In the most basic terms, organizational savvy is emotional intelligence on an organizational level. It is a deep understanding of how individuals, teams, and the organization function – and the ability to react appropriately to those factors. Some leadership foundations can exist independently of each other, but an effective leader must have organizational savvy in order to move the organization forward. Let’s find out how to develop this savvy, and in the process we’ll discover what it actually is.
One of the foremost examples of organizational savvy at work is the ability to develop a give-and-take with others. The basics of this go back to the kindergarten playground, where share and share alike is a daily rule. But this also means that you should expect to give back if someone in the organization helps you out. Along with this goes the understanding of the agendas of others. An agenda isn’t necessarily hidden, but it does involve the motivation and inspiration of another person or team. Is the team moving forward quickly because their annual incentive is based on it, or do they have multiple projects that need attention right away? Is the key person you’re developing a “give and take” with someone that’s driven by personal recognition or the desire to see the entire organization succeed? As you become more emotionally intelligent as a leader, you’ll begin to understand others’ agendas.
As we move into the group dynamic, you must learn to be political. The word politics, even in its own world, sometimes brings up an ugly image, but it doesn’t have to. In organizational politics, you must be able to network, promote yourself when it’s appropriate, and build a base of supporters. Remember when we discussed influence and persuasion? This is where those abilities will come in quite handy. But the chief rule with being political is to not let it get you upset. Sometimes the politics of one person can be dirty, while those of another can be beneficial for all involved. Becoming organizationally savvy involves understanding this element and looking at politics as a fact of life and not necessarily as a good or bad element.
Another great way to move to organizational savvy is to learn how to approach various key people or teams appropriately. When you approach someone, it could be to ask for help, to challenge him or her, or to congratulate on a job well done. But you know that what works for you doesn’t work for the next person. For example, you may be the kind of person that becomes embarrassed if you’re highly praised in public, whereas one of your colleagues may gain energy from praise. Some organizations even use testing methods such as Myers-Briggs (MBTI) to determine personality types and develop communication and interaction plans. You don’t have to go this far, but it’s a good idea to keep track of what styles worked with what people.
Now that you’ve seen the good side of organizational savvy, take a look at the not-so-good side. You may have to deal with deception – not everyone’s motives are honorable and some look at organizational activity as the competition of a reality TV show. If you become deceived, you’ve got to try to figure out the person’s motive, as well as what did or didn’t happen. Still another point is that you have to be able to leverage your influence when it’s correct to do so – leaders who consistently put their “two cents” worth in the ring at the wrong time are looked upon as “blowhards”. Finally, you must be patient. The process of developing organizational savvy takes time, and, as we’ve said before, the process of influencing takes time.
How can you become organizationally savvy in various areas? Corporate savvy takes your keen observation, your patience, and your ability to understand motivation. Many times in communities or community organizations, the savvy “light bulb” may pop on when you come to an understanding of how the organization functions – good or bad. Knowing your own leadership style and seeking to understand others’ styles, motivations, and inspirations, will help you develop a savvy that comes from within. Remember to be patient, observe, and keep a record of what works in a particular group or team.