Empower Yourself with the Truth: Step Two = Choose to Assert Your Own Powers

Last week, I began a series of posts on Part 3 of Geoffrey M. Bellman’s book, Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge.  The first post dealt with how to determine the current reality in our organization at four levels – knowing, understanding, respecting, and accepting.

Today, in a review of Chapter 6 of Bellman’s book, we look at how to empower ourselves to enable change in an organization.

1. Choose to Empower Yourself

One of the lines in Bellman’s Chapter 6 that struck home with me on this re-reading was

“How can a professional who regularly whines ‘I’m not in charge’ be effective?”

Think about that – someone who talks about not being in charge, who regularly says “’they’ won’t let me do something,” is someone who is giving away power. As Bellman asserts repeatedly in his book, there are always times when we are not in charge. It’s what we do in those situations that determines our effectiveness.

Bellman distinguishes between people who say “they won’t let me” from those who say “I am not going to do something, because it is someone else’s role.”  The first is a statement of blame and powerlessness, and the second is a statement of choice and power. The second person is assuming the responsibility for clarifying roles.

Do you choose where to play in your organization, or do you let others make the decisions for you?

And a corollary: Do you believe that at least a part of the answer to any problem lies within you?

2. Understand and Exercise All Your Powers

Even when our roles are narrowly defined, we have more choices and power than we think. First, we need to be very clear on what others think our role is, using the same techniques described last week – knowing, understanding, respecting, and accepting. Then, we have to think about our own beliefs about our role and what we can do.

According to Bellman, all of us have powers beyond what is set out in our job description. This section describes the powers Bellman lists, but I’m adding my perspective.

  • The first power Bellman describes is our perspective – no one else sees the organization exactly how we do. We should be bold (though courteous) in offering our perspective.  Making our voice part of the organization’s analysis of a problem is how we exercise this power.
  • We have options. Each of us chooses daily whether to go to work or to build our business or to engage in any of the activities we undertake each day. We can always opt out. If we don’t, then we owe the organization the best we have in us.
  • We have discretion to shape our job where it is ambiguous (and most jobs have some ambiguity). Where your job isn’t clearly defined, take the responsibility to define it yourself, to expand or narrow the scope in the manner you think best. Someone may push back, but at least you have started the process of clarifying your role and exercised your power in that way.
  • We sometimes have a long-term timeframe. In the chaos of daily problem-solving, it is often difficult to see the long term. Take the time to step back. Where do you want to be in five years? Where do you want your organization to be?

3. Assert Your Power

A woman I barely knew stopped me in the hall one day and told me I was a powerful woman. It was a day when I wasn’t feeling particularly powerful, and her words really struck me. I’ve questioned myself often about what she meant by that statement. I had a higher ranked position that she did, but I didn’t think that’s why she made the comment.

I think she recognized that I attempted to use my position to make myself visible on issues that mattered to me in the workplace: on work/life and scheduling flexibility for employees whenever possible; on the importance of building a diverse workforce to maximize the talent in the organization; on good management with a focus on employee engagement.

Taking on these issues wasn’t always easy, particularly for a regimented and introverted personality like mine.

But sometimes, asserting your power only requires showing up, showing that you care.

Where do you assert your power in your organization? Where could you assert more power?


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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Work/Life, Workplace

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