Don’t Just Empower: 4 Ways to Share Power

Power Sharing

It was a lesson I learned playing tug-of-war in gym class: None of us is as powerful as all of us.

Even the weakest of us had power that could make a difference.  Nobody had to “empower” us.

Empowerment is a concept that on the surface sounds good, until you really think about what it means.  The prefix “em” means to “put into.”  To empower people is to put power into them, to enable them to do something.  Well, that’s better than complete domination, but it is still top-down control.

What if companies went beyond mere empowerment and instead maximized everyone’s power?

Not power to dominate.  Power to liberate.  Power to create.  Power to share.

Shared power leads to shared knowledge.  Shared knowledge leads to better performance.  Better performance leads to better results.

Here are 4 ways to get started with power sharing:

  1. Ask. Ask people, “What do you need to provide your best value to this organization?” or, “What needs to change for you to provide your best value?”
  2. Share information and resources.  Provide information and resources (including training) that others may not even realize can help them provide their best value.
  3. Share roles and responsibilities.  Consider co-facilitation of meetings, for example.  Some roles and responsibilities could even be rotated, which will also deepen empathy and understanding among team members.  Or, you could let someone who reports to you at work attend a meeting in your place.
  4. Share reasons.  Better yet, develop the reasons “why” together.  People buy in to what they help create.

How have you shared power?

“In the past a leader was a boss.  Today’s leaders must be partners with their people . . . they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.” –Ken Blanchard

This post is 4th in the series 7 Principles of Making Relationships Work at Work.

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus

Create Moments of Connection at Work in 2 Minutes

2 minutes to engagement Engagement is such a buzzword these days. Employee engagement. Customer engagement. Brand engagement. Social media engagement.

Study after study shows that greater engagement leads to greater retention, better satisfaction, better health and higher profits.

If engagement is so good, what are you doing personally, every day, to increase engagement at work or in your business?

Engagement can be not only part of an overall organizational engagement strategy, but it also can be part of your personal engagement strategy. Your engaging personally, connecting with people one-on-one, creating moments of connection, builds up an emotional bank account, which can grow your business or your career. It also can create a cushion of loyalty when times get tough.

Isn’t that worth 2 minutes a day?

Here are some simple, 2-minute actions you can take every day to build up that emotional bank account with others:

1. Chit Chat. Really. You can start talking about the weather, even. Start with something you both have in common.

Things in common = similarity –>increased connection.

Try this simple, yet effective small talk technique:

a. Observe. Make a comment on something that you and the other person can both observe or that you have in common (event, situation, something you see). It doesn’t need to be witty.
b. Transition. (optional) Make a transition comment that relates #a (your observation) to #c (the question) by revealing a tidbit of information about yourself. You can often skip the transition, but by revealing a tidbit of information about yourself, you foster a sense of connection.
c. Ask. Ask a question.
d. Comment. Follow up with a comment relevant to their response.
e. Ask another question and continue a little back and forth chit chat.

For example, let’s say you are walking by someone’s desk and you notice a family picture.

Observe: What a good-looking family!
Transition: That reminds me of when my kids were little.
Ask: How old are your kids? (response: 1, 3 and 7)
Comment: I bet they keep you busy!
Ask another question: Are you doing anything fun with them this summer?

To extend the moment of connection, take note of some details of the conversation to bring up at a later time. I know I feel more connected with people who remember some details about me or what we talked about. For my business clients, I record details of conversations on a CRM (Customer Relationship Management)  tool and add scheduled tasks to remind me to touch base.

For example, I was working with a client on a presentation and I knew that the presentation was going to be in a week, on Friday. I put a task in my CRM tool to send her an email on Thursday wishing her well on her presentation. She told me twice, once in email and once in person how much she appreciated my brief words of encouragement.

2. Invite them to something you are already going to.

  • Meals. You have to eat. Why not use that time to build relationships?
  • Events/Activities. Do you share an interest? Why not invite them to join you?
  • Volunteer effort for a charitable cause that both you and they care about.
  • Meetings, if appropriate.

