Exercising personal power

Let’s start the year with a good feeling about ourselves, and bring out our personal power.
There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years on empowerment. But just how does an employee at any level develop personal power?


Empowerment literally means becoming more powerful. When you have power, you are able to influence others to do certain things, persuade them that you have a good idea, gain co-operation, and ultimately achieve results.


There are five main ways to develop power and influence over people. The first one is the most traditionally used. And often we get caught out when it is used on us!


Using position power


A manager, CEO or key stakeholder uses their position and says: “I’m the boss and I’m telling you to do it!” This approach is not very useful in today’s organisations, yet there are still so many people using that kind of power – spoken, in body language and more often by email.


Usually, people find they have to influence or persuade someone to do something without a senior position – so they can’t use position power!


Using knowledge and experience


Using knowledge and experience is one of the BEST ways of exerting your power. This can be knowledge and experience gained at a previous job, or through research or travel or even reading papers.


This kind of experience can be used effectively to persuade and influence, especially when it is communicated calmly, factually and without arrogance. For example pointing out errors that might result from certain actions – something you have seen in a previous situation… or suggesting a path or action that will be more cost effective.


Of course this will work best in an organisation that has an open culture – and this is very much needed in today’s climate.


Using knowledge and experience is a very powerful way to influence people. But it’s interesting that people with years of experience often don’t use it to influence others. They feel they have no say, no power. They don’t and won’t speak up. It often goes on in their heads. They are sometimes afraid they might say the wrong thing, or upset someone.


Using reward and recognition

Money and rewards of financial value are a common way to influence someone – pay them more, pay them a bonus or some kind of incentive or share.


But as we all know money is not just less available right now, it is not the only type of reward. There are psychological rewards like giving recognition, or giving someone an interesting challenge.


Offering someone some incentive or reward is a powerful way to influence them. “Do this and you’ll get that.” Often, though, people don’t realise the range of rewards they have to offer. They say, “I have nothing to offer”.


Now, they may not have money, but they can offer psychological rewards. Everyone can offer recognition or praise, or a challenge. People can be moved to put in a lot more effort by thanking them, asking them their opinions, offering a project or even involvement. This is all recognition.


Using penalty


The opposite of offering a reward, is threatening a penalty and sometimes this is the only way to exercise power to influence behaviour. And in two specific types of situations this is very appropriate; safety issues and harassment situations.


“I don’t want to do this but if you don’t leave me alone and stop harassing me, I’m going to report you to management. So please, please stop immediately or next stop is HR.”


Threatening a penalty or punishment is a pretty negative way to influence a person’s behaviour, but sometimes it’s the most effective way. It’s the way the police, for example, keep us below the speed limit. If we don’t, we get a penalty, a fine. So this way of exercising personal power does work!


Using inspiration


Using inspiration is a hard skill to define. It’s about conveying a vision with enthusiasm. It’s about taking the initiative and suggesting a course of action, setting a powerful personal example, and making it fun and/or powerful and motivating for others to follow.


When people speak with enthusiasm, paint a big picture and inspire others, they often want to follow. This isn’t necessarily a “public speaking” position. It can be from someone in a non-leadership role… someone who has a great idea and can inspire others to listen and follow – for good reason.


Maybe they outline three very good reasons for making a certain change. “There are several reasons I really want you to consider this move. Now the first one is that it will be fun to….”


The real art of exercising personal power is to use a combination of techniques – two or three – according to the situation.


Today’s workplace requires people to exercise personal power more and more. And this means being able to influence others at all levels to complete tasks, change behaviours, alter their points of view. Make sure you equip yourself with all these techniques so that you can become truly empowered!



Click here to see the video Excercising Personal Power



By Eve Ash, psychologist and Managing Director, Seven Dimensions, author of Rewrite Your Life! and co-producer with Peter Quarry of the Ash.Quarry production – Excercising Personal Power from the COMMUNICATION ESSENTIALS series (www.7dimensions.com.au)


Click here for more Eve Ash blogs




Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.