You may think that power in the workplace comes only from a position of authority, for example, when you are someone’s boss and have been put in charge of people. However, this isn’t the case.
Broadly speaking there are two categories of power: First, there is formal power which does indeed come from your position authority. A general holds formal power to get his subordinates to execute his orders. Second, there is something called personal power. Personal power is different to formal power in that it is placed on a person by his or her followers.
Don’t believe that personal power is useful as formal power? Then perform this exercise. Think of your favourite celebrity. The chances are high that you respect their opinion and listen to what they have to say.
Look at Lady Gaga for example. She has over 67 million Twitter followers! People like her and listen to what she has to say. That’s why she and other celebrities get paid huge sums to advertise and endorse products.
In management speak this type of power is called referent power, where followers essentially refer to the person they follow for guidance on what to do or buy.
Because personal power doesn’t require formal authority, it’s possible to boost your personal power whilst doing your current job. Doing this will not only make it much easier to get things done, it will also make your new found followers eager to please.
With that, let’s look at five tips you can use straight away to start increasing your personal power.
1. Learn Continuously
Read classic top-rated business books and read the autobiographies of famous business people. By doing this, over time you will build up a breadth of business knowledge ranging from what to do in a crisis through to how to manage a team riven with infighting.
This knowledge will ensure that ideas you propose in the workplace will likely be both useful and backed up by the fact they have worked before in other organizations.
It’s not difficult to see how over time your colleagues will increasingly come to respect you.
There are literally thousands of books you can choose from, but if you’re unsure where to start then I’d recommend:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie *
- Good to Great, by Jim Collins *
- Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini *
* Affiliate link – please see the bottom of this post for more information
2. Model Behaviour
By model behaviour we don’t mean model your behaviour in a strut your stuff on the catwalk kind of way! We mean model behaviour that commands respect.
One way to do this is to dress the part. Today many workplaces allow very casual attire, but that’s not necessarily how you should dress if you’re looking to increase your power base. Look for cues from how the senior people in your organization dress.
Another way to do this is to hold great meetings. Most people are terrible at meetings. Everyone gets together without an agenda and, at the end, the meeting has run 10 minutes over and nothing has been decided. To hold a great meeting simply never hold a meeting without an agenda, stick to the timings on the agenda, and send out the meeting notes promptly after the meeting has finished.
By doing this you’ll build enormous goodwill towards you and your professionalism, further increasing your power in the workplace.
Finally, this section isn’t just about dressing right and holding great meetings. It is about keeping your eyes and ears open to opportunities to model behavior that’s going to grow the respect others have for you and thus your power.
3. Zip It
This tip is really simple. Never badmouth anyone. Period.
All offices have varying degrees of gossip, and office gossip spreads quickly. When you badmouth someone you’re not in control of the situation. Additionally, you never know, the person you just spoke ill of, may in 18 months be your boss, or CEO.
4. Learn How to Construct an Argument
So far all of the tips have been about doing the basics right, but this tip can help you to stand out from the crowd.
Most people have no idea that the history of persuasive speaking goes back over 2,000 years. In fact, the first book on persuasive speaking, called Rhetoric, was written by Aristotle! With such a long history is it any wonder that tools exist out there to help us construct a compelling and persuasive speech.
Some of the more popular tools include Monroe’s Motivated Sequence and The Rhetorical Triangle. But there are also others. Learn about these tools and master using them. Soon you’ll be giving presentations that are streets ahead of your colleagues, further enhancing your power base.
5. Build Allies
This tip is about learning the rules of the game. You already know that power doesn’t just exist within the formal structure. Learn who holds the informal power. You could learn, for example, who do key people rely on for counsel and advice before making any big decision.
Make allies of these people. Think about it. If you propose an idea to the key decision maker, and they turn to their trusted ally for council on your idea, but you’ve already cleared it with them as they’re now your ally too, then bingo – your idea stands a massively greater chance of getting approved.
Another word for power is “influence”, and influence cuts two ways. The more you listen and incorporate the ideas of your peers into your work and proposals, the more they will be inclined to listen to what you have to say.
When you make a point of listening intently to another person’s opinion, you show that you respect them, and if they can see that you respect them then they are more likely to respect you.
Building mutual respect is another cornerstone towards building your power base.
Power is about much more than your job title. These days smart people know the value of building their personal power base. By continuously learning, modelling behavior, never badmouthing anyone, building allies, and listening, over time you can dramatically increase your power within an organization.
All of which could make you the first person people think of when a new more senior role opens up. However, even if your newfound power doesn’t immediately lead to promotion it should make your current job more enjoyable.
Please note this post contains affiliate links. You will not be charged any extra for the purchases you make through these links I may, however, receive a small commission on anything you but may make a smaller amount of money on each purchase which goes towards running this blog.