3. Show sincere appreciation.

Don’t just say thank you. Make your thanks be sincere, timely and show significance.

Sincere = from the heart, not just a perfunctory “thank you.”
Timely = as soon as reasonably possible
Show significance = to illuminate the significant impact their action had

When possible, make your appreciation public. Public appreciation, at a meeting for example, not only lets you express your gratitude, but you also elevate the person in the eyes of others.

 4. Use multiple modes of communication.

In-person is great, but not always practical. What other ways does the person communicate? Phone. Text. Email. Skype. Google Hangouts. Chat. Direct messages on Twitter. Facebook or LinkedIn messages. A quick video. Or, go old-school and send something snail mail. Just make sure that you aren’t forcing the other person to communicate in ways they don’t want to.

You never know where attempting moments of connection will lead you! A few years ago, I did an assignment for a class which required doing an exercise on someone’s website. I was so impressed with the exercise that I blogged about it and then sent a link to that blog post to the creator of the exercise. She was pleased that I saw value in the exercise and that I promoted its use. From there, we connected on social media sites, email, phone and Skype. We eventually co-authored a book together. Several months after the book was published, we met in person for the first time.

What can you communicate to increase connection?

  • Provide information or resources you think they would appreciate (but don’t sell)
  • Offer congratulations
  • Offer appreciation (see #3)
  • Provide an introduction to someone they would like to meet
  • Respond timely to their communications with you

That last one, responding timely, is a deal-breaker for me. When someone doesn’t respond to my emails, it makes me feel like I’m not very important to them. Of course, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, realizing that my email might have gotten trapped in their spam filter or that their response time is just slower (personally, I try to get back to people within 24 hours in most cases). Even if your complete response will take a while, at least get back with people to let them know you received the email and will get back with them by a certain date.

Do you have quick ways to create moments of connection with employees, co-workers, or clients?

This post is 3rd in the series 7 Principles of Making Relationships Work at Work.

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus

10 Ways to Learn What Makes People Tick at Work

What Makes Them Tick

“Winners know what makes people tick by effectively tapping into our fears and aspirations. By listening very carefully and then repeating almost word-for-word exactly what they’ve heard, winners know how to articulate compelling needs—and products to satisfy those needs—that people didn’t even know they wanted.”

–Frank I. Luntz, Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary

What do women want?  For that matter what does anyone want?  How can you discover what makes people tick?  Here are 10 ways to learn what makes people tick in business relationships.

(first in a series based on the blog post 7 Principles for Making Relationships Work at Work)

1. Dig up information

How much can you find out about someone before you even meet? The more you know, the closer you will be to knowing what makes them tick. Why fly by the seat of your pants, when being prepared is so easy?

Do a little detective work prior to a first meeting or phone call. If you are short on time, at least google the person’s name. You can find a lot of information about a person in just a few minutes simply by googling their name using quotes, like this: “Diane Windingland” (quotes might not be necessary for an unusual name like mine, though). You can also include their location in the search to narrow results. Check the person’s profiles on social sites, especially LinkedIn, but also on Facebook (the amount you see depends on privacy settings).

Do you have contacts in common? Touch base with mutual acquaintances. It can be as simple as saying to your mutual acquaintance, “I’m thinking of working with Jane Doe and noticed that you are a connection on LinkedIn. How do you know each other?”

Now, you don’t want to come across as a stalker, so don’t overshare what you have discovered, especially any information that is negative. It’s fine to mention what you see on LinkedIn.

2. Build a “Motivation Map”

Have you ever been amazed, and pleased, that someone remembers some personal detail from a previous conversation you had with them? Wouldn’t you love to be that person?

You can be the person with the “amazing memory” even if you struggle to remember people’s names. The secret is to take and save notes.

I won’t kid you. This is work. Recording details of conversations, while it doesn’t take a huge amount of time, does require some discipline.

But the discipline is in the details. It’s recalling the little details, especially details that reveal motivations, beliefs and values, that lets someone know you care. When people know you care, they are more likely to trust you and to reveal to you just what makes them tick.

