Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to use your personal power.

Post 366 - Power by itself is neither good nor bad; rather, it’s an inevitable part of all human relationships. Power is the ability to get your own way and politics is the use of power to advocate or protect your own interests. Managing in even small to medium-sized businesses is a sophisticated game of influence which quickly becomes quite political in nature.

Our political skill becomes evident in how we deal with others, especially those who have doubts about our actions, or who propose alternative courses of action. Usually, politics isn’t because of conflict about the company’s goals, but comes from conflict among people’s personal visions. Political activity becomes more intense when the old order threatens to change and a new one begins to emerge.

Our political behavior usually comes from our dependent relationships growing up, living in a family of frowning others who said what was right or wrong for us. It entails how we went about getting what we wanted from our parents and others who had power over us, As children, we often used manipulation to get our way and we tend to repeat that strategy in other relationships for the rest of our lives.

Manipulation means trying to control people without telling them what you’re doing or why. Negative politics uses manipulation to get your way by, for example, saying yes when you mean no, dropping people’s names to influence others, underestimating or padding demands, presenting benefits without stating doubts and liabilities, or using language that minimizes problems. This kind of manipulation is often justified in the name of expediency and pragmatism.

Choosing a personal vision is the beginning of every political strategy. When we commit to this vision, it gives meaning to what we do, regardless of external influences. It lets us function using an internal gyroscope, so we're less dependent on others. People with such high self-esteem act as if they’re operating from an optimistic, powerful position. They know the most politically powerful way to change a culture is to be a living example of the culture they advocate.

Sources of power in organizations are:
- competence and expertise
- control of information
- personal linkages and relationships
- the ability to get sponsorship and support
- stature and credibility based on personal characteristics
- control of resources
- group cohesiveness

Reward power, coercive power and authority come with the position and can be delegated.

Expert power, informal power and personal attractiveness power are conferred or withheld by others.

Personal power comes from expertise, attractiveness, track record and effort.

Position power comes from formal authority, relevance to the organization’s objectives, influence in key networks, autonomy and visibility.

Strategies to advance your cause include expanding your power base, managing your image, and developing powerful support networks that support the cause you want to advance rather than blocking it. Start by evaluating how much power you currently have, and if you don’t have enough, begin to explore how you can get more.

Political dynamics frequently center around the person who first introduces an issue. So, success involves getting support for yourself as an advocate of that issue.

In real life, formal authority wins most power struggles. But experience shows that formal authority or coercive power is most effective when it’s not used very often. Hierarchy confers less power today than in the past as companies, in an effort to be fast and flexible, give people at all levels more power to make judgment calls on their own. In a flat organization, you depend on many other people over whom you have no authority. In network organizations, where leadership is constantly shifting, all you have to depend on is trust and influence.

While expertise can move people into positions of power, it can’t keep them there. The power that comes from being able to outthink or outsmart other people actually diminishes the higher up you move in a company’s hierarchy. In senior management jobs, people skills – listening, networking, influencing, engaging in positive politics - are what really matter most.

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