Contributed by Sarah McCrary
This is the second post in the “Understand Your Power To Claim Your Value” series. In the previous post, we identified the seven sources of power and highlighted that enduring and authentic power emanates from referent, expert, and connection power sources.
There are effective and not-so-effective ways to claim your value to your team, organization, and market. You are more influential than you realize and with a few tweaks, you could expand your influence and achieve more of your desired outcomes.
Take The Risk of Being Wrong
Referent power grows when your actions and beliefs are in concert. It is an intrinsic characteristic, meaning it doesn’t depend on any title, position, or resources. This type of power is sometimes called “Charisma” – created when a person’s expression of integrity and conviction attracts others. By exercising boldness in the face of uncertainty you add to your overall charisma regardless if you are right or wrong in your position, it is the action that matters.
Effective risk takers are calculated in researching and defending their positions and do not wait on perfect information. This is also a way to develop respect for your expertise in a domain. Use your research and data to reduce uncertainty, don’t hold back waiting to eliminate uncertainty. By waiting until you have perfect information you will deprive yourself of the opportunity to build this power based in expert and referent power.
Once you take the risk, don’t undermine yourself by apologizing for having a difference of opinion. Going bold and then pulling back into meekness introduces inconsistency that diminishes your charismatic draw. Similarly, abandoning your position in the face of challenge diminishes your expert power. If you don’t believe in your position – why should others?
When you take the risk of being wrong, it is not your track record that matters. What people will remember is that you are well-studied in a subject matter (expert power) and that you present your viewpoints well (referent).
Get Comfortable With Conflict
Conflict is not inherently negative. Learning to maneuver conflict reinforces your connection, expert, and referent power. The key to managing constructive conflict in a comfortable way is something that Stephen Covey fans will recognize – Seek first to understand. A great phrase to get you practicing this technique is “Can you help me understand…..”. This is such a powerful phrase that shows you respect the person you are engaged with in the discussion and are willing to listen and learn about their position before you challenge it.
Safe conflict is respectful to the person. Practice leading into your challenges with a phrase like “I don’t agree, here’s why….” and focus on the positions, not the person.
Be aware of the behaviors in managing conflict that deprive you of your power. Engaging in bullying behaviors, such as diminishing another’s opinions based on anything other than the merits of their claims will destroy your referent and connection power. Drawing on another’s positional or referent power, for example by name dropping, is a critical mistake when maneuvering a conflict. Bullying and name dropping expose you as someone who does not know how to manage conflict constructively and relies on others for influence.
The final post in this series covers two more effective techniques to build your expert, referent, and connection power.
Image from Flickr Commons
Over 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).