How can you do this, as painlessly as possible?
First consider using the tools you already use for communication and relationship management. If you have a Client Relationship Management tool, you can simply start recording notes on conversations for your contacts. I suggest you record notes, even the briefest of notes, immediately after (if not actually during) a conversation. Then, the next time you plan on contacting the person, briefly review your notes and mention something based on the conversation, such as, “I hope you enjoyed going to the lake with your family last weekend!”

You could start a computer file on each of your contacts, building a dossier of sorts. Use an app on your phone. Even a low-tech notebook will do. I’d LOVE to hear what works for other people!

3. Assess early and often

On-boarding an employee, or a client is the most opportune and natural time to ask questions that reveal motivations and personality types. Use a client questionnaire or an employee survey. Consider formal assessments, such as the DISC assessment. But don’t let your assessment be a “one-and-done” assessment. People change. Needs change. Motivations change. How often should you assess? Well, that depends on the situation. One clue that you aren’t doing assessments often enough is your retention rate—are your clients or employees leaving you at a higher rate than the industry standard?

Of course, if you merely assess or survey and then don’t do anything with that information, then you not only have wasted everyone’s time, but you also risk looking like someone who has a checklist mentality, and are just going through the motions.

4. Observe behavior

Although behavior is subject to misinterpretation, it can provide clues to people’s motivations. Generally, people will behave in ways that they think will provide a desired outcome, revealing what is important to them.

A manager berates his direct reports for missing a deadline. What is the motivation for doing so? Fear for his own job? Desire to be in control? A recognizable pattern may develop.

The challenge is that there are often competing outcomes. For example, a working parent’s top priority might be his family. Earning money to provide for that family is a supporting

priority, but typically requires long hours away from the family. The working parent faces a role conflict. How does his behavior reveal motivations? Perhaps the employee copes by texting with his kids, or leaving early for special events. You can observe this and know that family time is a motivator.

5. Make personal gestures

When you show a personal interest in people you show that you care. Stopping at someone’s desk, touching base on the phone, sending a personal email, text or social media message are a few quick ways to show that the person is important to you.

When you are first getting to know an employee or a client, if it is appropriate to your business, taking them out to coffee or lunch, away from work, can be a great opportunity to break the ice and start building a relationship.  Start finding what makes them tick.

You can also keep on the lookout for “thinking of you” opportunities as you come across useful information. Send a link to something you know they would find useful, with a little explanation as to why you thought of them.  Are you speaking to their motivations?

What ways have people connected with you personally that are memorable?

6. Ask questions, but don’t interrogate 

If you want to get people talking, ask them easy, open-ended questions or probing statements (questions or statements that encourage more than a one-word answer) and build on their answers, digging a little deeper.

For example, at a networking event I might say, “Tell me about your business.”

“I’ve been selling vacuum cleaners for 20 years.”

(Are you tempted to say, “that sucks!” I know I would be. Depending on the person, I might just say that, but with a smile, and then quickly follow up with another question, such as: “How did you get started selling vacuum cleaners?”).

Try not to ask questions in rapid-fire, interrogation style. Build rapport by commenting on what they say, especially if you can point out any similarities that you have (the more people see you as like them, the more they will like, trust and open up to you).

7. Listen for understanding

Many people appear to be listening, when in fact they are just waiting for their turn to talk. To uncover someone’s motivations, you need to practice active, reflective listening. To ensure that you understand the other person, try this approach:

  • ask clarifying questions if something is not clear
  • Test for understanding
    • Start out with a lead-in phrase, such as “So, it sounds like . . .” or, “So, what I hear you saying is . . .” A lead-in phrase is a verbal cue to the other person that you are going to reflect back your understanding.
    • Restate (paraphrase, summarize) facts, feelings, opinions, etc.
    • Ask for confirmation (use phrases like, “Is that right?” Or, “Is that what you meant?”)

8. Share—be a little vulnerable

Don’t you love being vulnerable?
It’s hard being vulnerable. Kids are vulnerable. But as we get older we put on the bullet proof vest of invulnerability.

