Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yet she has certain well-honed political skills...

"Yet she has certain well-honed political skills: she knows whom to consult; she chooses her battles; and she carefully builds support."

This was how the author of a New Yorker profile of Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, summed up her key skills for getting things done in a complex and high-stakes environment. Let's examine each of the three skills, starting today with consultation.

"She knows whom to consult." This is all about "soft power" - using diplomacy, shared values, and effective communication to get input from key stakeholders and to ensure that your objectives are aligned with their interests. Identifying the people to consult can be trickier than it might seem at first. Seek out people with influence, not just organization-chart power. Don't limit yourself to people within your company or department. Trusted former colleagues and third-parties may offer an invaluable objective perspective.

I work with my clients to identify the people in their world who can help them meet their career goals. We use a simple diagram of concentric circles to place key players in position, moving from immediate work environment to broader industry components. This is the first step in knowing whom to consult. Ruth Simmons is a role mode for us all!

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