Power is everyone’s business. In this episode, Andrea interviews Professor Tiziana Casciaro, author of POWER FOR ALL. Learn 3 fallacies or misconceptions we commonly believe about power, how we perceive power, and how we communicate or signal power.
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Power. What do you think of when you hear the word POWER?
If you’re like most people, the word power may be a slightly dirty word. Like networking or sales. Power? Power for all? What the heck does that mean?
Welcome to TAT episode #129, Power for All. I hope you have an open mind. Because after you’ve listened to this episode, you’re going to have a different idea about what power can and should be.
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Dr. Andrea Wojnicki and I’m YOUR executive communication coach. Please call me Andrea! I’m the founder of Talk About Talk, where I coach communication skills to ambitious executives to help them elevate their communication, their confidence and their clarity, so they’ll get noticed for the right reasons and ultimately get promoted! That’s my goal here. I want to help you accelerate your career trajectory.
If you go to the Talk About Talk.com website, you’ll find many resources to help you out. There’s information there about one-on-one and group coaching, online courses, corporate workshops, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, AND, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter. That newsletter is your chance to get communication coaching from me every week. I choose a communication topic and coach you on 3 things related to that topic.
Alright – Because you listen to this podcast, I’m going to guess you have a growth mindset and you read a lot. Or at least you try to.
Recently when I was browsing in Audible, I came across this book. Power for All That was written by one of my favorite colleagues at the University of Toronto, professor Tiziana Casciaro. Of course, I downloaded and devoured it right away. After I finished the first few chapters, I decided to e-mail Tiziana and ask her if I could interview her for this episode.
I love this book!
Lately my strategy for consuming books has been listening to them. I listen when I’m getting ready in the morning. I listen when I’m outside going for walks or gardening, and I listen when I’m in my car. So I manage to get through a lot of books. And when I really like one – like this – one power for all, I usually go to the bookstore and also buy a hard copy of the book. Then it’s easier for me to reference back to it. And of course, I’m happy to support my favorite authors.
Anyway, I’m really excited to have reconnected with Tiziana and to share our conversation with you. Whether or not you decide to buy and read the book, you will learn a lot from this episode.
Let’s get into this. I’m going to start by introducing Tiziana right now, and then get into the interview. Please stay tuned to the end, because I’m going to summarize with my top three favorite insights from this interview. Always – the power of 3, right?
Let me tell you a little bit about Tiziana. Our careers have crossed paths twice before. Years ago, Tiziana was on the faculty at Harvard Business School when I was a doctoral student there. And then we both served on the faculty at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, where she’s now a Professor of Organizational Behavior and the Marcel Desautels in Integrative Thinking.
Tiziana is originally from Italy, as you will hear from her beautiful accent. She received her B.A. in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan, Then her M.S. and Ph.D. in Organization Science and Sociology from Carnegie Mellon.
Her research on organizational networks, professional networking, power dynamics, and change leadership has appeared in top academic journals in management, psychology, and sociology, and has received distinguished scientific achievement awards from the Academy of Management.
(Yep, she’s a smart one. And her research is making an impact.)
Thinkers50 recognized Tiziana as one of the 30 thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led. She regularly publishes in the HBR, and her work has been featured in the Economist, the Financial Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, Fortune and TIME magazine.
In this episode,. , you’re going to hear our conversation about the book she co-authored with Julie Battilana, who serves on the faculty at Harvard Business School. The book is called Power, for All: And the subtitle is “How It Really Works and Why It’s Everyone’s Business”. Like I said, this award-winning book is going to change how you think about Power.
Thank you so much, Tizana, for joining us here at Talk about Talk to talk about your book, Power for All.
Tiziana: Thank you for having me, Andrea.
Andrea: I’m so excited for this conversation. Tiziana, I want to start with a definition because different people have different things in mind when they think about power. So can you define power for us?
Tiziana: Absolutely. And you’re right that the definitions are bound and we have to pick one that helps us the most. And my wonderful co-author, Julie and I picked the following Power is the ability to influence the behavior of others. So influence is kind of embedded in the definition of power. And what makes it comprehensive. That definition is that influence can take multiple forms, some benign like persuasion where influence you by depicting a future, a possibility, a goal, a scenario that is attracted to you and you want to kind of hop on and influence you because you want to be there. And influence can also be a little bit more malign in the form of coercion where influence you a change your behavior by force because make you and all of that is belongs under the umbrella of power.
Andrea: Okay, So you brought up influence, which was going to be one of my next questions because I want to compare Power to some other terms that we throw around when we’re talking about similar things. So. Is it necessary if there is power to have asymmetry?
Tiziana: Not necessarily, no, because power is relational by construction, meaning don’t have power in the absolute. I have power relative to someone in a specific context. So this is really a very social definition of power. So if you think about where does this ability to influence others come from? Where does power come from? It comes from my having something you want or need, and you needed me to get it. Such that it’s not easy for you to get access to that thing you want from someone other than me. In that sense, I control your access to something you want and I can influence you because you depend on me to get that desired thing. Got it. So in that sense, that’s right. In a sense, power can go both ways, such that I may have something you want and it’s hard for you to get it elsewhere. So you depend on me, so that’s okay. But we’re not done in understanding our power relationship because you could also have something I want and also may find it hard to get it from people other than you. And therefore, in that sense, we have a mutual level of power on each other. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that I lose power if if you gain some, we could both be increased in our mutual dependence.
Andrea: Got it. Okay. So it is. It depends on the person and then or the at least dyad, if not more. Right. And also on the context. Absolutely. Okay. So. How does it differ from leadership or how does leadership play into this?
Tiziana: So you can you can see that leadership is an exercise in influence because, you know, again, you can define leadership in a million different ways. Sometimes you have the very straightforward definition. It’s basically the act of leading a group of people. Which is almost tautological. Leadership is leading, but the idea is you conduct people in a certain direction and intrinsic to that leadership is influence because you cannot direct them. You cannot conduct them anywhere if they are not changing their behavior in response to your leadership. So without influence, there is no such thing as leadership. Power is essential to any leadership endeavor.
Andrea: Got it. You will be quoted on that, too. I can guarantee it. Okay. Okay. Okay. So as I was sharing with you, talk about talk, we talk a lot about the power of three. And when I was reading your book first listening to it, then reading it, I was thrilled to see that you’ve identified three fallacies of power, which I think really help define further, define what power is. So can you take the listeners through the three fallacies of power?
Tiziana: Absolutely. That the number three is a magical you know, it has a way of working all the time and it allows us to kind of zero in on something that we can’t remember. So the first of the fallacies of power. Is that it is a pretty much absolute, like we said before, that it resides in the person. That is something that you have. You, Andrea, are powerful. In the accident. And that is never, ever, ever, ever True power is always relative to the person in front of you, the group in front of you, the multiple people that you are trying to influence so may have power over you in this moment. But the circumstances change and all of a sudden don’t. And we observe this all the time, except that we tend to personalize power. We tend to attribute it to people as a as a set of characteristics or traits or backgrounds that allow somebody to be particularly influential in a given context. But it’s always context driven. So we have to kind of disentangle ourselves from this notion that we are to attribute a lot of power to certain people and not to others, because that changes over time as the circumstances change.
Andrea: So it’s so power is not permanent. And I’m thinking in my head about when people say, oh, he or she is so powerful. It’s like, you know, in that statement, it sounds as if they believe that it is, as you said, a trait when in fact it’s not a trait and it’s not permanent. It’s just context dependent.
Tiziana: That’s right. And of course, you know, there is something to be said about certain characteristics and things a person can offer being relevant in multiple contexts. Right. That make you relevant and therefore powerful in multiple contexts. So the infamous notion of charisma. Yeah, that is as nebulous as it sounds, really is a representation of certain things you do say moves. You make feelings that you elicit in others. They make you attractive to them in their in their particular set of circumstances. And that could potentially translate if you have a certain intelligent, piercing intellect or sense of humor or capacity to understand the future and help people understand a big picture. Those are those could be things that are relevant to multiple circumstances that lead people to think, oh my God, Andrea, such charisma. And all of a sudden we attribute this kind of permanence of power to your person when in fact, you know, it is always circumstantial and changeable. And that’s important to understand because it frees us to reshape that power relationship when it’s not working for us. If we believe that it’s a trait that is going to be with you no matter what, I’m going to be intimidated and and discouraged from trying to mess around with your power. But if I go like, well, you know, it’s right now, it’s in this moment. The Andrea is so cool and everybody follows her. But we can change that. We can change it. Don’t mean to do that to you, by the way. I’m really happy. Go on, Go on. Powerful. Very happy. Very happy. But, um, it. It makes us a little bit more agentic. In acting on a situation because we’re not prisoners of this notion that you are just it and nothing’s going to change it.
Andrea: I can imagine that being very. I was going to say powerful. So I won’t say that that would be very, I guess, important to consider. For example, if you’re in a negotiation and you have this idea, this preconceived idea that that your person that you’re negotiating with is powerful. Right. Maybe there’s a context that you can change. Okay.
Tiziana: That’s right. You can certainly open up different possibilities in finding territory that you can work within with that person without being captive of this aura. And that leads me to the second fallacy that we see all the time, people assuming that power and authority are one and the same. So you are in an organizational context would be a company, could be a public institution, could be whatever. And there are the CEOs. There are the presidents, there are the senators, there are the VIPs. And because of their rank in the formal hierarchy, we attribute lots of power to them. It’s not completely off because, of course, they have some power. By definition, if you are in a certain positional role, you may have decision making power and control over resources as a subordinate. Need and want. If you’re my manager, you control my performance evaluation. That in turn controls my compensation, my promotion ability, my ability to land in a team that I really want to work with. So you do control valued resources that are really, really would like to have access to. In a sense, you do have power, but the things that people value are much more varied than that, such that we encounter all the time situations where you have this executive with potentially even a good strategy, a strategy that makes sense. It’s good on paper, but they can’t execute it and they can’t execute it because the strategy doesn’t speak to what the people they’re supposed to implement it really want. And so they push back and so they resist because you haven’t figured out what thereafter and you’re not offering it to them through this vision of yours. And you lose them along the way. So you, you, your ability to influence them wanes, basically. So this notion that power and formal authority are one and the same needs to also be thrown to the side because it captures only part of the action, there’s much more that can lead you to gain power than just formal rank.
