For advocates of organizational change, power is the ability to get things done either by influencing others or by making decisions. Possessing power means that colleagues are more likely to do what you ask, respect your opinion, and follow you in the direction you want to go.
Fortunately, power is not something you can buy or take. It can only be given to you by others. Follow these four ways to earn more organizational power.
Shore Up Your Integrity
When it comes to leading change, your integrity is your most important characteristic. If you are not credible or trustworthy, you won’t earn the power needed to make change happen. When people know they can count on you, they give you the authority to take on responsibility and make decisions that affect them.
The only way to increase your integrity is to not do things that destroy it. Keep your promises, and match your actions to your words. Refrain from saying things that reduce your trustworthiness, like talking about others in their absence. Tell people the truth, even if the answer is, “I don’t know.” It might be helpful to partner with someone who can observe you at work and let you know when you do things that might be decreasing your integrity.
Increase Your Visibility
The more people see you and your cause for change, the more power you will have just by gaining attention. As you tap into a broader network, you will gain supporters, even detractors, but when they see you as the champion of the cause you will solidify your personal brand as a change advocate. Attention is power.
You also want leaders to take notice. To increase your visibility with them, schedule meetings, make presentations, and speak up. When management gives you their time and attention, they are giving you the opportunity to influence them. Take advantage of the power they are lending you in that moment.
Exercise the Power You Already Have
You probably have latent power that you are not using. Not using power you have is as useful as not having it at all. The following are examples of power that everyone has, but not everyone uses.
- Time. You exercise power by what you spend your time on. It’s the only finite asset that you have.
- Knowledge. Remember the old adage, “Knowledge is power.” Share your knowledge and skills with others.
- Attitude. A recent study showed that happiness is contagious. You have the ability to influence others by choosing your own attitude.
- Responsibility. You carry power in the tasks you personally manage. Take on more responsibility, and earn more power.
When you exercise power generously, it multiplies. Advocate for others in your organization who have less power than you, and they will give it back in return.
Ask For it
In some organizations more than others, power comes from having a title. If that is the case in your organization, ask for that promotion or title change! You might just get it. At the same time, don’t let not having a title be an excuse for not exercising the power you have.
Leaders can also bestow power to you by acknowledging your expertise and ownership of the project. Their attention and empowerment legitimize your efforts. If you feel like you need more support in one form or another, you might need to ask for it. Leaders may not automatically consider providing that for you, especially if it means giving up some of their own power and authority.
The goal of these four ways to boost power is of course not to gain power itself. Once you have more power, then it is up to you to figure out how best to use it to make change happen in your organization.
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