We cinch it tighter for fear if we open up just a little, we might get shot down. An arrow might pierce our heart.

But it is when you can be a little vulnerable with people that you can build trust and connect.

A few years ago, I had coffee with a new acquaintance. As we sat at across the table from each other, we each shared a little about ourselves. He shared how he had been out of work for a while and was getting most of his food at a food shelf. I could see the guarded expression on his face, the invisible wall between us. I knew he wondered if I would judge him . . . If I would think poorly of him for being out of work.

I decided to be a strategically vulnerable.

I shared with him that I knew how he felt, because just 2 years earlier, we had been dealing with a failed business. Just 2 years earlier, not only had I gotten food at a food shelf, I’d gotten my kids Christmas gifts there too. But, it was temporary. Hard, but temporary—as it would be for him, too.  Tough times don’t last.  Tough people do.

The wall came down. His face relaxed. He leaned in. We connected. And, I began to discover what made him tick.

Taking off the bullet proof vest might be hard. It might be scary. It might just change your relationships.

9. Make it safe

If danger alarms are going off, people will revert to survival mode. They will be motivated most by that which ensures survival. Other motivations will be suppressed. Reduce the environment and attitudes that create fear (a very partial list):

  • Public criticism
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Adversarial relationships
  • Disrespectful communication
  • Pointing fingers, but unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes
  • Withholding important information or resources

10. Create events
Special events are an opportunity to get to know people outside of daily work interactions, and they may lead to deeper connections and a greater understanding of motivations. Examples: Corporate retreats, team-building events, client events, volunteering at charity events.  Have you attended events that really helped you get to know your co-workers, employees or clients better?

Understand what makes a person tick, and you will have a more productive work relationship.

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus

Integrity: The Foundation of Leadership

Leadership built on integrityMany years ago, when my children were small, I dropped my daughter off at a home-based preschool and as I backed out of the driveway, I backed right into the preschool teacher’s truck.  I got out and assessed the damage.  No damage to my van.  But, there was a foot-long dent in the teacher’s truck, definitely more than $500 in damage.   Ouch. Nobody saw me do it.  If I had simply left, and hadn’t said a word, no one would have known that it was my fault.     Would it have been so bad, just this once?   I pondered, should I say something or shouldn’t I?

I realized it was a question of integrity.

Do you remember, back in geometry class, what you call 2 triangles that have the same shape and size?

Congruent Triangles.

Imagine 2 congruent triangles, one labeled VALUES and the other BEHAVIOR.

When our behavior is congruent with our values, we have integrity.  We do what is right and in accordance with our values even when no one is watching, that is, in private.   In public, it is also when our “Walk” is congruent with our “Talk.”  If we don’t “walk the talk” we are hypocrites.  Being hypocritical is a quick way to lose influence with others.

After I hit the preschool teacher’s car.  I had a choice.  If I had simply left, my behavior would not have been in line with my values.  I valued honesty.  I valued taking responsibility for one’s actions. So, I rang the doorbell, delivered the news and paid for the damage.  Cost about $600.  Intact Integrity, priceless.

As you lead, is your leadership built on the firm foundation of integrity?  Do you walk the talk?

Leadership and Humor: What Works (and What Doesn’t)

Leadership and HumorPutting yourself down can bring you up as a leader.

Researchers at Seattle University found that self-deprecating humor enhances perceptions of leadership ability because it tends to minimize status distinctions between leaders and followers.

Leaders who use self-deprecating humor are seen as more likable, trustworthy and caring. Aggressive humor that targets others (putting others down), may make the leader feel more self-important, but results negative perceptions of the leader.

However, it is possible to put yourself and others down at the same time and enhance others’ perception of your leadership.  “In-group” humor, in which you make fun of something you share with others can enhance group identity, even in negotiations in which parties are otherwise at odds.

Read the research paper here.  A note of caution: self-deprecating humor may not be as effective in some cultures or when women leaders use it (if it reinforces a negative stereotype of women).

Learn more about how to create your own self-deprecating humor.

