Organizational Awareness: Are You Able to Read the Signs?

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As discussed in my previous article focused on empathy, the first step to start leading others is social awareness, which is the person's ability to consider the perspectives of other individuals, groups or communities, and apply that understanding in their interactions. It is composed of: empathy, organizational awareness and service orientation.

Organizational awareness, “social flow”, “social awareness” or even “political awareness”, is an emotional skill that individuals have, but some more than others. It is the ability to read the signs, be aware of what is not clearly said and to understand the unwritten rules of their workplace. In addition, it is also a critical capability of any organization, a form of consciousness that the organization develops while adapting to the business strategy.

Reading the Room

Having this type of social awareness skill typically helps people to read situations factually, despite of their own biases, emotions or assumptions. Competence in social awareness builds on both emotional intelligence skills (self-control and empathy), which will help you see clearly and from multiple viewpoints.

The ability to read the signs is vital to the behind-the-scenes networking and to map and classify internal stakeholders based on trust and agreement. The most common classification is:  Bedfellows, Adversaries, Opponents, Allies and Fence sitters.

If you manage to identify your allies (high trust, high agreement) and opponents (high trust, low agreement) you will be able to wield influence in any professional role or setting in the organization.

Social awareness is to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse ethnicities, gender, backgrounds, cultures, & contexts. This includes the capacity to feel compassion for others and understand historical and social norms for behavior in different settings. A few examples of how to develop social awareness:

  • Listen to and consider others ‘perspectives
  • Recognize strengths and value in people
  • Express gratitude to others
  • Identify diverse social norms, including unfair ones
  • Recognize situational demands, opportunities and threats.

Navigating Workplace Politics

Throughout the years, due to technological growth, we have seen organizations reinventing themselves to become more agile, networked and less bureaucratic. However, despite of all these changes, organizations are still political structures.  

This means that companies operate by distributing authority and setting a stage for the exercise of power. These political structures also provide opportunities for people to develop their careers and grow within the organization.

The development of careers, particularly at high managerial levels, depends on accumulation of the power as the vehicle for transforming individual interests into activities which influence other people. Therefore, to learn how to navigate into office politics and build influence is a key success factor and it is directly linked to your emotional intelligence.  

To successfully navigate office politics, you need to accurately read key power relationships and detect vital social networks. Also, political awareness helps you to understand the forces that shape views and actions of stakeholders like clients, customers or competitors and precisely read organizational and the external environment.

Simon Baddeley and Kim James (1987) developed a useful model for political skills, using two abilities and two dimensions: ‘Reading’, to understand the world around them and ‘Carrying’, to understand their internal world. They suggested a scale from ‘acting with integrity’ to ‘playing psychological games’, creating four possible ‘states’: Clever, Innocent, Wise and Inept, each of which can be described in terms of an animal (see Figure).

The “Wise behavior” can be summed up broadly as creating ‘win-win’ situations out of difficult political moments. To develop this behavior you need to bring together awareness and integrity.

Building Decision Networks

The internet has transformed the way people and companies communicate. In the last few decades, companies have developed an online presence, not only to work their employer brands, but also to be closer to their employees.

When it comes to relationships and networking, professionals have several networking platforms to make contacts, share experiences, identify professional and development opportunities. Nonetheless, many people still associate the term networking, with cheesy events and the idea of ‘selling ‘themselves.

However, despite its off-putting connotations, active professional networking is vital to career growth. Networking is about building long-term relationships as well as a good reputation over time within the individual’s organization and in the market. It involves getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in the future.

Successful leaders demonstrate integrity, people acumen, assertiveness, and are great communicators. They understand the importance of decision networks and they have developed excellent networking skills. They know how to collaborate, work with stakeholders and obtain valuable information, achieving a measurable return on their time.

The good news is that you can improve your networking skills over time through emotional intelligence: “communication with self” (self-awareness) and “communication with others” (social awareness).  It will only require dedication, discipline and practice from you.

Most of us recognize the importance of self-awareness and I hope after reading this article you can also acknowledge the impact of social awareness in our lives.

Talent Management: A Guide for HR

Talent management continues to be one of the top focuses for HR departments all over the world. Why? It is a commitment from an organization to recruit, hire, retain, and develop employees. In our guide, the HR Exchange Network explores the topic in more detail, looks the current state of affairs, strategies, why you should invest in talent management and provides a forecast into what to expect in the coming years.

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets