Understand Your Power To Claim Your Value (Part 1 of 3)

InfluenceContributed by Sarah McCrary

Product people are encouraging, supportive, and collaborative – that’s my finding.

After sharing my talk, “Claiming your value as a technical product leader” with the Women in Product (hosted by Boston Product Management Association), I had the pleasure of speaking to about a half-dozen women who approached me at subsequent events to let me know what resonated with them. It is such a kindness to hear – even weeks later – that your message held some meaning with the audience. Go reach out to those speakers – we need the encouragement too.

This series of posts recaps my talk, which was also shared at the Women Techmakers 2016 event held in Cambridge.

Power Is The Ability To Influence, And You Can Grow It Methodically

“Power” is an aggressive word. Admitting that you want to build your power can feel uncomfortable. It shouldn’t. Power is a resource you leverage to accomplish your mission. Power is a measure of your influence on outcomes. Successfully asserting the value you bring to your team, organization, industry, and relationships requires a deliberate understanding of your ability to influence and how you can grow it.

Where Does Power Come From?

Organizational psychology researchers over the past four decades have identified seven sources of organizational power.

  • Position: Extrinsic to the individual, based on the discretion and influence inherent to a role in an organization, also called legitimate power.
  • Referent: Intrinsic to the individual, based on the ability of the person to influence others, also called charisma power.
  • Reward: based in the ability to deliver incentives
  • Coercive: based in the ability to deliver sanctions
  • Expertise: recognition of highly developed knowledge and skills in a domain
  • Informational: access to information and influence over the distribution of information
  • Connections: access to others

Once you understand the different sources of power and how they shape the value you bring to the execution of your role, you can make deliberate decisions to build on your influence. For enduring and authentic power, focus on developing the influence that is based in who you are (Referent), not the position you hold; and anchor your value in your expertise and connections.

Avoid pinning your value to power built on transactional sources – such as reward, coercive, and informational power. These are transitory sources and are unreliable for long term growth.

Recognizing the sources of your influence, and growing that influence, helps you to deliver improved outcomes for your team and for yourself. The next posts in this series discuss effective, and ineffective, techniques to build your referent, expert, and connection power.

References based on research by F. French, R. Raven, R. Moss Kanter, and N. Lipkin.
Feature image from Flickr Commons


Sarah McCraryOver the past fifteen-plus years, Sarah has enjoyed roles in technology product development and IT project and program management leadership. She is particularly interested in connecting businesses, consumers, and developers to make commerce easier and more secure for all. Her product experiences include co-inventing an encryption solution for protecting payment data (Heartland Secure e3); leading hardware and software start-up, Leaf, and leading the digital strategy transformation for a Fortune 1000 company (Heartland Payment Systems).

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