Don’t Clam Up at Meetings


“I really wanted to say something, but I was afraid of being wrong,” said Laurie (not her real name), a client I’ve been working with on her professional interpersonal communication skills.

Laurie had been at a meeting and had noticed that some numbers on a document didn’t quite make sense, so instead of speaking up, she quietly pointed out the discrepancy to a colleague sitting next to her.  He addressed the group, “I was looking at the numbers and noticed that the highs and lows don’t quite make sense.”  He didn’t mention that Laurie had pointed it out to him. He got the kudos for bringing it up.

Has that ever happened to you?  Has fear ever kept you from pointing out something?

If you are a woman, research indicates that you are 25% less likely to speak up at a meeting.  If you don’t speak up, you are less likely to be seen as a leader, and what’s worse, what you didn’t say may become a critical issue.

Many people don’t speak up because they are concerned that either they will be wrong or they will hurt someone’s feelings if they speak up.

There is an approach that can elegantly sidestep those challenges, yet still address the issue.

I call it the “help me understand” approach:

1.  Make an observation of the facts as you see them.

2.  Use “help me understand” or some variation (“This doesn’t quite make sense to me.  Can you explain it?”)

This non-judgmental approach can help both you and the other party “save face” and allows you to address an issue that could become a critical issue if ignored.

The Power Pose: How to Stand and Sit Like a Leader

I’m on vacation this week so I thought I’d share an article I read a couple of months ago in Inc Magazine.  Here’s the link (but I’ve also cut and pasted below so you can skip the annoying ad).
Bottom line:  Power poses decrease the stress hormone cortisol and increase the dominance hormone testosterone.
Here are a few power pose pictures not included in the online article:
Leigh Buchanan | Inc.magazine
May 1, 2012

Leadership Advice: Strike a Pose

Want to become an effective leader? Watch the way you sit, stand, and posture, says a Harvard B-School professor.

Leadership Pose

We know how leaders are supposed to look. They stand straight and tall. They are physically expansive, radiating confidence and power. In fact, taking on such physical attributes can actually make people feel more leader-ish, says Amy Cuddy, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. Cuddy and two co-researchers are studying “power posing”–an exercise for charisma-hungry leaders who want not only to appear more confident but also to be that way. She spoke with editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan about mastering the physical side of leadership.

What led to your interest in the relationship between posture and power?

There’s often a gender grade gap in the M.B.A. classroom in the sense that men appear to outperform women. And one thing I noticed is that the women don’t sit the same way as the men. They’re much more likely to have their legs crossed and their ankles wrapped. The men are more likely to sit with their legs spread, their shoulders open, arms sometimes draped around the chair next to them. When they want to get in there, they lean forward and stick up their hands. We’ve known for a long time that the postures assumed by many of the men are associated with power.

So your posture reflects how powerful you feel.

I wondered what would happen if you forced students to change their posture. Would that lead them to participate more? Can you fake it until you make it? There’s evidence from social psychology and research on facial expressions that suggests it’s possible. When you force people to smile and to contract the muscles in the face that are involved with smiling, it makes them happier. That’s called the facial feedback hypothesis. But what happens below the neck conveys a lot of information, too.

Is there a known physiological basis for that?

We looked at testosterone, the hormone associated with dominance, and cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress. In primatology, the belief is that individuals born with the highest testosterone become the alphas. But it’s also true that if an individual is forced to take over the alpha role, within a few days, his testosterone has gone up, and his cortisol has gone down. And if you get pushed to the bottom of the hierarchy, your testosterone goes down, and your cortisol goes up. That makes you much less disease resistant and more likely to get picked off.

Some social psychologists at the University of Texas have found that the most effective leaders have both high testosterone and low cortisol. You don’t want high-testosterone, high-cortisol leaders. That person is going to be defensive and very reactive to stressful decisions. He or she will be less likely to make good decisions.

How did you test your hypothesis?

We brought people into the lab and had them spit into a little vial to get baseline testosterone and cortisol levels. Then some of them would do high-power poses for two minutes and some would do low-power poses for two minutes. Then we gave them $2 and the chance to roll a die and win $4. And we had them answer questions about how powerful they felt. After 15 to 17 minutes, we’d take a second saliva sample.

