Power and Authority
I first heard about these concepts during some training I did way back in the good old days.
I was studying to move from a classroom teacher to become a headmaster. (I didn't finish – I stayed in the classroom.)
For those of who who haven’t heard of this before, it means that the one person who controls an outcome in almost all cases in almost any situation, will be the one with the most power or most perceived power, even if they do not have the authority to make any real decisions.
“How does this happen?” I hear you ask.
It is actually very simple, and when you know, you’ll think, “How did I not understand this?”
An example from my own life.
Power V’s Authority In Sales
As a salesperson I often made ‘cold’ calls to companies to sell them advertising. Sometimes I knew the name of the decision maker. Sometimes not. More often not, I’m afraid. But that’s another story. For another time.
I asked for the the media buyer, or whomsoever had the AUTHORITY to make a decision to buy my bill of goods.
All good. Just a breath away from an appt. Then my superior skills as a salesman would kick in and I’d get me a sale. Fantastic.
Not so quick. I was asking to speak to the decision maker – the one having the authority, but I wasn’t there yet. The Receptionist or Personal Assistant or Secretary was sitting there in front of me with an inscrutable smile on his or her face.
It dawned on me. This person will DECIDE if I see the authority figure. Or not.
Yes or No
If I received a yes then Thunderbirds are go. Appt made.
If I received a no, an excuse, a brush-off, an “I think he’s busy that time/day,” kind of thing – I was left hanging. Who was this person in front of me? No matter what I said, how I pleaded, cajoled, explained that the authority would make the decision, I was very often stymied right there. At the reception desk.
The seat of power.
You see if I couldn’t get an appointment to see the authority figure because the one person with the power to make that happen was a massive roadblock, I was stuck right there.
OK. No authority to make decisions EXCEPT the only one I needed at that point – an audience with the boss or whoever. It didn’t matter. If I was stuck at the front desk it was ‘game-over.’
The one with the power is always going to be the barrier to any further interaction. No matter what.
May Not Be Who You Expect
And this is often one of the least likely people. Someone quite low on the company pecking order. Someone who was making these judgement calls based on incorrect or incomplete knowledge of the company, the processes, or the person involved. Or even personal or other emotional – non business reasons. (For example there may be a belief that I was untrustworthy, or had been inappropriate in some way, or ‘the Boss’ needed protection from my type -ie salesmen). He/she may just not like me. Anything really. Makes no difference if the decision to grant an appointment was based on anything real; it was still the decision that counted.
All the power. No authority, but I couldn't move forward past this obstacle.
I think we need to know this in our current world more than ever. Are we interacting with the right person? Social media gives us an opportunity to lambaste anyone. Free speech at its finest. But first we need to establish whether we we aiming our comments at the right person or organisation. We may be a victim of a power game.
Where is the power in any situation in which you find yourself? There is a really interesting story in “Jack Cranfield’s - Chicken Soup For The Soul” that illustrates this very point.
Think About This
Make it a factor in your thoughts and actions from now on.
Who has the power in this situation?
Have you had any experiences in this kind of thing you can share with us?
Off you go. Over to you.