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Photo: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Transiting from a technical to a management role, young managers  lack a power base of followers.

Jean Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet in MIT Sloan Review suggest 3 areas to plug this deficit:

  1. Legitimacy
  2. Critical resources
  3. Networks

1. Legitimacy with bosses sends a signal of your credibility to others leading to more visibility and influence, boosting your standing.  Your boss can also connect you to influential people and information.

Research on (LMX) Leader Member exchange indicates that bosses mentally divide their members into “in group” vs “out group”.

How to build legitimacy with bosses?

On the job:Hard work while important is exaggerated to secure credibility.

LMX research suggests that one’s attitude and perceived compatibility with the boss are more powerful determinants of good relationship.

Style:

  • Understand the boss’s style, objectives and preferences. Example: Do they prefer short or long meetings? Email vs face to face?. Brevity vs depth. Adjust your communication style accordingly. Goals and interests to provide the kind of support to help boss succeed.
  • Deliver on those objectives.
  • Seek feedback as appropriate.

Accumulate credits by helping superiors get things done.  Kick start the virtuous cycle of reciprocity by making good faith deposits upfront.

2. Be a resource. Gain special expertise or niche.

  • Find subtle ways to advertise your expertise by publicly volunteering to help colleagues tackle difficult problems.

What sort of expertise ?

  • Identify problems nobody else has noticed especially regarding disruptive trends or that few people are capable of resolving and then work to address them.
  • Consolidate your strengths.  Be so good you can’t be ignored. Don’t just be a generalist.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co once said, “To be a future leader, one should have a skill that everyone looks at and says X is the go-to person for that skill. Unless you’re really known for something, you don’t stand out from the pack.

One of the risks involved is that you’ll be locked into the position.

3. Build your own network.

A high quality relationship with a poorly connected boss may do more harm than good. Protect yourself from toxic bosses. Otherwise, you’ve to identify escape routes for yourself in the event of sudden organisation shake up.

Cultivate useful allies. Sponsors who know your work and speak up for you during promotion meetings. Look beyond titles and formal roles to discover informal ties and actual dynamics that drive decision making in a group. Real movers and shakers.

How?

Reach out to both internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders can include government relations, customers and analysts and institutional investors and board members. Ask customers what they really need.

Curate– create forums where ideas and information can be exchanged.  This could be physical, e.g. company dinner and dance or a virtual forum where you help people connect. Gain a reputation as someone who knows how to connect people.

Many of these roles contain risks, acknowledge the authors. So walk a fine line as you may be seen as using the role for your own gain.

Assess the areas of influence which you lack.

Small Talk Topics.

Why connecting is good for our brains but social rejection is not …

9 relationships we need in our network

Presence, bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges” by Amy Cuddy

Do you feel happy because you smile or do you smile because you’re happy?

According to Havard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy, who had a very successful 2012 TED Talk and now a book to further explore some game changing research insights, the body shapes the mind.

I highly recommend both reading the book as well as watching the TED Talk. In the TED talk she showed visuals emphasising some of the power moves realistically.

In one of her first experiments, she recruited 200 subjects online and prompted them to imagine themselves holding either a high-power or low-power pose for 2 minutes. Then she instructed them to picture strangers walking in and out of the room as they were holding the pose and form impressions of these strangers.

Among the people who’d imagined themselves holding high power poses, 70 percent used words such as:

Open and strong
Grounded and confident

Those who imagined themselves in low power poses had a much less pleasant experience: 72% used words as

Awkward and tense
Scared and lonely
Very very uncomfortable

Here, Professor Cuddy makes a case for feeling powerful.

Feeling powerless impairs thoughts
Powerlessness makes us self-absorbed

Power can protect us
Power can connect us
Power can incite action

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These are my fingers.

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I find these low power poses very familiar. Guilty as charged. Will stop myself from doing this.

As for the high power poses, while I can accept how they may improve a person’s confidence, how do you think it’ll be accepted by others in the room?

I showed this page to a few Asian working adults and the high power poses didn’t go down too well in our social context.

If you come to Asia, and put your feet on the table, never mind that we no longer believe in table gods, but it’s very threatening and disrespectful. Very rarely do you find bosses putting their feet on the table.

I once saw a photo of President Obama putting his elegant long legs on the table ofthe Oval Office in the presence of some aides and realised that in the US, this must be totally acceptable.

This is a great book with many interesting insights especially in contexts where bullying, gender differences and even during interviews where non-spoken gestures affect what is communicated.

Next time you feel powerless or anxious before an interview or an exam, do a power pose in your room or at least in your mind. Imagine yourself in a power pose.

Starfish up! Mind your posture throughout the day!