January 21, 2018

Knowing your own power

Two senior managers in conversationIt’s surprising, in a way, how little we know of our own power—our power to impact on other people.

We tend not to realise just how impactful we can be. We say things with full force when actually something more measured would meet less resistance, cause less hurt, and serve us better. This is especially true if we have formal authority as well as personal power. We’ll get a better outcome if we deliberately turn it down a bit.

Other times…

We have less power than we think we have. We don’t get the results we expect. Our power turns out not to be what we thought it was. In this case, we do well to moderate our actions to match the level of power we actually have.

Then our power will grow with our success.

Accurately gauging our personal power can make the difference between being effective and being irrelevant.


We may flinch from the sight of our own power, but it’s there whether we accept it or not—better to embrace it and use it for good rather than deny it, and so diminish our own contribution.

Do you know your own power—its nature and its strength?

Worth getting to understand it well. Then you can use it for the best.

Love in the language of cricket and Australia

Philip Hughes, Australian cricketerIn what’s been said about the tragic death of Australian cricketer, Philip Hughes, the word “love” is prominent. Captain Michael Clarke, for example, wrote “I will love you forever” and many others referred to caring in the same way, both about the man and their support for the family. See for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/30221766.

Clearly, Philip Hughes engendered a strong affection, and the bonds of the community run deep.


The Australian willingness to call the sentiment what it is is noticeable—noticeable because it seems different; different from other countries.

And that’s a strength.

I’ll remember, and perhaps you will too.

If other people lean on us…

Man thinking… our first thought might be to push back.

If someone treats us as a resource to be drawn upon; as someone they can “unload” with; as a person who will always have resilience for them, it can be a load to carry, of course, but it’s also a compliment.

It means they see us as strong.

So we might decide just to accept it. We can choose to channel their belief into our own strength—our own belief in ourselves.

What’s your response to this situation?


Who do you lean on? That’s worth thinking about too.

Leaning on yourself could be an answer.

Is our instinctive, defensive response to competition the right one?

When the going gets tough, when markets contract, when budgets decline, when promotion is rare, our instinctive response is to retreat and defend what we have. Parts of our brain that kept us alive in a more dangerous world respond vigorously to the threats we perceive. They compel us to withdraw from any circumstance where we could be vulnerable, such as a situation where we share our knowledge and resources in collaborating with another.

This response to threat can be so strong it’s barely a conscious process at all. The strength of our defensive reaction leaves us with a certainty that it’s unquestionably the right one.

But is it? Does our hasty retreat from collaboration serve us?

Perhaps the most effective response to scarcity and threat is the exact opposite, to collaborate, to share what we have, to form new teams, to focus on our strengths, and allow others to do on our behalf what they do best, even though that requires sacrifice. Then the whole may succeed on the bigger stage and our individual outcome may be better than if we’d acted alone.

Suppose it does serve us to collaborate: How do we make this happen? How do we take our people along with us?

One key is articulating a compelling future so that the long term gain seems worth the short term pain.

We need high levels of integrity and to seek that quality in others. To be trusted and so involved in the best opportunities, we need to be seen as a mature and honest collaborator.

We need the skills to work intelligently with the interests and values of all and balance these to optimise the whole for the ultimate gain of all.

Are our defensive responses to increased competition with colleagues, other departments, other organizations, other countries, the responses that should guide us? Or are we better to resist our primitive instincts and collaborate rather than defend? And if so, how?

How do you respond to competition?

“Flexibility and weakness are completely different” – Aung San Suu Kyi

“A steel wire is strong because it is flexible; a glass rod is rigid but may shatter.” Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised alternately for being too flexible and too rigid, but her continuing appeal and influence suggests she has the balance right.

She has not achieved her objective, you may protest. What is her objective though? If it is peaceful change without bloodshed and saving the people of Burma from great violence, perhaps she is succeeding. Meanwhile, note the Burmese general’s fear in the face of a slight 65-year old woman of integrity.