Having and using power in management

I thought that for my first blog of 2012 I would commence at the top with ‘power’. Perhaps by the end of the year I will write something about having a mid afternoon siesta, who knows.

The world is changing. Where did you hear that before? The environment we work in is changing. This is getting very profound! While many of us continue to work in hierarchial environments (even when we’re told that is not so), the nature of power is also changing.

Gone are the days when your title ensures others would listen and do as you told them. Gone are the days when those below you would cower and simply follow instructions. In the modern, emerging workplace it is not what you know, but who you know that helps you to build and exercise power.

Now some of you might be thinking, it’s always been about who you know. I’m not talking about the arse-kissing type of relationship of the past, I’m talking about the ‘what’s in it for both of us’ type of relationship that is emerging. All around the world levels of management are being dismantled. There are fewer management roles and there are less opportunities for climbing a corporate ladder based upon titles.

Workplace effectiveness and management success is now measured in what you achieve and to maximise your effectiveness you need to build relationships that help you achieve something and in turn be prepared to help others achieve what it is they need to be seen to be effective.

There are numerous stakeholders with an interest in your effectiveness and success. You must have an understanding of who these stakeholders are, what is their interest and what factors push their buttons. Build your relationship with each stakeholder over time – before you will ever need their help. Build your relationship by being prepared to give before you need to take. Build your relationship by attending to the other person’s needs rather than your own.

Power is about influencing other people. Power is having the ability to marshall support and resources without having to resort to coercion. At the centre of building powerful relationships is ensuring you give other people credit for their contribution and for their part in helping you achieve your success. You cannot be effective or successful on your own. You must know have the knowledge to know what to do and the relationships that enable you to get it done.

Building your power base is not about being nice to people; yet it’s not about being horrible either. By all means be true to yourself, be guided by your values, while at the same time understanding that having power to exercise means sometimes you will be required to make hard decisions, you will have to adapt constantly to changing circumstances and you may need to build relationships with people you dislike or even despise.

Power is not something to be avoided if you want to be seen as being effective. Seeking to be effective means taking a risk. It means confronting the possibility of being wrong or making an ineffective decision. Avoiding risk means you avoid building the relationships you need to be effective.

Being effective involves you in building relationships on multiple fronts. You may not be working on all those relationships at the same time. Work on those where you can make progress. Use that progress to create a reason for those less productive relationships to engage with you. Look for ways to make those that oppose you a part of your team or ways they can gather a stake in the outcomes. If all else fails, look for ways to remove an opponent. This could involve working around them, going above them, building a relationship with someone able to influence them, or even moving them someplace else.

Effective people learn which battles are worth fighting. The learn to live to fight another day. They are persistent and they never give up, not matter how long it takes. They understand that often the most important person to build a relationship with is not the person with the title but those that surround that person and influence decisions.

Those are my thoughts for the day

John Coxon




About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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