The HR Lady Speaketh: Navigating the Corridors of Power Part II

Written By

Namita Kutty

The HR Lady Speaketh: Navigating the Corridors of Power Part II Loading

In our previous post, we explored the basic hygiene factors which will help build a solid reputation.  Credibility: do you know your subject matter, Reliability: are you a woman of your word and Integrity: do your people trust you?

After you’ve set-up a strong base for a stellar reputation, we can move on to navigation tools for politics. We started with focusing on your North Star (What do you want?) and then moved on to define you as a person in Personal Branding.

Now, let’s look at the other tools in you arsenal you would require to sharpen to move forward.

A. Opinion — What do you have to say?: A lot of women, me included, like to be liked. We try and avoid conflict and agree with what our leaders say. I learnt the problem in this approach the hard way in my early days. My manager sat me down for a discussion after just two months of joining. Mind you, I was in business HR, which meant that one of my biggest responsibilities was advising company leaders on people issues. My boss goes “So, Namita your business leaders all really like you.” And then he proceeded to glare at me. I was a bit zapped. “Err…and that’s a bad thing because?” I stammered. He said patiently “Because, if you agree with them every time, they will not ask you the next time. They will simply assume you will be okay. They are not going to value your advice or thoughts”. Bingo, the coin dropped! My trying to make myself agreeable also meant I would make myself a non-entity.

B. Network — Do the decision makers know you?: It helps to know the decision makers. It helps even more for the decision makers to know you! Map out the key decision makers for your goals. If you are not comfortable with dinners and networking after hours, no worries! You can try for small projects or coffees with key leaders. Ask yourself what you can do for them! If you are great at social media, you can offer to help, if you have contacts in an area they need, you can offer connections. It also helps to have your elevator speech ready. Think of an elevator speech as an ad about you! In 30 seconds, talk about your superstar power (from branding!), what you are looking for and how you can benefit the organisation.

C. Sponsor — Who is looking out for you? : Most of us have Mentors who guide and advise us, but not sponsors. A Sponsor is invested in you and makes things happen for you. A great potential Sponsor is ideally someone two levels above you with an overview of your role. During discussions about promotions, new opportunities etc., they can provide visibility. You would of course have to deliver for them too, via great performance or by contributing in a value-added way.

As Meera Rajan, puts it, ”Sponsors only open the doors, you need to go in and prove your worth”. Meera was considered brilliant by her bosses and colleagues in India. She was business savvy and very convincing in person. However, she just wasn’t that great at building connects over calls and often came across as brusque. Her leaders in the US, who were key decision makers, didn’t know her that well and consequently, she wasn’t moving forward at her desired pace. Her Sponsor got her a high profile onsite opportunity for 6 months. Meera delivered great results and made her connects with the US leaders. The next time a promotion opportunity came up, Meera was in contention. 

D. Predict & Plan What’s going to happen and are you ready? Still feel you don’t have so much time to network? Fret not. Figure out in advance where the organisation is going, what you need to do to reach your North-Star and plan like mad to achieve it. I once had a boss who would spend entire days planning for events and scenarios that could possibly happen through the year and she would get us prepped up on how to handle it. It seemed like a bit of a drag at that time, but true to her predictions, the organisation did undergo some huge changes. Guess who was asked to take charge… and boy, did she shine! She skipped through two levels of promotions super-fast and a lot of it was based on her ability to stand and take charge through events no one else even saw coming. She was prepared.

E. Ask! Put up your hand and ask. That’s right, if all your ducks are in a row and you’ve delivered on your targets, just ask! Most women are very shy about asking. We feel that our bosses and peers ought to recognise our hard work and reward us. Doesn’t always work. I once aimed for a promotion at work. Worked my ass off, delivered great results and when promotion time came I fully expected to be rewarded. I was not. I waited another 3 months and then finally asked my head of HR what I could do more to move to the next level. His reply had me flummoxed, he said ‘Yeah, you’re ready! You just didn’t ask’. I got promoted post that, but it caused me a lot of unnecessary heartburn. I did learn an important lesson though; if you feel you deserve something, just ASK! Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.

Don’t forget to ask questions, and suggest topics you’d like me to give you tips on in the comments section. Wishing you all the very best in your journey!

 

Here is some material that might help you along your way:

Additional Reading / Tools :

  • Gallup Strength Finder: An online assessment to find out your key Strengths and tips on how to capitalise on it
  • Belbin Team Profile:  Helps you understand your role in a team. This is a team diagnostic and the entire team needs to take this.
  • Lean In: Sheryl Sandberg’s cult book for anyone looking to break into the inner circle at work.
  • Elevator Speech – http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/files/163926.pdf
  • The Trusted Adviser by Robert Galfort

References:

  • Sponsor – Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor:  Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book on Sponsorship for women is a great way to start your journey if you are looking for one.
  • Personal Branding – Reference Simon Sinek

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mommy of a pint-sized dictator (read toddler). Wife of a super busy entrepreneur who's also an incredibly hands-on daddy (never mind all her whingeing!). Lover of books, yoga; and fitness enthusiast (read: the long journey back to pre-natal petiteness) and member of the top secret 'New Mommy Club'. Namita in her previous avatar was a senior HR professional for over a decade in top IT, Banking and Retail MNCs. She prided herself on her people management abilities and effective conflict resolution. All of which comes to naught as she's totally owned by a toddler at negotiations.

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