I’ll never forget as a junior coming up against a programme manager who looked like he had already eaten several project managers for breakfast, and then he growled at me! Or the time I prepared extra hard to meet with the PMO Director for the first time, whose reputation around the organisation was that of a hard-hitting, intolerant man who took no prisoners as he delved into the nitty gritty of our programmes.
In both these cases, I acted very differently because of their power.
The point is, everyone has power and impact beyond their awareness, that is influencing the way people act, think or feel. Being unaware means that there is a huge risk that you will miss opportunities to leverage more influence, or simply give your power away.
One business school professor I know is researching the extent to which people give power away. He says that it is common place for people to cede to others who they perceive to have more power than themselves. Their lack of self-confidence, imposter syndrome and many other factors in their internal dialogue mean that they just let other effectively “walk all over them.”
What makes you powerful? Empowering yourself is a key skill in my book. Then you can show up with confidence, knowing that you have what it takes. And to not be intimidated by other powerful people.
When I met with the PMO Director, I had done my prep. I knew my stuff and drew confidence from that. Indeed, my programme was way ahead of the others, on target and delivering fast. So, I was able to take the lead, demonstrate to John the progress. Indeed, as it happened, he had nowhere else to go and closed the meeting early to move on to something else.
Had I not empowered myself ahead of that situation, things could have been very different.
Power is a fascinating and complex phenomenon which merits study. Lots of different things give people the capacity to influence, not just the more negative examples I have given here.. Things like trust, amiability, humour, qualifications, experience, challenge.
What is important is that you develop a greater awareness of what give you power. Become more self-aware and find ways to foster that.
Power should be developed because it can do so much good.
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