Being a social scientist or forty years experience with corporate politics are not necessary to recognize the big league warriors in the conference room. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to observe people who play with such style and to study the principles underlying their play.
Stepping on the feelings of others is a trademark of warriors. Ronda does an effective job with this technique when she tells Brent, “That was good, Brent. I understand your data better than I did in January.”
She steps on his feeling of satisfaction with a good report in which he has invested three weeks and a lot of himself. She also manages to drag up the problems with his report last January. Ronda is not one to let a sleeping dog lie. It seems likely Ronda has a file of past errors and omissions, probably cross indexed by topic, name, and likely times to drag them back up.
Brent is not to be outdone when it comes to being a warrior. “Given your twenty years as a manager, Ronda, I will take that as a compliment.” The part elevating him to the rank of warrior is not this jab alone, though. Looking more closely, Brent is going all out for his plan as he goes for Ronda’s throat. While he is at it, he rubs her nose in the fact that she, with her twenty years of experience, is at the same organizational level as he. Brent is showing signs of becoming a real conference room maneuverer.
Harold shows you that he also is no piker when it comes to being a warrior. “As far as I’m concerned, R&D wants to push up the cost unnecessarily. . . . My concern is that this will get the price up so high we’ll get stuck with the lot of them.”
Harold makes the point succinctly so no one misses his thrust. His lack of any tendency to discuss the issues shows he is inflexible and not one to compromise. This approach is, by itself, enough to qualify Harold as a warrior. But he goes that one or two better. He reminds Brent that he, Brent, is the new kid on the block. He also suggests that Brent and his R&D colleagues would give away the store. People like Brent and his associates do not understand business, from Harold’s point of view.
Harold also advances his play in a subtle way. It comes when he refers to Brent’s request as unnecessary. The unsaid message is, “If you had done your job right, what you are suggesting would not be necessary.” In a somewhat harsh and abrasive way, Harold implies that Brent is not much of an engineer either.
Ronda is not easily outdone in the harsh and abrasive department. “It may be back to the drawing board, Brent.” Being a truly skilled warrior, Ronda shoots her dart with humor and a smile, you can be assured.
Brent may eventually outdo both Ronda and Harold in being a skilled warrior. He does this by being sharp enough not to let anyone take advantage of him or his youth. “I’m going to push on this one. . . . There is a real downside risk in any tendency to ignore the hard data.” Is Brent telling Harold and Ronda that they are so unsophisticated as to ignore the hard data, if they are aware of and understand such things? Yes, he is. Brent is indeed a player.
What about Mark, the V. P.? Does he qualify as a warrior? A close look shows he is the most destructive player of all. The evidence comes particularly at two points. The first point is when he stays passive and does not assume his proper role in the meeting. At this point, the vice president has a chance to take the lead and avoid the conflict all together. The second point comes when he says to Ronda, “Why don’t you just drop off a copy of your report, and my assistant can brief me on anything important.” Anything important? Mark discounts Ronda and dismisses her. He also makes it clear her report probably contains nothing important and can be handled by his assistant. In the same breath, he also manages to avoid any personal responsibility for the decision. “They have me on a tight schedule today.” Mark puts Ronda in her place and dumps the blame onto his subordinates.