Positional Power: I have spoken to many CEOs and Senior Leaders whom I support about the notion of positional power. Put simply, positional power is the use of your power (of authority) to get things done. This type of power is something you exert over others. It is the use of your authority. Positional power is a preordained source of power given to a person as a result of their position.
Types of positional power:
- Your manager can use their positional power to allocate tasks to you
- Your coach could use their positional power to hold you accountable to the actions you committed to in your coaching session
- It can also be applied in a forced way (dictatorial rulers use their power to ensure their people do as they say)
3 Tips to Use Your Positional Power for Good.
Here are some points to consider as you lead your organization’s culture.
The higher you are in the hierarchy, the further you may be from the grassroots: this is a natural division. You cannot be aware of all that happens in your organization. When explaining this, I use the analogy of an orchestra. You once used to be a musician, on the ground, with your peers. Now that you are a leader, you are more of a conductor of the orchestra. Your time is limited. You have to ensure your orchestra doesn’t miss a note. You are focused on the end goal but may not have the full picture.
TIP 1: Meet with your staff informally. One CEO I have worked with holds monthly CEO Coffee Catch Ups with a small cross-section of her organization. Bring along a hot drink of your choice and some things you want to share. Ask the attendees to do the same. This has resulted in her learning more of what is happening at the individual level, the achievements, challenges and pain points. It has allowed her to continually improve processes, systems, and behaviors that need to be changed. By keeping her coffee catch-ups to a loose agenda, she never knows what to expect. People are free to raise whatever current burning issues they may be facing.
Now that you are a conductor of the orchestra, you may well feel lonely at the top. Many leaders do. This is because they hold a lot of confidential information. Also, you now must have placed clearer boundaries between you and your employees.
TIP 2: This is where a good network helps. Meet with peers regularly to share experiences and insights. Another tip is to get a Coach. A good Coach is an excellent source for you to bounce ideas off and someone who ask you challenging questions, those that your staff may be avoiding, and they will call you out (if needed.)
A result of the abovementioned points is that you get piecemeal information. You may not always have the full picture. I liken this to the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” A classic tale talking of positional power and the fear the Emperor’s people had of speaking the truth to him. People may not feel they can be completely open with you as a result of your position.
TIP 3: Conduct engagement or culture surveys (at least every two years) to see what is really happening in your organization. And then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Celebrate the positives, address some quick wins and commit to longer-term actions to improve the culture. Hold everyone accountable. Everyone in your organization owns the culture. Companies are now moving towards a culture of having formal surveys at least every two years and adapting pulse checks; these are culture and engagement checks that are conducted (either by an external consultant or the internal Culture team.) These surveys can be as simple as asking people to come prepared with their honest thoughts on:
- What is working and why
- What is not working, why and what solutions do you have (empowering employees to propose solutions)
- And a final open question asking – is there anything else you wish to discuss relating to our culture?
- With great responsibility comes great power. How are you using your power?
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