7 Sources of Professional Power
This is part 3, in a four part series.
In my last two articles (Part I and Part II ), I have focused on four of the seven sources of professional power: relationships, information, expertise and a person’s position or role within an organization. These have been identified in a study by the Center for Creative Leadership as the seven different sources of power that executives use in their careers. It should be no surprise that the list also includes the power of rewarding and punishing others. Managers can reinforce great performance by giving a bonus or a raise. A simple acknowledgment or thank you is the most common reinforcement. Managers can also “punish” by blocking opportunities, reducing formal roles and responsibility or terminating an employee.
How We Deal with Our Professional Network Matters
The ability to reward or punish others in our professional network is probably the most misunderstood source of professional power. Most of us want our professional network to stay positive and we want others in our network to see us as being savvy. Women and Latinas in particular, would most likely add to that list “friendly”, “charming”, or “nice”. We get a lot of subtle and not so subtle messages that pleasing others is a positive trait to hold as Latinas. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being nice in our professional lives. Unfortunately, the more accommodating we are to meet others’ needs, however, the less likely our work may be valued and the less powerful we become. We can be taken for granted if we always do what the other person is asking of us regardless of whether they reciprocate.
What does this have to do with rewarding and punishing others? Plenty. If you have strong needs to be liked by all, it will be hard to refine your network of colleagues into a high quality group that has your best interests at heart. The more you define your expectations of others and respond accordingly when they stay attuned to your expectations or disappoint you, the more your network will be made up of truly loyal and supportive colleagues. When you never challenge others with your expectations, you may be surprised to find out your relationship rests on always saying yes, always pleasing others.
Next time your professional colleague disappoints you, take note. Do you say something? Do you stay quiet? Do you gloss over that in hopes it will get resolved later? What keeps you from saying something about your concerns and expectations for new behaviors of your colleague? This can be a moment to define the value you bring to the relationship. It may surprise you that the more you define those expectations and express some disappointment when your needs are not met, the more you establish power in a professional relationship. It says to others that you hold others accountable to your expectations, just as you hold yourself accountable.
Exercise Remarkable Focus in Your Interaction with Colleagues & Professional Network
The hard work of creating power in your professional life requires remarkable focus and constant calibration of how to maneuver through a wide range of interactions that you can use to position yourself for success. If this all seems like a game you want to avoid playing, I would be the first to wish it’s not necessary to play. In the workplace however, it isn’t just about how smart you are that defines your success—it’s all about how you manage all the dimensions of your personal power—relationships, your ability to withhold or share information, and exercising your ability to reward or chastise others behaviors—even if you are not the boss. Tell me about how you claim your personal power at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™.