Andrea: Yeah, we’ll get into the power mapping in a minute, but you’re reminding me of some examples in my past work history where we were focused on instituting some organizational change and we were purposefully seeking the opinion leaders, right? These are the opinion leaders who have the power. And I know I remember also in your book you have the example of the maintenance workers in a manufacturing plant. They really have all the power, right?
Tiziana: Yeah, absolutely. They control the one thing that everybody needs, which is a working machine. Exactly. You know, if can produce anything and you’re paying me based on production and these machine maintenance folks don’t tell me how to fix the machine, they hoard that knowledge so that we all depend on them. And it’s simple as that, right?
Andrea: So we’ve got power is permanent. No, it’s not. Power is a function of authority and formal status or rank in a hierarchy. No, it’s not. What’s the third fallacy?
Tiziana: The third fallacy is that power is dirty. Power is dirty business. That is predicated on coercion, manipulation, meanness, cunning, all the bad stuff, just like authority. It’s not the case that power is never dirty. It can be right. It often is. And it’s and it’s the the version of power that we pay more attention to because human beings have to be especially attuned to the negative because the negative can kill us. So evolutionarily we respond to negative instances of power use more than the positive. So we had the Lia Grimanis who changes the world for better by helping these homeless women. We don’t even remember that. But we remember all the house of Cards type people that use manipulation, right? To get ahead to achieve their goals. And they step on everybody’s bodies and they don’t care. Yeah. So this is all true. But again, it misses some of the important facets of power that really would would allow us to have the impact that we want because power is nothing but energy. It’s the energy to affect the world around you. And like any form of energy, it can be used for constructing purposes or destructive ones. A hammer is a hammer. I can use it to put a nice picture on the wall in my office. I can use it to smash somebody’s head.
Tiziana: I can use it in all kinds of different ways. It’s still a hammer. So much of the decision when we when we deal with power is not only how we how we’re going to get it, which is very important, but what you can do nothing. You’re paralyzed without it. But once you have acquired it, how are you going to use it? Toward what? And that is more the moral ethical dimension of it. But if you let yourself be caught in this notion that power is devious. And if you engage with it, you’re going to get dirty in the process. You’re going to be dragged down into the mud. Then you’re never going to get to. Really. Make it part of your life and you’re going to lack the essential energy that we all need to accomplish anything. Anything. You want to be promoted. You need power. You want to change this process in your organization that you think makes no sense. You need power. You want to make your neighborhood a little bit more welcoming and safer. You need power. Everything we want to do requires it. So we better learn to take the good and create guardrails so that we don’t fall in the bad quite as easily as one can when it comes to power.
Andrea: Oh, wow. Tiziana, I’m recalling now the first time I told you I listened to the book and then I read the book the first time I was listening to it. I think it was when you described this third fallacy that I was like, I absolutely need to interview Tiziana about this book because I experienced the same thing with my clients with reference to several other terms. In fact, you know, even marketing just starting at a high level, right? People say that say sometimes marketing is manipulative. Manipulative. Well, no, it can be, but it’s not inherently so. Same thing with networking, which I know is very near and dear to your heart and the research that you do. A lot of people feel icky about networking, but networking itself is. I guess, benign. It’s an opportunity, right? And it can be done in ways that that create good or maybe, maybe not. But it’s not networking itself that is negative. And it applies even to personal branding, right? So some some of my clients, they’re like, oh, that feels so manipulative. And I’m like, Well, if you’re telling lies about yourself, maybe. But if you’re creating a narrative that’s already true, that inspires you and communicates to others the truth about yourself, how is that a negative thing? Right? So. Oh, so this I love this third fallacy the most. If I had to choose a fallacy, this is the fallacy that I love to think about. That’s right.
Tiziana: Yeah. You’re speaking. You’re preaching to the choir. Because I feel very strongly that we allow those kinds of perceptions to to be not only determining of our behavior, but. And they prevent us from understanding where those reactions come from. So the example of personal branding is very good because as you said, well, you know, if I am lying about my personal brand, that’s one thing. But if it’s an honest representation of me. That already changes things. And so we found the same logic with networking. So there are two reasons really why people feel icky about networking and people do. Not everybody, of course, is always a nice distribution of responses to any and all of these things. But a lot of people fall in this trap of finding networking. Aversive. One because they think that inauthentic. In that moment. If I go to a networking event. Infamous networking event. Yeah. Which is, by the way, not the only place for your network because you and I are networking as we speak right now. Right. We are reconnecting for this fabulous podcast of yours after not seeing each other for a while. This is an opportunity for us to know what each one of us has been up to. Maybe find territory where we can cooperate, we can find some learning. So there are many opportunities for you to network that are not inauthentic. But when we go to those networking events, we feel pressured to present a certain persona, a certain facade that doesn’t represent us really faithfully. And that’s where we feel the moral contamination of the activity. Anything that is dishonest is morally a little reprehensible, and we feel we know it. And the second reason why people feel that networking is a little yucky is that it tends to be selfish. And, you know, our network. Typically when has my career to enhance my prospects? And you could be networking to make the world a better place. Right. But not everybody does that. Let’s face it, for the most part, it’s a kind of self-focused activity.
