Four sources of personal organizational power
Power within an organization comes mainly from two factors: personal attributes and the formal position of the person – who you are versus Where are you. (Note: these are not organizations with strong chains of authority and communication, such as the military or the police, which are based on rank. Although other non-military organizations have a hierarchy of authority, they are not enforced as rigorously as in the military.)
There are four specific characteristics that we must discuss within the scope of who you are:
1. Your experience – Specialized work-related knowledge is a great advantage because it blurs the boundaries of background, formal education, or who you know. In other words, if you are an expert in doing the work of the organization, you have some personal power based on your expert knowledge and everyone recognizes it.
The problem associated with this characteristic is that when higher-ranking people are brought in from abroad, they may have to rely on lower-ranking people who have more job skills. This can give the subordinate an influence (probably temporary) within the organization that would appear disproportionate to their position, which is typically low-key and almost “invisible.”
The danger for the staff member is that soon the new boss will catch up with the new position and have a better perspective of what is going on around him. At that time, he / she will be able to review the subordinate’s actions and judge whether they acted in the best interest of the new boss or not.
2. Your personal attraction – desirable characteristics that those around you see in you. These include charisma, pleasant demeanor, and physical characteristics.
Charisma – defined as ” A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent devotion and popular enthusiasm. Magnetism or personal charm: a television news program famous for the charisma of its presenters. “*
Although that definition may make it appear that this trait is more of a gift from God than something an individual can influence, research indicates that there are some intentional behaviors that can lead to “charismatic perception” by others:
- Express a vision of the organization that inspires others.
- Incur personal sacrifices and even risks while pursuing that vision.
- Recommend or support the use of non-traditional methods to achieve the objectives.
- Having a seemingly strange sense of what is possible and being very time conscious in relation to the important issues within that vision.
- Most important of all: demonstrate sensitivity to members’ needs and concerns.
Pleasant demeanor – the characteristics necessary to develop and maintain friendships that would include at a minimum:
- Support an open, honest, and loyal relationship.
- Being perceived as emotionally accessible: a good listener
- Give unconditional and positive consideration and acceptance. (“I may not approve of what you did, but I’m still your friend”).
- Endure some sacrifices if the relationship calls for it
- Be genuinely understanding or empathetic as the situation requires.
Physical characteristics – Obviously, someone cannot do much about their innate physical characteristics, but they can do something about their dress and grooming. Tabloids on the grocery store checkout line often post pictures of Hollywood stars with and without makeup. Many times the contrast is very striking.
Remember the saying that “you only get one chance to make a good first impression” and the fact that, whether it is justified or not, many people make quick judgments about others based on their appearance. Make sure you give yourself all the advantages you can from a physical appearance point of view.
What can you do to improve your personal attraction in these three areas?
- Charisma: How can you be more charismatic?
- Pleasant Behavior – How Can You Show More Pleasant Behavior?
- What can you do to change your personal characteristics to fit the culture more without losing your individuality?
3. The amount of effort you put into your work.. The more you are seen as trustworthy, ready to “go the extra mile,” or stay up late to help out with an unexpected job, the more you tell people that you are above average; that is, the “team player” that every group needs to succeed.
In organizations, a high degree of personal effort is valued because it gives the perception that the individual is trustworthy, persistent and can be counted on to “go the extra mile” (no matter how that nebulous phrase is defined). A business climate where the flexibility to program in the midst of a rapidly changing environment is critical.
Unfortunately, this trait can also be a double-edged sword for the practitioner if this willingness to do “whatever it takes” is perceived by some as the departmental doormat.: the person who does all the jobs that no one else wants or will do and does not have the strength to defend himself and say no.
In this case, we recommend showing the willingness to go the extra mile, but also being strong enough to ask for some compensation. “If I work late tonight to help you, can I go early tomorrow to watch my son’s minor league baseball game?”
4. “Compliance” you are acting in line with the norms and values of the organization. The more you act the “way we expect” here at our company, the more we will accept you in our culture. The more he immerses himself in our culture, the more influence (power) he will have with us.
The more you try to adapt or “fit in” with an organization, the more influence you will be able to accumulate. This is much more than following the dress code and policies you received during the orientation process, it means that you take the time to understand the culture.
Are there organizational stories of legendary endeavors? (“Ray stayed at work for 72 hours during that hurricane 3 years ago”) or decisions made that emphasize company values (“Although we could have doubled our market share, we would have had to compromise on quality”) that help define culture?
If the company calls itself, “the company to own, the place to work, the neighbor to have”, What does that mean to you as a new employee? What does it tell you about the values of the company? How can understanding that phrase increase your ability to adapt and gain influence as a strong advocate for the company’s vision for itself?
Suppose your employer was an insurance company, and the founders decided that in order for someone to be promoted above a certain level anywhere in the company, they had to meet some industry requirements to obtain a professional certification.
“But I’m in HR and I’m not dealing with clients! Why should I have that certification?” you may be wondering. The answer would be that the founders wanted to ensure that all employees above a certain pay level shared the same knowledge about the industry and the need for customer service. This means that they would be more focused on the company in general than on its functional department within it. In the minds of the founders, it is a way to ensure that the corporate culture endures.
If you were to protest out loud that what the founders thought fifty years ago makes no sense in today’s world, you could seriously threaten your credibility and subsequent influence within the organization. This is not to say that you should be discouraged from speaking, but rather that a person can be expected to have to “pay their dues” before they can speak legitimately within the culture.
Focus on those four sources of organizational power for 12 months consistently and you will be pleasantly surprised at your career potential a year from now!
* The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition