Today we move from the realm of the political neutral, into that of the power player. While many of the techniques I discuss here are applicable to both maneuverers and street fighters, I will be presenting them from the perspective of the maneuverer.
Reputation is critically important to your political success in any politically minded organization, and being aware of and managing that reputation is one of the things all power players must do well. So how do you do it?
The first step in actively managing your reputation, is to be aware of where you currently stand. In most cases, peers and subordinates are quick to tell you about your strengths, but hesitant to point out areas of perceived weakness. It is these areas of weakness, however, where your greatest vulnerabilities lie. No matter how uncomfortable it might make you, you MUST discover the weak spots in your current reputation. In my experience, the best way to do this is with carefully placed confidants. Whether mentors, or implicitly trusted subordinates, these people can collect the information you will never have access to otherwise, and feed it back to you. No doubt, mentors and/or confidants are some of your most valuable assets in the political corporation.
In most organizations it is important to be seen as smart, hardworking and an innovative thinker. If you are coming up short on any of these dimensions, quick action is needed to save your reputation.
And how does one fix or repair a deficient reputation? By remembering that perception is reality. First you should rely on your own track record -- if you are challenged on your creativity, make sure to trumpet the last major new idea you had to benefit the company (or any one that you can legitimately lay claim to). If it's your work ethic, emphasize the sacrifices you've made in the past to the benefit of the company. Make sure these stories are told to anyone and everyone with political influence -- better if it is someone other than you, as self tooting is sometimes viewed as distasteful.
Second, think about concepts you can suggest or propose for the future. It's always been amazing to me that the mind which generates useless ideas and concepts is valued higher than the one which delivers results, but that is often the way things work. Make sure to suggest new, innovative and clever concepts, even if they go nowhere. Often, those concepts can be drawn from popular business books -- just make sure you're on the leading edge of the concepts, as opposed to a late convert. And make sure no one can criticize your work ethic -- be the first in the office and the last to leave more often than not.
Beyond smart, hardworking, and innovative, let your company's values be your guide. If you're truly a power player, you already know the characteristics that are valued by the company, and must assess and manage your reputation along these dimensions as well.
As I've often mentioned in the past -- perception IS reality, and in the political environment, your chief task is to manage the perceptions about YOU.