While Politics is the conversation of water coolers and boardrooms today, politics with a small “p” is the hot topic at the fourth annual Aspire to Lead Conference in Minneapolis. Often women choose to stay out of politics with a large and small “p.” However, Melinda Shiek, human capital director, Optum, challenged the conference attendees to consider a challenge to make politics with a small “p” a neutral word.

“Unfortunately,” Shiek said, “if you stay out of politics you will derail your career and you won’t be as valuable to your business. You need to use your power and influence in the service of others and the organization, to get the full benefit of your career.”

Here are some other quick takes on politics noted during Shiek’s remarks:

– Social awareness: Observe and understand others and build a network of relationships. The best leaders leverage their relationships to get the work done.

– Interpersonal Influence: Using a compelling and charismatic interpersonal style to influence.

– Networking: Build diverse relationships and leverage those relationships to help others and to help you get the work done.

– Sincerity: Be forthright, open, honest and genuine with others.

How do you balance listening and being heard in a room full of men? Be aware of the situation and the energy you convey. Be bold.

Studies state those with perceived strong political skills are recognized as better leaders. Developing political skills is a life-long journey that cascades over a career and a lifetime, but essential in every aspect of our lives because if two or more are gathered, there will most likely be some level of politics.

Being political means being passionate and personal; authentic and open; curious and willing to work with and help others; providing solutions not just highlighting problems; and willingness to recognize the good work of others.

While it may be difficult today, post Election Day, to shift our mindset to this small “p” political, Shiek challenged those in the room in the days ahead to consider our businesses, our careers and our relationships and to shift the word politics into a neutral position, without negative connotations.