Over the last twelve or so years, I have done a fair amount of Executive Coaching. My approach is to start the dialogue using assessments like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO). They serve as a means for helping leaders to adapt to meet the individual needs of their team members. We call it Adaptable Leadership, and if you are interested, here is a link to learn more: https://www.tildensst.com/course-descriptions
But, that is not the main topic of this blog. Here, I want to write about how often Executive Coaching conversations turn to office politics. And, if you think the tactics we see waged by Democrats and Republicans in Washington are brutal, “you ain’t seen nothin” until you get an up close view of office politics.
To guide conversations on office politics, I have developed the Evil X Stupid Matrix™. It is a basis for understanding both allies and enemies. It is my experience that most rising executives have both.
II Long Term Winners
III Give ‘em Rope
IV Nice Guys..
Quadrant I: Evil & Smart – These are the most dangerous enemies. The common error is not believing they are evil. Nations made that mistake with the Third Reich. With an enemy in this quadrant, their behaviors need to be constantly evaluated in terms of ulterior motives, hidden agendas and the like.
Quadrant II: Good & Smart – These are allies who are typically Long Term Winners. Revenge usually, but not always, catches up with the Nazis in Quadrant I. It is important to build relationships and earn political capital with the Long Term winners. It eventually pays off.
Quadrant III: Evil & Stupid – While time needs to be invested in managing enemies in Quadrant I and allies in Quadrant II, Evil & Stupid players will eventually hang themselves when given enough rope. Take the high road and give it to them.
Quadrant IV: Good & Stupid – Hall of Fame baseball manager Leo Durocher is remembered for three things: 1) He discovered Willie Mays; 2) He married movie star Lana Turner; and 3) He coined the phrase, “Nice guys finish last.”
Here the word “stupid’ does not refer to cognitive ability. Rather, it means being politically unaware. Don’t be stupid when it comes to office politics. You will finish last.
We have often asserted that success proceeds on two rails: technical competence and interpersonal skills. My updated view is that there is a third track: managing office politics. The third rail should come with a warning like they have in Europe.