Winter is coming.
- Ned Stark
Well, unless you are currently living in the southern hemisphere south of the tropical zone , indeed you know that winter is not coming any time soon. But the newest season of Game of Thrones is most certainly upon us. If this forum is any indication, there are at least a few of you who have been anticipating this for about a year now (ok, 306 days, but who's counting?) I, for one, can't wait. People everywhere vying for positions of power, alliances being forged and broken, backstabbing, intrigue, coercion, indiscretion, dishonesty, back-alley deals, and frigging DRAGONS!
And with the return of our favorite fantastical/political/skin-bearing HBO mini-series, we may find that the trials and tribulations of the inhabitants of Westeros are not unlike our own. And as much as we may all want to bitch-slap the Joffrey in our own lives or make some co-workers "pay the iron price", we know that's not always the most political way to approach things. So whether you're a monkey trolling away in the frozen North or working from a cubicle in King's Landing, take some advice from the characters of the show on how to win your own personal Game of Thrones.
Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can be never used to hurt you.
- Tyrion Lannister (toon being a bastard)
Tyrion had no problem calling a spade a spade (or a bastard a bastard, or an imp an imp, etc). Self-awareness is a key to dominating your work environment. Whether you're trying to impress during an interview or networking event, or you're working on a project as a part a team, you've got to know that you're not perfect. Identify that weakness, and make sure that no one can ever use it against you. If you see a particular flaw in your resume, make sure that you have a good answer to the objection that interviewers will have about it. If you're working in a group or team, you know there are things that you probably can't do as well as someone else can. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and you can save you and everyone on your team from ending up with their head on a spike.
Well, my brother has a sword, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.
- Tyrion Lannister
If you don't stay current on the market in whatever industry you're in, you're probably not winning. You might hate that guy who checks MarketWatch on his twitter incessantly throughout the day, but you can't blame him for trying to get smart. Even the smartest chimp can benefit from some broad professional education every now and then. Stay up on the trends, keep a broad perspective on the world around you, and you'll be Johnny-on-the-spot the next time the boss asks about the second order implications of the next Euro crisis.
When you play the Game of Thrones you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.
- Cersei Lannister
Compromise and negotiations are great in Candy Land. But if you're going to play the game of office politics, treat it as a zero-sum game. Identify the goal, create a gameplan for getting to that goal, and have a backup plan for when someone goes Theon Greyjoy on you. You'd be surprised at the lengths you'll go when you convince yourself that there's no other option than win or bust. And even in the worst-case scenario, you could always bring out the dragons...
No one will take my dragons.
- Daenerys Targaryen
(SPOILER ALERT) Someone eventually takes her dragons. Daenerys is not amused. And in the ensuing aftermath, we find a smoldering tower full of dead warlock clones, a heap of dead Q'arthian villagers and politicians, and two people locked in a giant vault forever (one of them was her best friend). Moral of the story: mean what you say, and say what you mean. Nothing kills your credibility like an empty promise (or threat, for that matter).
Tell me, which do you favor, your fingers or your tongue?
- Joffrey Baratheon
As an old boss of mine used to tell us, "Gents, we've got to eat a shit sandwich. Let's figure out if we want that with mustard or mayonnaise." Yes, Joffrey is being a complete shit and probably deserves a good bitch slap at this point in time, but he's not completely off the mark when he asks the accused criminal which fate he would prefer. There's always stuff that you or your team will not want to do. But by letting people choose the vehicle of their perceived suffering, sometimes it solidifies their feeling of being "stakeholders" in the process. That gives them more buy-in to the project, and at the end of the day sometimes that makes all the difference. Or they could be wishing that they'd picked the mayonnaise.
In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds."
- Old Nan
No, we're not talking about the audit team. But this old wive's tale does serve as a great example of an organizational narrative. Stories passed to members of an organization throughout the years, whether real or made-up, help to define the culture of an organization. Remember hearing about those business schools where students would supposedly tear out pages from books in a library so that other students couldn't get to them? That story helped to define that school's competitive culture for its own students and those at other schools. The story of the white walkers had long been thought a myth, but it didn't stop people of the North from telling everyone that "Winter is coming", right? In fact, that mentality pervades throughout the kingdom as a reminder that everyone must be prepared. Find the right narrative and the right vehicle, and you'll be able to motivate your team in the direction you want.
A very small man can cast a very large shadow.
In any kingdom, even the littlest monkey can ascend to the throne. Just ask Tyrion Lannister. But don't ask Varys about his balls.