So, the political skill is basically the degree to which you can effectively use influence tactics. But, what constitutes political skill?

Defining the political skill

The second major influence agent characteristic that interacts with tactics to determine success or failure is the political skill. The political skill of an agent is just as important as power bases and like personal power it is something that can be developed over time.

The political skill is defined as the ability to effectively understand others and use that understanding to better influence them. And, given this definition it’s easy to see why this is such an important idea to discuss.

What constitutes political skill

So, the political skill is basically the degree to which you can effectively use influence tactics. But, what constitutes political skill? A series of studies by Gerry Ferris of Florida State University and his colleagues around the country identified four dimensions:

  1. Social astuteness. Socially astute individuals comprehend what’s going on during social interactions. You might consider this as being socially aware and sensitive to other’s interests.
  2. Interpersonal influence. Individuals who wield interpersonal influence are subtle and convincing in their style and they do this by being adaptive in their use of tactics.
  3. Networking ability. People with this skill know how to build and rely on a diverse and extensive network of people. They have many relationships that help them collect information and get things done
  4. Apparent sincerity. This dimension of political skill involves the credibility of the individual how much she appears to be genuine and authentic and to have integrity.

Social astuteness and apparent sincerity

Let’s look at two of these dimensions in greater detail: social astuteness and apparent sincerity. The research by Ferris and colleagues suggest that social astuteness is particularly important as an overall skill.

People who are high on this dimension are rated by supervisors as having better job performance and this is likely both because they’re able to work effectively with others and because they’re good at making sure their bosses see them performing well so why does this skill matter?

Get better at being socially astute

Can you get better at being socially astute? A book by Stanford Business Prof. Jeffrey Pfeffer appropriately called Power concludes with a chapter called It’s easier than you think.

He’s talking about gaining power and political skill and basically suggest that you should learn what the research says such as by reading his book of course but also by taking a course like this and then applying that information in your everyday work.

Practice paying attention

Specifically with regard to being socially astute the key is to practice paying attention to what people are doing and saying, become an observer and follow-up with people by asking lots of questions.

See if you can become better at discerning when people are excited and when they’re nervous which can look alike. See if you can figure out when they’re open to new ideas or when maybe they’re too overwhelmed.