And the results were?

The high-power poses caused a decrease in cortisol of about 25 percent and an increase in testosterone of about 19 percent. The low-power poses increased cortisol about 17 percent and decreased testosterone about 10 percent. On the gambling task, 86 percent of the high-power posers chose to take the risk, compared with 60 percent of the low-power posers.

Was it the same for men and women?

Both showed the same pattern of changes.

Is there a minimum amount of time people need to power pose in order for it to take?

We advise people to do this before they go into a situation where they need to appear confident. Normally, what people do before they give a speech or go into a sales meeting is sit in a chair, hunching over their notes or their iPhone. That’s the opposite of what you should be doing. You’re making yourself tiny. Instead, you should be walking around the hallway, putting your arms up. Sit at your desk and put your feet up on it. Stand on your tiptoes with your hands in the air. When you go into a sales meeting, you want to be as squared off and tall as you naturally can be. If you’re sitting down, you might consider not crossing your legs. If the chair has arms, rest your arms on those arms. That will help prevent you from crossing your arms or wrapping them around your torso.

How long does the effect of power posing last? Can it get you through a sales meeting? A morning? A whole day?

That is an empirical question we will be trying to unravel. At this point, we can say pretty comfortably that the initial effects seem to last 15 or 30 minutes. I think the more interesting question is whether or how it becomes self-reinforcing. You pose powerfully; you perform better; you feel more confident and powerful; then you perform even better. At the same time, people respond to that confidence and performance boost and give you feedback that further elevates your feelings of confidence and power.

Are the effects of power posing cumulative? In other words, the more regularly you do it, the longer the effect lasts or the easier it is to achieve? Does there come a point, if you maintain the poses long enough, that testosterone and cortisol simply assume the optimal levels?

I’m not the best person to answer that, because I’m not an endocrinologist. But I don’t think it’s likely that your hormone levels are going to change permanently. What might be more likely is that once you learn that feeling, you can achieve it mentally without doing the poses. It would be interesting to answer the question: Can you close your eyes and picture yourself in one of those postures and get the same effect?

How important is the physical sensation of confidence or power to being a good leader?

It gets into this idea of embodiment. For example, people who hold a warm cup behave more warmly. When you hold a cold cup, you behave more coldly. That was in a paper published in Science a few years ago–it’s good science. So feeling yourself in a position of power and confidence can give rise to behaviors that reflect that. You fake it until you make it.

What is the effect of power poses on risk tolerance? Is there a concern that people might experience irrational exuberance postposturing and make unwise decisions as a result?

It does increase risk tolerance. But for the average person, it’s still well within the normal range. Only a small, pathological percentage of the population might be pushed over the edge.

I suppose that people naturally have different levels of testosterone and cortisol. Is that what underlies the argument that some people are born leaders?

It may be partly that.

Is this something that should be taught in leadership development programs?

It should be part of leadership development. But the people who could benefit the most are not necessarily the people who end up in an M.B.A. classroom. It’s the people who are powerless and suffering because of it. Two days ago, someone invited me to talk at a women’s shelter about this. That’s my greater hope.

If a leader’s problem is the opposite of a lack of confidence–if he or she is arrogant and impatient and tends to steamroll people–can assuming postures of submission help?

I’m sure it could. But how would you convince someone like that to actually do it?

What Does Dominance Look Like?

We asked Amy Cuddy to describe four classic power poses:

  • The Performer: Mick Jagger –“This is a classic expression of feeling powerful in the moment-it causes you to physically expand.”
  • The CEO: Oprah Winfrey–“The body language naturally projects dominance. It’s unusual to see a woman in this position.”
  • The Classic: Wonder Woman–“She’s really opening up. The feet spread, the hands on the hips. She’s taking up space.”
  • The Loomer: Lyndon Johnson–“Johnson was 6’4″, and he used his stature very thoughtfully-to both intimidate and seduce.”

Leigh Buchanan is an editor at large for Inc. Magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan