What is power?
Looking at the standard definition we see this: “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events“. However, the word, “power” often triggers negative emotions of a person or process leveraging against us. Negative power words surround us.
This said I find “power” an interesting concept when it comes to working within organizations. Often L&D people sit in their spaces wishing they had the power to influence change. I’ll tell you all this – power is not just as it is seen on an organizational chart! Just because someone is listed higher on an org chart than you, doesn’t mean they “leverage” more power. Just ask any administrative assistant who has the ear of the boss. They have power and they know how to leverage it.
What does this mean for you?
I hear many L&D (Learning and Development) peeps tell me they “cannot” or “are not allowed” to do this or that. Like we are under the thumb of our parents. We take “no” as the answer and slink off to our respective corners. Many times, a “no” answer is based on a belief that is misplaced and based on a misunderstood or outdated regulation. Therefore, we have a responsibility to use our powers to dig deeper, find the real answers and influence a “no” to a “yes”.
As stated in Spiderman®, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Our superpower is using our tools to be the advocate for the end-user, whoever they may be. We have a great responsibility to ensure their voices are heard and most importantly, understood. When we give up and accept “no” as the answer without trying to leverage our powers of persuasion, we let the HUMANS in our organizations down.
Doomed I say…DOOMED
We doom the HUMANS in our organizations to training without context. To training without purpose. To training that has no hope of success. We doom them to wasting their time when they could be doing something more productive. To participate in training that ticks a box for someone else.
We then doom ourselves. Doom ourselves to be the department that produces crappy training. Produces training without meaning or context. Producing training that will have zero results. Being the department that has no purpose. The department without mission or power.
We are NOT Powerless.
We have a VOICE.
We have CRITICAL knowledge.
Now is the time to use our powers for good and stop sitting on our hands and allowing others to silence our voice.
All is not lost!
Now is where you are probably questioning my sanity. Shannon, how much coffee have you had today??? Not enough.
I’ve taken some time to think about the power we have and don’t use. In 2018, (according to American Airlines) I have traveled enough miles to circle the globe 2.5 times. This has allowed me to speak with thousands of people. I have felt the energy of trainers who sizzle with the desire to make a difference. I also felt and heard the resignation and hopelessness.
There are some who are stuck in yesteryear, happy to let sleeping dogs lie (so to speak) – they are not my audience. Then, I have spoken with some of you who see the failures of our industry and want to do something, anything to move the needle in a different direction. This is my audience. You are my peeps. We are a rebellion. Together, we have the power do more. We have the power to conquer and change what is dormant in front of us.
Leverage Your Power
However, to leverage power, we must become mentally strong. Giving away your personal power to those you report to, or to those who share your workspace, robs you of mental strength. You must make a conscious choice to take back your personal power. This said, first, you need to recognize the ways in which you give your power away.
You give your power away when:
- You spend time complaining and not problem-solving. Complaining takes precious energy and time.
- You let others dictate your emotions. “My boss makes me angry.” “My co-workers make me feel stressed”. Don’t let others make you feel bad about yourself. When you do, they are renting space in your head that is better suited for more productive thought and emotions.
- You use “victim language” or negative words. Example: “I had no choice.” “I have to produce sub-quality training.” “I don’t have the power to ask questions.” We all have a choice, it’s how you use that choice that matters.
- You don’t know what you stand for. What are your values? Hold those values true to yourself. When you allow others to chip away at those values, you degrade what is important to you.
- You are not willing to stand out and take risks. When you do not dare to be different. Don’t just watch super-hero movies be one. Use your superpowers.
- You allow outside factors to control your knowledge. “My work won’t pay”, “I don’t have extra time”, “I have to ask permission…”
How can you begin to leverage your power?
- Start with your words. Go on a “negativity diet”. Strip negative words from your vocabulary and you’ll find negative thoughts follow.
- Don’t waste your energy and precious brain space on little stuff. Keep your focus to winning the war. Strive to influence and move the needle.
- Don’t just try to ‘win’ or ‘be right’. Focus on making a difference. The more you can influence other people to make a difference the more likely your idea will be implemented.
- Leverage your network both within and outside of your organization. A person who is aware of their internal power brings people along for the ride. It should never be lonely at the
top, in fact it should be quite crowded.
- Know your stuff. Knowledge is power. Our industry is changing. Take every opportunity to learn something new about your business or your field.
- Last but certainly not least – love what you do. Have a passion for the HUMANS in your organization. Passion is power.
Most of us (especially the women in our industry) have been taught to tone down our power. L&D is “just” a support player, or we are the “fun” department…playing small won’t work anymore and will not get us to our destination point of “helping people be the best they can be”. Our industry is in desperate need of more people waking up to their true power and purpose.
Beginning to flex your inner power isn’t easy. Some of us may be rusty with a skill that hasn’t been used in a very long time for a variety of different reasons. ALERT! It’s 2019 and it’s time to wake-up your super power skills. It’s time to put the power back in the Learning and Development. Time to “fight the good fight”, for what we know is best for the HUMANS in organizations everywhere.