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Report Hails the Decline of Office Turf Wars


Management politics is far away from its dark image, according to research published today, with most leaders favouring alliance building over turf wars.

The report, from the Chartered Management Institute and Warwick Business School, found that only 31% of the 1,495 respondents viewed politics as ‘protecting their turf’. Fewer, still, saw it as ‘pursuing personal advantage’ (21%). More common beliefs were that good political skills are about ‘alliance building’ (59%), followed by ‘interaction with government’ (40%) and ‘reconciling differences’ (39%).

Asked why they give high ratings to the political skills that help build partnerships, senior managers focused on the value external relationships bring to business. Almost all - 92% - identified ‘the impact of public opinion’ as a key factor behind relationship building. While 88% suggested it was a way to ‘scan the competition’ and 73% claimed partnerships can ‘influence trade agreements’.

However, despite recognising the value of political skills, UK business leaders’ felt there was significant room for improvement. Only 58% claimed to be ‘good’. Nearly One in five admitted to being ‘average’ and just 1% felt their skills were ‘excellent’. On a five-point scale, the highest self-rated skill was ‘creating honest, open communications’ (4.61). The lowest was a strategic ability, ‘analysing external uncertainty about the organisation’ (3.61).

Given the low ratings, the research also explored how important these influencing skills will become. Respondents predicted that by 2012, partnership working would become a priority for UK business leaders (63% up six points from today), followed by the need to influence regulators or government (53%, up 10 points) and secure external funding (35%, up three points).

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said: “In a dynamic business environment, where globalisation is opening new doors on a daily basis, the shift to external partnership-building is good news for UK business.

“It shows leaders accept that success can be achieved by the way they work with individuals. They recognise the need to talk, and relate to, people on a personal level. Of course, internal relationships will continue to be important, but there is now a clear understanding that results will be achieved through wider collaboration. Increasingly, how good an individual is at using their political skills, with employees and external audiences, will determine personal, and business, success.”

The report also showed that the majority of business leaders have developed their political skills through bitter experience.

Professor Jean Hartley, of Warwick Business School, says: “No individual or organisation exists in a vacuum and the impact of their actions can be felt across a diverse set of stakeholders. This means that political skills are not the ‘dark art’ that so many associate with them. Rather they are fast becoming a mainstream element of leadership needed across all business sectors.”


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