Relationships, Relationships, Relationships!
By Eddie García, Leadership Coach/Blogger (SJSU, BA History 1994)
“It’s all politics anyway.”
We’ve all heard this phrase. People say it when they don’t get that dream job or big promotion. I’ve served in public office, traveled across the country as a vice president for a major corporation, and founded a professional leadership academy in collaboration with Stanford University. Through it all, I learned what it takes to achieve career goals. One of my biggest lessons is the importance of networking and developing meaningful professional relationships.
Getting ahead requires great work product, strategic thinking, perseverance, and an ample supply of people skills (aka politics). I use the word “politics” with a lowercase “p” to distinguish it from the cutthroat elective politics we see on the 24-hour cable news networks. What I’m talking about is the interaction we see in schools, the workplace, and just about every place people get together.
Politics isn’t a dirty word. Understanding that it’s a fact of life when working with people and learning how to manage that process are the best kept secrets for career advancement. It’s about relationships, relationships, relationships!
Too many talented Latinos and Latinas tell me that good work alone should speak for itself. They don’t understand why navigating the tricky waters of organizational politics matters. Moving up the organizational food chain is about good work and politics. One doesn’t work without the other. Political commentator Chris Matthews puts it simply, “it’s not who you know, it’s who you get to know.”
In today’s social media “Friend” acquisition frenzy, many networkers judge their value by the amount of “Friends” and “Likes” they can accumulate. That kind of online shotgun approach to professional relationship-building doesn’t work. Developing and maintaining meaningful professional relationships is hard work, person-by-person and face-to-face.
When attending networking events, determine who’s a decision-maker. This is a challenging endeavor. How can you identify the real deal? It’s usually not the people who run around telling everybody that they are leaders. True leaders are too busy making things happen.
Take time to study subtle actions and dynamics in a room. When going to a reception, leave the wine at the bar and use your time wisely to survey the situation. Spend time in a meeting studying who the boss is listening to. Those are the people who can make a difference in your career path.
Building meaningful relationships is strategic. Once you’ve figured out who has the influence to impact your career journey, introduce yourself. Be prepared to deliver your elevator pitch. Have a quick and friendly chat and move on. Be genuine, sincere, and confident as you develop your network.
Make sure you follow up with decision-makers and those close to them right away. It could be via text message or e-mail. The best method is writing a personal hand-written note. This is easier said than done. Take the time to do it. Most people don’t.
Remember, it’s not who you know, it’s who you get to know. Or, as a veteran executive once told me, “it’s who gets to know YOU.”
Blogger ~ ESEReport.com
Eddie García, a San Jose State University graduate, is a leadership development coach who has worked with over 80 Silicon Valley community leaders including elected officials, education administrators, non-profit executives and corporate managers. He is the creator of ESEReport.com, a blog that comments on leadership, education, and politics from a Latino perspective. His career includes leadership roles as school board president, corporate vice president, political chief of staff, and community advocate.