Business man in equilibrium over illustrated cityLast week, I was speaking at a ‘how to make partner’ event hosted by the Pro-Recruitment group. After I had finished my talk, there was a question and answer session with me and a panel of partners. One of the questions was how to successfully navigate the politics in your firm. In this blog post I explore the answers the panel gave to this knotty question.

Every firm comes with its own set of politics.  I’ve known firms where various partners really don’t get on, or where one particular partner wields a disproportionate amount of influence. This is likely to be happening at your firm, that’s the reality of being in a partnership. If you want to progress in a firm you need to understand your firm’s politics and how to successfully navigate them.

Do you ‘belong’ or are you always trying to ‘fit in’?

This may sound like a subtle nuance, but this is a vital question. All too often professionals try and adapt to their firm’s culture by trying to ‘fit in’. When you try and ‘fit in’, rather than feel like you belong, it makes everything that bit harder. As Martin Lambert, ex-EY and partner at Grant Thornton confirmed, you just know when you belong in a firm, and everything becomes much easier; including the politics of the firm.  Read this article about belonging at your firm.

Don’t contribute to the firm’s grapevine

Tempting though it is to have a good gossip at the coffee machine, don’t do it. You never know when it may come back to bite you.

Know who are the formal and informal influencers

In every firm there are formal and informal influencers. Sometimes the biggest influencers in a firm are not the partners or the ‘heads of’. Get to know exactly who in the firm is really listened to, who will throw their toys out of the pram if not consulted and who influences whom, and vice versa.

Put yourself in their shoes

Everyone in a firm is working to an agenda. That agenda may not always be aligned with the firm’s stated strategy! When you know people’s agendas and can put yourself in their shoes, it becomes so much easier to navigate the politics of a firm.

Build a network of champions, advocates, and sponsors for yourself

Partnerships run on a mixture of influence and relationships. The more champions and advocates you have for you and and what you are trying to achieve, the easier it becomes. Having an influential mentor within your firm is a great way of building your network of champions. Mentors are great at helping you decode the politics in your firm as well as opening doors to opportunities for you.

In summary

All firms will have their fair share of politics. If you want to be successful in your firm you need to learn to decode and navigate your firm’s politics.

Did you find this useful?  Then you may like to read more about surviving firm politics in these articles:

12 ways to navigate your firm’s politics: part 1part 2part 3.

8 questions before contributing to the firm’s grapevine.

What are political mistakes? Can they really wreck my career?