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Now I have another question for you. What do you think of when you hear the word “POWER”?
Certainly, power can be a bad thing. But then there’s also:
Perhaps POWER is not inherently bad or good. Rather, it is what you do with it.
3 things to Talk About this week:
1. 3 Fallacies of Power
2. Power Mapping
3. Recommended Reading: “Your Most Ambivalent Relationships Are Your Most Toxic”
1️⃣ 3 Fallacies of Power
One of the most productive things I learned from my conversation with Dr. Tiziana Casciaro, is that in order to effectively understand the interpersonal power dynamics at play in our professional and personal relationships, we need to be aware of 3 common fallacies of power.
Fallacy #1: Power is Permanent
Have you ever noticed that the Forbes “Most Powerful” list changes every year? This is because power is relative to context. We often attribute power to people when we should really attribute power to context. Power is not fixed or permanent.
Fallacy #2: Power is a Function of Authority
You might assume that the most powerful person in the room is always the one at the top of the formal hierarchy. This isn’t always the case. For example, think of maintenance workers, without whom a manufacturing plant could not run. Or think of a middle manager in your organization who is a well-liked opinion leader. Formal authority or rank is not always a necessary ingredient for power.
Fallacy #3: Power is Dirty
This is one of my favourite points in the book. Many of us associate power with manipulation or coercion. However, power is not inherently good or bad. It all depends on how we use it, and it can definitely be used for good!
2️⃣ Power Mapping
If we accept that power is not concentrated in authority figures and that it depends on context, how can we figure out who holds the power and influence in a given situation?
According to Tiziana, we can learn this through an exercise known as power mapping.
Power mapping involves interpreting the signals of various players to determine who has the resources and influence:
- Context is key here. What is the social context? Is it a defined project team? An organization? Remember fallacy #1 above: power is not permanent because context changes. Considering how this context will change can keep you one step ahead.
- These power signals may be communicated directly through words (“We have the funds to cover this initiative, but I’m not sure it’s worth the cost.”) or it could be indirectly through behavior (e.g. making oneself available).
- Power in terms of resources and influence is then ranked or mapped relative to others in that context.
Here’s the key question to ask yourself when you’re power-mapping:
and how might this change
as the context changes?”
3️⃣ Recommended Reading: “Your Most Ambivalent Relationships Are Your Most Toxic”
I read this new article by Adam Grant a few weeks ago and I immediately thought you might enjoy it too.
Here’s the upshot: All of our relationships exist on a spectrum from positive to negative, and it may surprise you to learn that our most toxic relationships aren’t those that are purely negative. As Adam Grant so deftly explains in this New York Times article, it’s our relationships with the people for whom we have ambivalent feelings – our frenemies – that are the most toxic.
I had a very strong reaction to this article – I could feel my blood pressure elevating as I read it – and I was pleased to share this recommendation for Pocket’s May 2023 collection of “What Writers & Editors are Reading.”
I hope you’ll find this article as thought-provoking as I did.
Executive Communication Coach
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