By Charles Alvarez , Contributor, the Price of Business Show.
The more power and influence you have inside and outside of your organization, the more opportunities you will have, and the more successful you will be. The development of power and influence is an important personal strategy for you throughout your career.
Power in its simplest terms is the ability to influence, control, and direct the deployment of people and resources. A military commander can order large numbers of people to take specific actions, even sending them to their deaths. The leader of a large organization can tell large numbers of people what they must do to achieve the goals of the business. Political leaders, especially those who sit on Senate or Congressional committees, have the ability to direct and deploy huge financial resources. In each case, this gives these people extraordinary power.
People who have power over us have the ability to help us or to hurt us. We greatly respect, and even fear, people who can help us achieve our goals or hinder us in some way. We are inordinately influenced by those who we feel can have inordinate influence over us. One of your goals should be to develop this kind of power in your work.
When you start at your first job, you have little or no power at all. Your aim is to acquire some sort of power as quickly as possible. Your job is to become valuable, and then indispensable. Fortunately there are tried and proven ways to do this.
The first power that you can develop is called “expert power.” This power comes from your ability to do your job in an excellent fashion. The better you are at doing a job that is important to your company, the more power and influence accrue to you. The more impact you can have on the sales or cash flow of a business, the more power and influence you have within that organization.
A study was conducted recently on the relative power and influence of managers and supervisors in a large brewery. Because of the nature of beer marketing, market share grows or declines very slowly. Therefore, the key to cash flow in a brewery is regular, predictable, consistent production and delivery of the product to the various commercial and retail outlets. Any interruption in the flow of the product immediately causes beer consumers to buy another brand. The revenues from those lost cannot be recouped, and sometimes the customer can be lost permanently. The continuous production of the beer is therefore the key to cash flow and company survival.
Therefore, it was not the president, vice president, controller, vice president of marketing, or anyone else who had the most power within a brewery operation. It turned out to be the chief engineer, the man in charge of the machinery and equipment, the continuous production process. The chief engineer was the person who ultimately determined if the brewery would remain in continuous operation. As a result, he was the most powerful person in the company and had the greatest influence in management circles.
Look at your own business. Who is the most indispensable single person in terms of continuous cash flow? How important are you to continuous cash flow? If you were to leave for a month, what would happen to the fortunes of your business?
The people with the greatest power and influence are those whose departure would cause the greatest immediate disruption in sales and cash flow. One of the ways that you develop greater power in your organization is by working your way into a position where you are vital to the revenues of the business.
If you are already in such a position, how can you increase your influence over those revenues? If you are not, how could you make yourself indispensable to continuing operations?
Remember the story of the salesman who accounted for fully 40 percent of the sales revenue of the company. In actuality, he was more important than the president or the vice president because of his “expert power.”
The second form of power that you need to develop on your way up is called “referent power” or “ascribed power.” This refers to the power and influence that you develop because of your personality. When you are optimistic, cheerful, and well-liked by your boss and co-workers, they will support you and want you to have a more prominent position in the organization.
People are promoted most rapidly when the people above them, below them, and on both sides of them want them to be promoted. The more people like you, the more they will go out of their way to help you and cooperate with you to make you more successful in your company.
You develop ascribed power by continually looking for ways to help other people to do their jobs. You volunteer for assignments, and you step forward when someone needs something done. You go out of your way to do little things for other people, even when they cannot help you, or when there are no direct rewards. Every day, you practice the Dale Carnegie rule: “Make friends and influence people.” By the Law of Sowing and Reaping, the more you put in, the more you will eventually get out. People around you will help far more than they would help someone who does not make the extra effort.
The third form of power that you eventually attract is called “position power.” This power accrues to a position or title. It gives you the right to reward and punish, to give instructions to other people, to spend money, and to allocate other resources. Position power is the highest form of power. A new person, brought in from the outside and given an important title, immediately assumes all the power and influence that goes along with that title. One of your career goals is to achieve the highest and most influential position that is possible for you.
Each of these forms of power occurs in sequence. As you develop a reputation for doing a great job, the important people around you will want to see you given more responsibilities and opportunities. You will be paid more and promoted faster. When you treat other people well, they will want to help you to be more successful. Soon you will be give position power and the rewards that go along with it.
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