What “Power” Really Means

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When we are no longer able to change a situation, 

we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

Edie needed help with the computer, so she asked a colleague. 

The girl snarked, “Didn’t they teach you this in training?” 

Edie asked, “So, you don’t want to help?” 

The girl snapped back in exasperation, “Let me see. I’m not sure how this works – you should know.”

Edie had had six interviews for this job and everyone agreed she was right for the position which had been open for a year. Now, she doesn’t like the job. “What’s wrong with me?” she asked.  

Edie has traveled to 80 countries and will celebrate her 50th birthday in Antarctica.  She’ll be on Easter Island for Christmas. She’s accomplished in her profession and is known for being good, really good, at what she does. YET, she questions herself.

Norman wants to leave his job, which he loves and which he is good at, really good at, because of two men in the office who he finds difficult to work with. He wants to be rid of them and is looking to escape. “why do I have to put up with their antics?” he angrily asks me. Escaping, though, is not the same as having a strategy.

Greta loves her job which she is good at, really good at, and is frustrated with her emotionally mercurial boss. On the verge of tears, she asked, “What do I do when Sam yells at me? What do I do when he doesn’t acknowledge what I’ve done? What do I do when he berates me in front of customers?”

Edie, Norman and Greta are all wrestling with questions that spring from a place of pain and confusion. Ultimately, each is wrestling with issues of “power.”

Power involves an array of attitudes + strategies. But at its core power is about –

asking the right questions – to gain the right answers – 

so as to formulate the right strategies

What are the right questions?

  1. What kind of behaviors am I willing to tolerate and why?
  2. What kind of behaviors am I not willing to tolerate and why?
  3. What kind of behaviors am I willing to permit and why?
  4. What kind of behaviors am I not willing to permit and why?

The truth is – powerful people train others to treat them in a certain way.

What do you want to see happen?

This is not a wish. It is a powerful question.

Power means understanding other people’s patterns and habits.

Powerful people don’t share personal information with someone they know is an office gossip.

Power means not giving in to the curse of “should.”

“It’s not fair – she shouldn’t try to sabotage me” is a healthy response since she “shouldn’t.” Yet, she does because she is passive-aggressive. If you persist in feeling confused then that’s your “problem” – you have no strategy in dealing with toxic people.

Power means knowing the difference between being “right” and being “effective.”

  1. Do I have a responsibility to make mistakes?
  2. A responsibility to whom?
  3. Do I have a responsibility to not make mistakes?
  4. Does this mean I have a responsibility to be perfect?
  5. Do I have a responsibility to learn from my mistakes?

Power means knowing that THE question is NOT “WHAT should I do?”

THE question is: “WHO do I want to be?”

What can I give the world today?

Answer that question, then assess what you need to do to become that person, then determine your level of skill and comfortableness in doing what you need to do.

What can I do –

To create understanding

To be gracious

To be respectful

To be assertive


Asking, “what is wrong with me?” is not power. It’s self-pity.

now THAT’S the business of confidence!

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