Mentors Midpoint Summary: Energizing Your Mentoring Partnership and Political Savvy Tips

Although open to all, this blog post is dedicated to those mentoring partnerships who are part of the GovLoop Mentors Program!

Two Fridays ago, participants from the 2012 GovLoop Spring Mentors Program gathered at the GovLoop offices, both in person and online, to discuss some mentoring best practices and tackle the issue of political/organizational savvy.

Discovering Energy Givers

First, we tackled what has been “energizing” mentoring relationships…below are 7 responses from mentors and mentees:

  • Have an agenda going into your meetings
  • Recap conversations in an email after the meeting – have things to follow up on next time
  • Go with the flow, change formalized topic points if need be
  • Use a journal to keep track of meeting notes
  • Set up interviews for the mentee
  • Provide reassurance and encouragement if a person is going through tough circumstances
  • Ensure accountability for taking action and moving forward on ideas

Eluding Energy Robbers

Here’s what has been “energy-robbing” — and how you can avoid these problems:

  • Canceling meetings
  • Not following through with what you promise
  • Not having a consistent meeting schedule
  • Only complain and vent, no constructive conversations
  • Tackling long term issues in a short period of time

Developing Political Savvy

We then moved on to the issue of political/organizational savvy, which was reported as one of the “biggest issues” for government employees, as well as the #1 goal topic for the mentees selected for the program. We began by defining political savvy as “the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization”, and the ways in which you approach problems at work with this knowledge.

Next, we gave the participants a scenario that required the use of political savvy to solve. We derived it from a
 GovLoop discussion if you would like to add your thoughts as well. This is what our participants had to say:

  • different for regional employees, don’t have the same problems as central offices
  • in “headquarters land”, it’s different in different agencies/places – on the hill, you have to do the really crappy work (like photocopying) to move up through the ranks
  • depends on culture of the organization, in consulting field asking for assignments you want is a part of the culture, no one sits and waits for assignments to come

  • take initiative to find ways to add value
  • establish raport and credibility
  • could lead to other opportunities in the agency
  • should go both ways – bosses should be willing to do the small stuff to help their employees when they can
  • door opener for skills and to engage with other people

The conversation also took a slight turn, and we discussed a different political savvy issue presented by one of the program participants (which was 
posted as a separate discussion). Our participants agreed this was a tough situation, but said this:

  • should emphasize that all things being equal, you’re making your boss look good to other departments by being such a good help
  • try to have a conversation with your boss, clarifying the situation

  • shouldn’t be punished because you do good work – if you can manage the situation that allows you to get additional exposure without rubbing feathers, you should employ those strategies
  • role-play with a friend to practice these conversations, to see what would happen in the worst case scenario
  • have to ask yourself how to shape your career around/past your boss, how do you package yourself to move on and advance without them?

In the end, a mentor pointed out that political savvy is different from agency to agency, so it is essential that you adapt and feel out how your organization functions.

[Sidenote – if you ever have a political savvy issue at work that you would like feedback on, but want to remain anonymous, feel free to email your questions to
 [email protected] or any of the other GovLoop staff member, and we would be happy to post for you!]

To wrap up the meeting, Kathy Wentworth Drahoz from the Training Connection shared 7 Political Savvy Tips, and explained why they were important:

1. Image is Everything

2. Become the Go-To Person

3. Exceed Customer Expectations

4. No Pain, No Gain

5. It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

6. Build Strategic Alliances

7. Never Talk Badly About the Boss

What are your mentoring practices energize you?

Do you have any political savvy tips?

Related GovLoop Content:

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