17 Tips on the Politics of Relationships & Making Things Happen


in Personal Growth

Over the past several weeks, I have had some amazing conversations with aspiring entrepreneurs. They have good ideas. Most have a good sense of where they want to go and what they want to achieve.  Almost all of them are not quite sure how to make the steps happen.

Fortunately, I’m kind of an old warhorse. I’ve taken a few journeys, survived some tough challenges, and made many, many mistakes along the way.

I started my legal career representing Teamsters, moved on to the health insurance industry, and then worked my way into the halls of higher education – some of the toughest and most political arenas around. Politics is really about relationship management, especially where power and influence are at stake.

You have a better chance of achieving your goals if you understand and respect the power of relationships. Everything is about relationships. With others and with ourselves.  Some of these practice tips may seem simple but if used and remembered, they will help get you where you want to go:

1.  All people are important. Make sure you understand this one from the start. I’ve seen people treat secretaries and assistants poorly. A big mistake. These people have influence and hold the keys to access. If you start out with the assumption that everyone is important and deserves to be treated well, you have increased your chances of success dramatically.

2.  Understand who you are talking to. Everyone has positions, interests and perspectives. If you do a little bit of homework, you increase your ability to build rapport and can avoid significant foot-in-mouth situations. I learned this the hard way by telling my new boss that a piece of legislation was stupid when she had participated in drafting it. Oops.

3.  Engage in friend-making. No one really wants to be sold to but almost everyone likes to make interesting friends and acquaintances. So approach people as if you were making a new friend. Be genuine and sincere.

4.  Ask. Don’t become so engaged in friend-making that you forget to ask for what you want. If you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it.

5.  Answer the most important question. When you are asking for what you want, don’t forget to let the other person know what is in it for them if they grant your request. For example, I’d like to supervise the sales department for a small raise which will be good for you because I will take that work off your plate and help increase your productivity by 50%.

6.  Make sure you are asking the right person. When you make your ask, be sure the person you are asking actually has decision-making authority or the ability to make it happen. Personally, I find it easier to go right to the top rather than ask someone to push my request up the food-chain.

7.  Know your end game. It is always important to know where you want to end up as the result of a particular relationship or request.

8.  Be open and flexible. Even though you know your end game, don’t become so attached to it that you miss other opportunities. You never know what someone else has in mind or will offer to you – it could be more than you hoped for or take you in a much more profitable direction.

9.  It’s OK to feel uncomfortable. Asking people for what you want can be a bit uncomfortable because you have to put yourself out there. But, that’s OK. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no.

10.  Say thank you with immediacy. Thank you’s should be made promptly. Preferably, they should be sent the same day. Waiting for days or even weeks to say thank you doesn’t cut it.

11.  Make people feel special.  Most people want to feel special. If you are making an ask or sending a thank you, make sure it is personalized. No one wants to feel like they are part of the herd. I tend to shy away from group invitations and thank you’s unless I know the parties pretty well.

12.  Don’t read into things. If you don’t get a response from an inquiry or an ask, don’t freak out and start imagining horrible things. People are busy, they go on vacation, emails get misfiled, and things happen. A lack of response usually has nothing to do with you. Wait an appropriate amount of time and follow up politely.

13.  Nothing is life and death. The most important thing is your health and that of your family. The rest of it just doesn’t matter. I’ve seen people work themselves into a complete state over a case, an issue, or an opportunity. Repeat after me: nothing is that important.

14.  Act with integrity. I can’t emphasize this one strongly enough. It’s simple – do what you say you are going to do. End of story.

15.  Would it look good on the front page? If you are ever unsure about what you are doing or requesting, ask yourself whether you could hold your head up high if you read about it on the front page of your local paper. If yes, then you are good to go. If you are at all queasy about it, don’t do it.

16.  Respect people’s time. Everyone is busy. Don’t waste time or become a drain on someone’s schedule.

17.  Be prepared to overcome objections and offer solutions.  Nothing gets you more credibility than demonstrating that you have thought through the issues around your request or project. Your ability to answer objections and offer solutions shows that you understand what you are doing and are someone worth working with.

Understanding the politics of relationships will help you make things happen. Now get out there and practice!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronna December 2, 2010 at

OK. How smart are you? A WEALTH of information in here in a readable, accessible form. Your brilliance condensed. And so much more where this came from!
Ronna recently posted..Today I am 50!


Andrea December 3, 2010 at

Thanks, my friend! Glad you liked it. :)


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