In building a successful career, academic and professional qualifications are recognised as important fundamentals. But communication skills, networking competence and how to influence others can be equally important.
Relationship building, including how to increase recognition levels and identifying ways to convey business ideas to decision makers within an organisation, will be among the topics covered during the "Influence Your Way to the Top: Understanding Power, Positive Politics and Networking" seminar.
Presented by Classified Post and supported by Speakers Connect and Blackberry, the seminar will feature respected speakers Alice Kaushal and Jane Horan. The free seminar will take place at Cliftons in Quarry Bay on September 21. The speakers say the art of understanding positive politics involves cross-border, multicultural relationships and communication via electronic devices. Positive politics involves unselfish behaviour where individuals embrace opportunities for themselves and others.
"The ability to understand the power structures within a company, by identifying who is connected to whom, can provide a measurable difference in achieving positive results for the company and advancing your career," says Horan, founder of Horan Group, a strategic consulting practice focusing on the acceleration of women leaders, innovation and learning.
Horan says positive politics is not about alienating colleagues by seeming to be over-ambitious or aggressive, but finding ways to connect with people making the decisions. "Making your ideas known is about connecting with the most appropriate people within the organisation and doing what is best for the company," Horan says. Positive politics could help an individual become a more valuable team member and increase job satisfaction and career options.
Often it is the informal networks that lead to those that influence who and how decisions are made. "Job descriptions and MBA programmes often talk about building relationships, but fail to mention the basics such as identifying which management people have lunch together," says Horan, who worked in organisational development at Kraft Foods Asia and Walt Disney (Asia-Pacific).
Horan says finding ways to communicate with relevant stakeholders can sometimes involve forming relationships with those responsible for administration assistance, who often control who has access to senior management. When relating ideas, she suggests drawing up a stakeholders map and plan how to put forward an idea concisely.
For instance, interaction with a chief financial officer should be focused on numbers, while communication with a CEO is more inclined to look at a proposal in a wider context. "Ideas are implemented through interaction and careers built on relationships and connecting with people, not by sitting at your desk 24/7 and eating lunch alone," Horan says.
Co-presenter Kaushal agrees that networking and forming strong relationships are critically important for career success, but equally important is politeness and good manners.
"Good manners are not just about saying please and thank you, good manners include returning phone calls and following up on promises," says Kaushal, managing director of Refine Consulting, which provides training on cross-cultural communication, business etiquette and customer relations.
"Good manners and taking the time to show genuine interest in others not only makes sense for maintaining strong business ties, the process is also personally rewarding through the friendships that are developed."
The ability to develop a broad network of business friendships is a critical skill for every career professional.
"In an increasingly diverse world, where people often need to work together in partnerships to achieve their goals quickly and effectively, developing a strong network can be more important than ever," she says.
To make the most of networking opportunities, Kaushal suggests that rather than handing out business cards in a scattergun approach, concentrate on talking to three or four people and following up with them after the event.
"Remember two or three key things about each person, so that when you contact them there is a personal connection. This approach is far more effective than saying: `I found your card among a stack of other business cards from the event we attended last week', which could make the person feel they had failed to make an impression," Kaushal says.
In today's fast-paced business environment, there is a concern among some experts that busy professionals are losing the ability to communicate politely and effectively.
"We are more connected than ever before but, at the same time, in some ways we are even more disconnected," says Alice Kaushal, managing director of Refine Consulting, who will speak at the Classified Post seminar - "Influence Your Way to the Top: Understanding Power, Positive Politics and Networking" - on September 21.
"Politeness and consideration for others seem to have taken a back seat to an insatiable appetite for constant and immediate information," she says. "While we stay in touch by e-mail and text messaging, there are many examples where speed takes precedence over good manners and business etiquette. This can be damaging to business and relationships."
Kaushal says good manners are one of the most overlooked aspects of sustaining strong business relationships.
"There is a new generation of business owners that seem to regard manners in the workplace as outmoded," Kaushal says.
She says another negative trend is businesspeople paying more attention to hand-held devices than a conversation or business meeting.
Kaushal suggests practising good social skills at home by conversing with family members at meal times, while television and hand-held devices are turned off.
In the workplace, she suggests inviting a colleague or business acquaintance to lunch without necessarily discussing work.
"The pressures of work can often mean that people stay at their desk all day and only communicate with colleagues and business associates by e-mail and text messaging," Kaushal says.
"We still need to communicate face-to-face to develop meaningful relationships. Just because people have a Facebook account and can claim 500 friends, this is not enough." While electronic communication is important, Kaushal says, there is still a need to be polite.
For example, instead of using abbreviations in text messages, write complete sentences, while keeping them short and simple.
The proliferation of internet and mobile phone technology has led to new words and forms of writing, which might lead to misunderstandings or, in some cases, be offensive given the cross-cultural nature of business relationships across Asia, Kaushal says.