult, influence cultivating, how to be gracefully right or wrong and much more. This book isn't only for those wanting to climb the corporate ladder - but for anyone wanting to improve productivity by learning the tools and understanding the options for making the politics involved in most any project work FOR you.
31 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 a bit misleading 26 janvier 2005
Par H. Friedman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This book is an easy read, but unsettling. The anecdotes are particularly engaging. Yet, several of the themes in this book seem more to mislead rather than help the reader understand the nature of organizational politics. Reardon implies that there is an exclusive insiders group, which one can enter using political savvy. It makes for a good marketing since everyone wants to know `secrets' to success. However, this exclusive insider's club is more myth than reality. More realistically, there are those who have high credibility with each other. One's credibility with others is worth its weight in gold and is indispensable for career success. Such credibility is earned, sometimes by favoritism but more often by competency and gaining the trust of others. Being part of several credibility networks can increase one's favorable visibility. Learning how to use these networks can amplify one's influence.

Reardon suggests that being politically astute is more important than job performance. Sometimes that is the case, but more often job performance is necessary, if not sufficient. Reardon seems to have bought into the amoral Machiavellian stereotype of organizational politics. She says, "Simply put, politics is an illegitimate means of getting things done." President Harry Truman said, "Politics is the art of getting things done." He was not known as an amoral man.

Getting active in politics without an ethical base creates the risk of coming across as a `shark'. This perception can actually lower one's credibility with important others. Reardon defines political savvy as an interpersonal skill. This definition unfortunately omits the strategic level. Charting influence strategies, people can make things happen by navigating issues through turbulent political waters. In contrast, this book seems more about local face-to-face politics than organizational politics and more about getting ahead than getting things done.

Where this book shines is when it comes to communication skills related to politics and political situations and in its balance of both genders in its anecdotes. In addition, it contains important insights for defending one's self against negative politics. The quizzes included in the book provide valuable diagnostics about one's negotiating and leadership styles.
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As the politically astute know, speaking up before you know how others in a room think is naive. &quote;
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Its important for everyone to appear as though they are above pettiness and petulance. &quote;
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