Three Ways To Boost Your Personal Power At Work

Does it matter if people at work like you?

Does it really matter if they respect you?

Yes! (That second one moreso than the first, but WHY is a different topic.)

There’s this idea going around that we shouldn’t care what people think, or that others’ opinions don’t matter, but it matters. Our interpersonal relationships and interactions matter.

“Referent influence” or “personal power” comes from being liked and/or respected.

When you have the status of being considered in others’ minds, you’re able to influence them without needing to draw on hierarchical structures or appeal to authority.

Using authority without personal influence is essentially saying, “You need to do this because I’m telling you to.” Drawing on authority tends to lead to insincere compliance (and sometimes resentment), whereas drawing on personal power is more likely to lead to commitment. That second way leads to healthier, trusting, long-term relationships.

Here are three things you can do to increase your personal power at work:

1. Be versatile.

Research has suggested that whether someone is considered a successful leader is influenced by their versatility – their ability to adapt, using diverse styles in various situations with different people: being strategic at times and operationally focused at others; being enabling of those around you and at other times forceful and direct in your approach when necessary. This versatility accounted for around 50% of the difference between whether someone was considered an average or highly successful leader.

A practical example could be if you love using spread sheets to organize your work but you don’t assume that everyone works the same way that you do and so allow them to organize their work in whatever way works best for them – so long as they deliver the results.

2. Know your own habits.

We all have them.

It may be being short with people, looking grumpy (when actually we’re just feeling pressure) or not managing to stay on top of email replies (that might not matter much to us but hold up other people from their work). There are so many things we can do when we’re really busy that have a negative impact on others. But we don’t intend to have this impact. If we note down what these things are we can be more conscious of not doing them when we are in busy periods. It can be useful to ask three people who you work with in different ways if there are any things you tend to do when busy or stressed that they see as different to your normal behavior.

3. Discover what energizes other people.

No, put your pompoms down…

Everyone is different when it comes to how to optimize our strengths (things that energize us and we are great at, or have the potential to be great at). The likelihood of anyone having the same significant strengths as you is 1 in 346,000!

Whether it’s collaboration or driving results or flexibility or taking initiative that makes you feel buzzed at work, you’re likely to never meet anyone who is energized by exactly the same things as you. Ask other people what energizes them, not just the type of work but how they work. Once you understand this, you can adapt the way you work with them and they will be more energized by working with you. It impacts the wider business as well. Organizations that adopt a strengths approach where people understand their own and others’ strengths and build on these can increase engagement by a massive 70%.

It’s a good thing to want to be liked and respected by people (especially those you spend considerable time and expend considerable energy with), to want more personal power and referent influence – it’s foundational to leadership and means we can generate greater commitment rather than mere obedience, which affects outcomes. It means we go beyond just making people do what we say because we have a higher level of authority.

It’s not about being liked to simply feel good about ourselves or to be the most popular person in the room. It means we’re someone who others enjoy working with and are energized by being around.

You can build your personal power by aligning your intentions (who you intend to be) with your actual impact on others because that feedback shapes everything else.