Andrea: Yeah. And can I just can I just interject? I have to mention one of my colleagues that I work with a lot. She’s an executive recruiter named Sharon McGinn. She and I have coached many executives to change this paradigm of networking from being a selfish thing that we feel icky about, to feeling like it’s an opportunity to provide value. And once you enter into, you know, the proverbial networking event with a mindset of generosity and adding value, it changes everything. Everything. Yeah.
Tiziana: And that is very much rooted in this reaction that we all have that we feel more morally worthy when we do something that is altruistic. We behave selfishly all the time. Of course we do. But. But our our moral setup as humans gives value to altruistic acts from a moral standpoint. So if you do exactly what you described, the notion that when you focus on giving in networking, how can I be of help to you? How can I make your life easier? How can I help you achieve your goals? How can I contribute to making your professional life better, more successful? More effective? You’ve changed the focus of the activity and relieve the person of this moral weight that comes with it. Likewise, if you focus on networking, something you want to do to learn to grow. That’s what I do when I go to any of these conversations, any of these lunches, any of these conferences. I always aim to meet somebody new that can teach me something I didn’t know. That’s all I really want. And then in the process, I might teach them something they didn’t know. And then it becomes mutually beneficial, mutually enhancing.
Tiziana: And that’s where the best relationships really are, the ones where, you know, we find joy and growth and a sense of possibility in learning from one another and giving each other a little bit of support. Nobody feels guilty about exploiting anyone and nobody feels useless because we all want to feel that we have impact that we had. We meet something. If you want to talk to me, that’s hugely enhancing for me because it means that you find value in the things I have spent time researching and writing. You’re already giving me a valued resource, which is my self-worth. Or in this conversation, is that a bad, nasty networking exploitation? Not at all. It’s a mutually beneficial interaction that can make us both better. And that’s very much the logic. And it comes right back to power, right? Because power is control over acts, over resources that you want. Right. And in this interaction, we both have some things that the other person appreciates, and we’re simply exchanging them in a way that can make us both better. What’s wrong with that? But you have to reframe it in your mind. You doubt it?
Andrea: Yeah. I love this. I love this. So I want to shift gears a little bit into the So what for the talk about talk listeners. Right. So so what what does this mean about what I can and should be communicating in this context of understanding how power and asymmetries of influence and the fact that many of us think power is a dirty negative thing. I think a great place to start at Tiziana might be in terms of power mapping. I find this content, this idea to be fascinating. So.
Tiziana: Yeah, I like this pivot because. You’re right. You’re interested in the power of talk. The power of what you convey with your image, with your words, with your all kind of external signs. And that’s very relevant to power, because power is not only substantive. It’s also perceived. And you, through your talk, your way to present yourself in the world. Are conveying. That you have value. In the eyes of the audience. I may have resources that you desperately want and you cannot get anywhere, but you don’t know it because I have not conveyed the existence of those resources and their importance to you. I have not done enough to understand your needs. At this point in time and telling you a story where I demonstrate that I could satisfy those needs. That’s all about talk. It’s all about how you present yourself. It’s all about how you narrate the story wherein I can be very useful to you. Yeah, I can provide something that you value deeply. So it’s completely intrinsic to to the story because it’s not just substance, it’s also presentation. It’s also perception that drives it.
Andrea: I was going to say some it can be communicated explicitly or directly. And I’m thinking of, you know, some movie scenes where someone says, you know, I have all the power here or, you know, what I could do to you. Right? But it’s perhaps more often communicated implicitly or indirectly. Right. That’s right. That’s right. You reveal your resources. You reveal your influence without being so explicit about it.
Tiziana: Yeah. And power mapping is in part the exercise of understanding who has influence in a in a certain social context. It could be a business, It could be a community, It could be a group in which you work a team and you observe their behavior. The the subtle or not so subtle signals they send out. To understand if they are the ones who are holding the resources that everybody wants around here. Yeah, if they are the ones that people lean on to get access to what is important and that could be knowledge of certain technology, perhaps that becomes particularly critical for the organization to master and acquire and realize that entry is the only one who knows that. And you become instantly influential in that context because we all need you. You just just brings to mind that movie Hidden Figures about the African-American women who worked at computers at NASA. And they were literally doing computational work by hand with pencil and paper. Yeah. Up until the introduction of the computer the IBM made. And that is a good example of understanding the shifts in the landscape where you say, okay, up to this point, the resource that your organization valued was ability to do handwritten computations accurately and with speed. Yeah. Ibm shows up. And he shifted because their ability to compute by hand becomes all of a sudden obsolete. And these women were so attuned with the shift in what what resources become relevant that they could acquire the new technology which was came in this in the form of learning how to program in Fortran. Remember Fortran?
Andrea: Maybe I do too young.
Tiziana: And they decide to navigate the power landscape in NASA toward acquiring that resource that had become relevant. So power mapping is all about monitoring the environment so that you only pick up on who has access to what’s valued right now. But you’re also able to predict what will become variable. And then you position yourself accordingly so that you don’t lose relevance in that context. This is something that goes back to the fallacy that power is intrinsic to a person, but it is not because the moment IBM shows up with a new technology and you are stuck in your old capability, you become irrelevant very quickly. Right? So we need to be in tune with that and sometimes in power mapping the talk. How people express themselves conveys signals as to their power, their relevance. They may actually sometimes not be substantiated by actual resources that they have control over. It could be all talk and no action, but at least for some time, it can lead people to think, Oh my God, you know, really that guy I really need to cultivate because he’s so critical to what we do. Look at, look at the look at the way they walk around. But so it can be pure, pure appearance. But it may take a while for people to scratch under the surface and understand it. And so it can carry you for a while, even without something very substantive. Of course, in the long run, substance matters and it shows up. But power mapping includes also this perception that people are able to construct around them.
Andrea: Right. Okay. So I want to I want to get into the perception and you said the word signaling love that word. I use that word a lot in my dissertation signaling. But before we do that, I just want to summarize. So in my mind, before I read your book, if I was thinking about power mapping in the context of power and social network analysis, I would be thinking of a physical network that I would draw on a sheet of paper where I have all these individuals and I’m drawing lines with arrows of who has influence over who. And the big thing here that I’m getting is that it’s it may be that, but it’s in a specific context. And so if you’re really going to use this tool of power mapping effectively or optimally, you’re going to think about what the current context is and what might change.
Tiziana: Absolutely. And that the instability and the constant dynamics of where we are are part of our mapping. This is not a geographical map that, you know, pretty much the mountain is there. And yeah, unless something really major happens, the mountains are going to be there in 100 years and social maps are extremely variable, right? So we have to stay with it. And that’s why the two skills of our mapping are dynamic by definition. They are observation, literally looking around, even in this moment, you and can infer some things from the background of our calls.
Andrea: Of course you’re speaking my language, right? Yeah.
Tiziana: Already you’re conveying something and then inquiry, asking questions. Sometimes something you cannot observe. You’re not in the car, don’t get to be in your room. They’re seeing what what you have in your office, the signals, your interests, the people you love. I don’t have that. So I have to ask questions. I have to ask around. Say, what’s up with Andrea? Why is she been. I don’t know, a little bit distant lately, and people might give me insight into what goes on in your life. So that would. Oh, okay. She really needs this right now. Can I provide it? Okay. Connect with people who can help and all of a sudden become relevant to you. Not because I knew it from the start, but because I observed the environment enough and asked enough questions to understand you. And understanding you is the first step toward influence, because it allows me to identify what you have at heart in this moment. And how can be relevant to you in achieving the things that matter to you? Yeah, of course it has a dark side too, because could also find out the things you’re scared about, right? The things that elicit vulnerabilities and then can and can really stick the knife into that wound and use it to make you do things.
Tiziana: Or I can use it to claim that I can protect you from these threats. And that will also be valuable. Right. But it’s the it’s the the dark side of how you deploy your power. And I want to acknowledge it because, yeah, the last thing you want to do when you present power as is more kind of neutral energy is to lead people to think that you are in some La-La Land of optimism where power is so wonderful and let’s all enjoy it, because we understand very well that power always has this double edged nature. Yeah, we do have to look out for it, right? But yes, the signaling is essential for my navigating who’s who, who wants what. Who is capable of providing valued resources, not because they say they can, but because they actually can. Yes. And you can scratch underneath this. This is appearance. We have politicians. They do this masterfully. They come out and they tell us, oh, only I can protect you.
Andrea: Because. And permanent power.
Tiziana: That’s right. That’s right. And exactly. And so the power education we all need is is the one that allows us to see through some of those signals, some of those words. So there you go. Well, you know, you say that. Yeah, but truly, Yeah. Can you do these things for for us? And can you even understand what the needs are? Uh, sometimes it’s enough to just understand what you want and can speak the right words to you. They make you feel that you will look out for me.
Andrea: Wow. So. So, Tiziana, your your whole spiel there just really reinforced to me that this third fallacy really is the one. And you guess it sounds like you agree. It really is the one that people can get a lot of traction in. If we think about our perception of the word power and challenge ourself with it. And I have to say, I also certainly appreciate the responsibility that you’ve taken. Right. And you’re saying as someone who’s writing about it, I’m not in La la land. And it reminds me of Robert Cialdini’s work with his Influence book. He talks a lot about how influence itself is a benign thing, right? And even as Everett Rogers, the the author of Diffusion of Innovations, he also talks about.
Andrea: Oh, right, right, right, right, right. Absolutely. Yeah. No, that’s right.
Tiziana: And all of these all of these forces are forces. Yeah. That can be directed in whatever way. Yeah. Fit. And that’s where the moral reasoning that we are called to, to really elaborate on becomes essential because otherwise you see what we do see. Yeah, world is full of people that misuse and abuse power.
Andrea: Yeah. So I just want to say I appreciate how this book is educating us on really understanding the power, not just how we can use it, but how we can see how others are using it. Sometimes in a way that’s not moral. If you want to use it, use that term. So I just want to get back to a couple of of the signals or ways that we’re communicating power. I know in the book you talked about power. People have initiative. They take action and they’re more persistent. Can you elaborate on that a little bit in terms of communicating power?
Tiziana: Yeah, it has to do with. The infamous confidence that matters so much. Uh, to give people the. Yeah, the agentic sense of possibility that you can take action that have only the ability, but also the legitimacy to take action. And when you are always surrounded by signals that you are not. In the right group. In the right position. You’re not the right person to do something. It becomes very difficult to to have enough confidence to say, no, no, I am I can. And that the narratives we construct all the time, they make it more difficult for some people to move and try and take the initiative are very powerful. These are much bigger than just the individual or even the interaction that the the relationship. They’re out there. They’re very macro. They impose a certain view of what a woman can do. What a person of color can do. What a person with a disability can do. And the constraint or expand. Our sense of what we are able to do in this world. Are we legitimate people in pursuing a certain goal or are people going to say, are you crazy? Calm down, It’s not for you. People like you don’t do those things. Now we are we are living a society where, thankfully, most people. Feel that there can at least try certain things. But we have to go very far for a world where you and I would never, ever, ever, ever be doing this podcast.
Tiziana: You we certainly would not be doing it. Showing our entire, uh, you know, wild hair, whatever. Yours is not wild. Mine is. And it doesn’t take much change to completely destroy the sense of possibility for different people. So if I’m subjected to that kind of feeling all the time, confidence that I can take action is put under pressure. And then, you know, it’s very difficult to find that initiative. And then you have to really. Dig deep and sometimes be lucky and sometimes encounter people that that give you the sense of confidence again. And and that’s why influence can be so beautiful. Imagine you are down in the throes of depression and the sense that there’s nothing for you to look forward to and somebody comes along. And injects a sense of possibility in you. That’s influence. Right. They have influenced you, but boy, is there a better form of influence. Don’t think so. And it’s all part of the same logic, but it can have magnificent effects on people. And it speaks to this idea that you need to be corroborated. By your census self, your capabilities, by the signals that the world is sending you. That is, say, of course, a woman can be in this occupation. Of the person of colour can achieve this level of prestige. But you need the signals to construct a story where you can be that. That’s why when Barack Obama. And give a speech of the. Yes we can. It was all a boost of the sense of possibility, the sense of capability that people sometimes forget they have. Sometimes it has to be a collective sense because the reality you’re trying to intervene on is just too daunting for a person individually to have effect. You have to join forces with others to do something.
Andrea: But that is where.
Tiziana: Confidence and the sense of yes can has to come from.
Andrea: Got it. So before we get to the five rapid fire questions, I just want to finish up with two specific questions related to communication. One is about words or phrases maybe that we can use that will communicate how or maybe help us diagnose power in others. And then the other is with body language. So. So let’s start with words or phrases. Are there things that people say verbally that communicate power?
Andrea: Um, you know, this.
Tiziana: Is really complex territory because, again, much depends on the context. I’ll give you an example. I’ll give an example. When it comes to words and even body language, one of the things that we hear is that. A deeper pitch in voice.
Andrea: Um. Voluble, voluble, projected speech so.
Tiziana: That you are clear, you’re you’re loud enough that people can hear you. You take the initiative to speak up, to convey that you have a point of view, that you have the confidence and the ability to express it. All of that feeds the perception that you’re powerful. And then you have contextual features that change that. And always think about the great Meryl Streep. When she was playing Miranda Priestly, I think was the name of the character in The Devil Wears Prada. Yeah. She had noticed.
Andrea: The people with power.
Tiziana: Tend to speak softly.
Andrea: But it is your job.
Andrea: Listen to me. Not mine.
Andrea: Maybe you. So and so.
Tiziana: She plays. She plays Miranda that way through the movie. Yeah. So what are we to take away from the laws to convey power? Well, it depends on the circumstances and what you do. So, yeah, if am middle of the road trying to to to to show that I’ve got it, I may need to speak loudly enough. Confidently enough, slowly enough to show that I have it. But it much depends on how you perceive. So, for example. And this whole notion of. Conveying disappointment and anger. Does it make you look powerful or not?
Andrea: It depends.
Tiziana: Right. And in this particular case, gender is a huge determinant of the effects of conveying anger. On the perception that you’re powerful if you’re a man. A conveying that you are very disappointed. And really irritated and angry about the situation may convey that you have the standing.
Andrea: So basically yell at us.
Tiziana: And put us in our place. If you’re a woman in most circumstances. What happens is that you’re seen as hysterical if you convey anger. That you’re too emotional, that you can’t control those those reactions, and you have to calm down. And there are spectacular examples. I’m gonna send you a picture that you can put in the episode notes of the difference in the way the men and women have in expressing anger as a way to convey a powerful position. So you have to be very careful about interpreting those signals. You know about those better than I do. So I’ll leave it to you and your podcast to educate readers and listeners. What I want to underscore is that the context again matters a lot and it’s the interaction of the person that characteristics and that environment that makes a signal more or less effective. That’s why it’s not straightforward to say, Oh, speak more loudly or deepen your voice. It depends. If you are in Japan and you’re a woman and you deepen your voice like that, you look weird. Yeah. So you have you have to be very careful about how the signal is interpreted in that locale.
Andrea: Got it. So it depends. I was going to say it depends on the context. But you’re saying it also depends on the person, him or herself, right? Yes, ma’am. Absolutely. Okay. Last question. Last question before the five rapid fire questions, I’m really curious what you think about power posing.
Andrea: Oh, okay. Um.
Tiziana: You remind me of some great conversation with Amy Cuddy, a young assistant professors way back in the day. Um, so. This is research that again, needs to be interpreted in the nuances. You cannot you cannot make a sweeping thing. And so there are two components of it that I think have different implications for what we make of our poses. One is how I feel when I do a power pose. The other one is how I’m perceived by others after I’ve done the PowerPoints. And those is where I think that there’s some confusion. And my understanding of the research is that when I do the power pose, I do enhance my sense of possibility. Confidence. If I take up space and go like, Yeah, well, what, what?
Tiziana: Uh, I am enlarging my presence, I’m using space and I’m feeling that I’ve got it. Will you, as my interviewer, perceive me as more powerful? That is less clear. In fact, the results are wobbly enough. That wouldn’t necessarily count on it. But when it comes to enhancing my sense of power, which by the way, has enormous consequences for my behavior, I could be stupid and powerless, but if I think I’m powerful, I will behave differently. That could be helpful to me, at least in the short term. So it matters to feel powerful. Otherwise I’m not going to do anything because I don’t think I’m entitled to. I don’t think I can. It’s very important.
Andrea: So let’s listen to.
Tiziana: That side of the research without, you know, discarding the whole idea, because I think it’s it really does a disservice to how you can help yourself by enhancing your confidence in that moment.
Andrea: Yeah. So usually when I’m coaching people and specifically these are folks that have, you know, issues with confidence and maybe imposter syndrome. So we do talk about power posing and in the context of self-awareness, right, where there’s internal self-awareness and external self-awareness. So internally you want to be aware of what your what your body is doing because you’re sending signals up to your brain. If you’re acting confident, you’ll think you’re confident in a good way, as you said, but also external self-awareness. How are other people perceiving you? So maybe you want to do the power pose, as you said, in the bathroom before you go into the room, as opposed to in the room when you’re, you know, having an interview or an important meeting or a presentation, right?
Tiziana: That’s right. And all of those kind of, um, ways of presence.
Andrea: You know, have shown some impact.
Tiziana: The what we where they it does, it does change,Attire makes you more confident.
Tiziana: That’s why, you know, when we have these big presentations, we, we wear certain things because it gave us a bit of an armor, a bit, a bit of a uniform of of status. It’s a signal that does have repercussions for our actions, how we speak, the impact we have on on others. So we should not discount those presence things that Amy and others talk about. Yeah, although we have to be careful, of course, about the nature of the scientific results because we don’t want to sway people based on evidence that is just too weak or too wobbly to be counted on. But the body of work has a lot of stuff that we can draw from.
Andrea: Yeah, yeah, I agree. Okay, Ready for the five rapid fire questions?
Andrea: Guess so.
Tiziana: I don’t remember what they are, so you’re gonna have to remind me.
Andrea: Okay. Question number one, What are your pet peeves?
Tiziana: Oh, God. Lateness. Lateness is a bit of a problem for me. Um, so when I am late, I hate myself. I find it not very thoughtful of others, but my biggest pet peeve.
Andrea: Biggest of them all.
Tiziana: Is the changes of behavior upward and downward that some people have. That is a signal of weak character and mean intention in my book. So if I observe somebody, behave very, very pleasantly upward and very unpleasantly downward, those people are not in favor.
Andrea: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Tiziana: So very quickly, when when see that.
Andrea: There’s a saying about having your hand up but then kicking down. Oh, yeah, it’s. Yes, ma’am. Absolutely disgusting. Disgusting. This isn’t very rapid anymore. But with regards to your your, um, dislike for tardiness or lack of punctuality, I read this on LinkedIn a couple of years ago, and I thought it was brilliant. It was, you know, a quote box, and it said, No, you’re not sorry, you’re late, you’re disrespectful and you’re rude.
Andrea: This. This is when saying, oh, sorry.
Tiziana: Rubs people the wrong way. Because if you had been really sorry sometimes there are, of course, reasons. Yeah. Compelling reasons. But yeah, it’s a sign that you’re paying attention to the other.
Andrea: That Exactly.
Tiziana: It’s and in a sense of power as this mutually enhancing proposition that we could get so much out of. Contract is just one sign that you didn’t pay attention enough.
Andrea: Absolutely. Well put. Okay. Question number two, what type of learner are you?
Andrea: Uh. Okay.
Tiziana: Um. Oh, Not kinesthetic. Oh, don’t think so. Um, visual and auditory, probably. Yes. Are the two. Remember the things I see and hear? Okay.
Andrea: Introvert or extrovert?
Tiziana: Off the Charts. Extrovert.
Andrea: I thought so.
Andrea: You? Me too. You and. You figured.
Andrea: Question number four Communication preference for personal conversation. So what? What media platform or type of type of communication do you use?
Tiziana: Yeah, I’m an email addict. Um, do much, much worse with the calls. Unless they’re video calls. Okay. The video call makes it feel like it’s a social. Like is it like it’s a party? Because see, all of you, I see you smiling, and that puts me in the right state of mind. The phone call is just. Just too, too dry to be appealing.
Andrea: Uh, okay. Last question. Is there a podcast that you recommend the most lately?
Andrea: Oh, man. Okay. Um.
Tiziana: Oh, Can I mention three? Sure.
Andrea: Three. Make it quick.
Tiziana: Power three. Exactly. I mentioned the ones that currently I’m listening to the most, but they shifts over time. Yeah. One is maybe a little obvious is the Ezra Klein New York Times podcast only because the range of.
Tiziana: We go from politics to science to poetry, and that that variety appeals and it typically handled in interesting ways. Yeah. And listen to science versus. Which is a science podcast that debunks or explores different phenomena. It could be medical, scientific, whatever, and and draws on the science on the subject to make a determination. Science versus hearsay versus, uh, all kinds of misconceptions. And they clear them for you and they do a very beautiful and humorously, and I appreciate that.
Andrea: That’s a new one for me.
Tiziana: Yeah, no, I highly recommend it. It’s wonderful. You always learn something, and it’s based on actual scientific exploration and research papers. And, you know, as a PhD, you you appreciate that kind of evidence particularly. Yeah. And the third one is, uh, Sound Up Governance, which is a podcast by my friend and former colleague Matt Fulbrook, who is became an expert in governance. Um, you know, is a is a eclectic man with all kinds of interests, including a very good bass player.
Tiziana: Learned a ton about how to govern a business enterprise. Finally corporate, you name it. And it has this podcast that even though I’m not a governance person, that’s not my field, it’s not what I do. But anytime you are leading anything. Automatically. You have to learn how to govern the interests of multiple stakeholders. And I’m finding this podcast. Always offering some insight that I hadn’t thought about. And and he’s also entertaining because, you know, he throws in a little bit of music in it. Uh, being a musician and it makes it a topic that could be very dry and profoundly boring. Uh, much more appealing and revealing of how we run our organizations.
Andrea: Okay, awesome. I’m going to put links to all three of those podcasts in the show notes. Please. Is there anything else you want to add about power or about power for all before we know?
Tiziana: No. The book itself and will only say that it’s a book meant for two very different kinds of people. The people that have struggled with their relationship with power found it frustrating or a bit unnerving and want to to relate to it in more kind of constructive ways. And it is a book for people who do have power. Who may need a reminder. Or what it means to do to do good work with it, to use it well, and to become happy with how you have deployed it in your life to a constructive goals. So it really speaks to these very different kinds of people that that have both embraced it almost too much. For those who have studied too much and they need to really relate to it. So hope everybody finds a bit of insight in it.
Andrea: I. I definitely did. And I’m sure that the listeners will as well. Thank you so much for well, for writing the book and also for spending your time here with us. Thank you so much.
Tiziana: Tiziana Thank you, Andrea, for having me. It was such a pleasure to chat with you again.
Isn’t Tiziana great?
I hope you’ll read the book and enjoy it as much as I did. But in the meantime, if there are three things that I hope you can take from this book. It’s the three fallacies. I think if you understand these three fallacies and start to recognize them in your conversations, in interactions. Both personally and professionally. You’ll have a leg up in terms of understanding interpersonal dynamics with regards to power.
The first fallacy is Power is permanent. No, it’s not. Power is not a permanent possession or trait. Rather, true power is always relative to the context or the person in front of you. We tend to attribute power to people. In fact, we should attribute power to context. Have you ever noticed how Forbes most powerful list changes every year? EXACTLY.
The 2nd is that Power is a function of authority or rank in a hierarchy. No it’s not.
There are many many exceptions to this. Consider the manufacturing plant where maintenance wkrs have the power. Or think about the opinion leaders in your organization who don’t have formal authority, they don’t have formal rank. But they have tons of influence.
And the last fallacy is that Power is dirty. Wielding power is a dirty endeavor, involving coercion or manipulation. No it’s not. Simply put, power is not intrinsically good or bad. Rather it’s what we do with it that can be good or bad. Kind of like networking, and some other charged terms. Networking itself is not bad. Power is not bad. It’s what we do with power that can be good or bad. And ye,s power can certainly be used for good.
This is one of my favorite points in this book. It’s an optimistic and inspiring way to think about power. And a reminder that Power is everyone’s business.
There’s certainly a lot more to this book than the three fallacies that I just summarized here. I really hope you’ll read this book or listen to it. You can find links to. The audio and print versions of this book in the show notes.
Thanks again to Professor Tiziana Casciaro for sharing her insight with all of us. It was so nice to reconnect.
That’s it for this episode! If you ever have any questions or suggestions for me, I LOVE hearing from you! There are multiple ways you can connect with me. Everythings on the talkabouttalk.com website so that’s probably the best place to start. From there you can send me a message, connect with me on LinkedIn, and even leave me an audio recording. Like I said, I’d love to hear from you – bring it on.
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