Project Management

Giving Away Your Power

From the An Influential Project Manager Blog
Today, more than ever, a project manager needs to be an influencer. The purpose of this blog is to stimulate your journey towards greater influence. With influence, you can overcome the roadblocks thrown in your way, overcome opposition, align stakeholders and, enjoy your role even more. However, since I know you are busy, the posts here will be short (about a minute), thought provoking and also drive you towards action. Feel free to connect with me, ask me questions, and share what's good here.

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I define power as the “capacity to influence,” and influence as “someone acting, thinking, feeling differently that they would otherwise have done.” Consequently, someone with power does not need to perform any action to get people to act differently. Just their mere presence can do this.

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.

More on this Topic

Review the OnDemand webinar:  Diagnosing Power Dynamics Around Your Project

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Posted on: August 02, 2019 06:21 AM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Wonderful perspective. Capacity to influence is really key trait of project manager.
Thank you Colin !!

Thank you :-)

Self awareness and capacity to influence another with your actions and deeds can take a project manager a long way. Well articulated. Thank you !

Power is temporary. What you do with it counts

Yes a good point Michael, power is temporary, though it's effect can last a very long time!!

Greatly presented, self-awareness is the entry point

Great insight, thank you

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