What is your Excalibur? Power Sources in organisational settings – an enhanced model!

“One of the things about powerful people is they have the ability to make it look easy” Ice-T

Which are the sources of power in an organisation setting? 

Are the previous studies’ outcomes regarding organisational sources of power still relevant? Will these be still relevant in the 21st century setting? 

Do the current organisational goals allow the same thinking about power to flourish or is there additional sources that we need to consider as more relevant in this age?

This article will argue that, as I have mentioned here and here, the skill-set of a good “questioner” i.e. someone that has a well-developed inquisitive mind, is the additional source of power that needs to be added to the existing lists. Let’s have a look why.

Excalibur

BRIEF HISTORY IN THE RECENT RESEARCH OF SOURCES OF POWER

1959: French and Raven’s Sources of Power:

In 1959, John French and Bertram Raven (American Sociologists) published an article called “The Bases of Power”. This is regarded as the basis for classifying power in organizations.

They identified five sources of power, namely: coercive, referent, legitimate, expert and reward power. These were defined as follows (reference from Paul Merchant’s article “5 Sources of Power in Organisations“):

 

1. “Coercive Power is derived from a person’s ability to influence others via threats, punishments or sanctions.

 

2. Referent power is derived from the interpersonal relationships that a person cultivates with other people in the organization.

 

3. Legitimate power is also known as positional power. It’s derived from the position a person holds in an organization’s hierarchy.

 

4. Expert power is derived from possessing knowledge or expertise in a particular area.

 

5. Reward power arises from the ability of a person to influence the allocation of incentives in an organization”.


1982: Hersley and Blanchard’s addition to the model

French and Raven’s model was expanded in 1982 by Hershey and Blanchard’s publication titled “Management of Organizational Behavior”.

In it, Hershey and Blanchard added two more sources of power namely:

6. Connection power which is derived from the ability to connect people and also from the width and breadth of one’s network (within and outside the organisation)

7. Information Power which derives from been able to gather, process and turn relevant data into information and knowledge. This source may or may not coincide with the Legitimate or Expert power source. The internet has flattened the information field and so, expertise and/or position may not be the only indicators for up to date and relevant / useful information nowadays.

 

SUMMARY OF POWER SOURCES

We can summarise and possibly simplify this list in the below broader categories i.e. Power because of:

i) Position (Coercive, Legitimate, Rewards, Referent),

ii) Relationships (Connection, Referent)

iii) Information (Expert, Information).


TODAY AND TOMORROW

We currently see that the 21st century brings along a different type of complexity. In the most dynamic and fast changing landscape we have ever experienced the skill sets for breaking down and working through complex issues based on critical thinking and good logical skills become more and more in demand.

The Customer base is becoming increasingly astute, as there are many more tools enabling it to compare and find out a highly customised solution.  This is the new norm.

Moreover, social media allows for information to spread rapidly throughout the world. It has been mentioned that, through social media, it now can take less than 20 minutes for an event to spread globally.

As I have discussed here, our ability to combine knowledge and invent solutions to the new challenges encountered can be a very strong differentiator in the marketplace.

“Thinking outside the square” becomes a skill heavily sought after.

Learning how to deal with new issues and organising your analysis, plans and actions towards effectively breaking down a situation and seeking solutions thus, becomes a critical skill.

Just think, when was it last that you had faced a “new” challenge, a more complex situation that you had not encountered before? Who did you seek advice from?

It is possible that you weren’t necessarily looking for a person with the power source described above but for someone who could guide your thinking through the maze of the problem’s elements and potential solutions towards effective mind mapping.

I firmly believe that this is a new source of power that is slowly evolving and establishing itself as a key for the future. We can call it “Effective Questioner” Power.

Organisations by default have positional power figures. The more successful organisations also have relational and informational-experts that deliver results.

How many though have implanted the critical thinking skill-set as a requirement in their Human Resources strategy? I believe that the successful ones of the future will.

Finally, the above plethora of power sources means that we now have more ways to differentiate and add value in an organisation. Like King Arthur who by searching and finding the Excalibur embraced a unique Power and privilege to rule, you now have to consider and reflect on your source of Power and answer the question:

What is your Excalibur?

OTHER RESOURCES 

Previous blog posts on critical thinking, logic and innovation.

  1. 8 must know question types for Effective Leaders (link here)
  2. Innovation: SCAMPER- A Practical Guide
  3. Top Tips – Avoiding Common Negotiation Pitfalls (link here)- First published in TheSource e-news
  4. 6 Additional Pitfalls to Avoid during a Negotiation – Cognitive Biases (link here)
  5. The Future of Learning – Are you part of the Learning Revolution? (link here)
  6. How to Conquer tomorrow? (link here)
  7. Conscious Communication – A paradigm for the 21st Century! (link here)
  8. In pursuit of Best Practice – Intrapreneurship (link here). First published in www.procurious.com
  9. The Leader’s Role is Setting and Keeping the Tune (link here) – Two inspirational Videos included.
  10. How to develop a winning organisation today! An inspiring talk (link here)
  11. “All Models Are Wrong, But Some of Them Are Useful” (link here) – First published in Procurement and Supply Australasia


 

 

 

8 must know question types for Effective Leaders

“The key difference between leaders and managers is that leaders focus on getting to the right questions where as managers focus on finding solutions to those questions”. Michael Marquardt

How many times have you found yourself wondering over a well placed question?

How challenging and stimulating is it to ponder over or doubt established beliefs and guided by a thoughtful question reach new lands previously unexplored?

You can think of the art of questioning as your compass towards a meaningful and productive answer and result.

Michael Marquardt in the insightful book, Leading With Questions How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, explores this very theme. He posits that leadership is all about asking the right questions.

Let’s look at some basic points he makes that will enable us to become better “questioners” and thus, better leaders.

 

question

 

TAXONOMY OF QUESTIONS  – OPEN ENDED VERSUS CLOSED ENDED QUESTIONS

In general, open ended questions stimulate thought and the overall discussion. Closed ended questions do the opposite.

In Procurement terms you can think of open ended questions closer to what an RFI or an RFP is aiming at and a closed ended questions closer to an RFQ.

Let’s look at an example:

Close Ended: “Did you meet your KPIs?”

Open Ended: “How has our KPI performance been going?”

It is evident that in the close ended version the answer is “Yes” or “No”.

The open ended version allows and welcomes commentary and frees up the dialogue towards constructive and productive interchange of ideas.The use of “why”, “how” or “what do you think about…” aims to structure open ended questions.

We have now moved on from a black and white world (if ever we were living in one).

Currently working on complex concoctions of all shades and colours means that we need to embrace tools that stimulate discussion, employee engagement (see here and here for more on this topic) and allow innovation to thrive (other tools for innovation can be found here and here).

 

WHAT TO DO: TAXONOMY OF OPEN ENDED QUESTION

  • what to do

There are various types of open ended questions for us to choose from. The basic ones are listed below:

1) Explorative questions open up new avenues and insights:

Example: Have you explored or thought of………..?

2) Affective questions invite members to share feelings about an issue:

Example: How do you feel about ………?

3) Reflective questions encourage more exploration and elaboration:

Example: You said there are difficulties with your project; what do you think causes these difficulties?

4) Probing questions invite the person or group to go more deeply into a particular issue. Words such as describe, explain, clarify, elaborate or expand aim to do just that.

5) Fresh questions challenge basic assumptions:

Example: Has this ever been tried?

6) Questions that create connections establish a systems perspective:

Example: What are the consequences of these actions?

7) Analytical questions examine causes and not just symptoms:

Example: Why has this happened?

8) Clarifying questions help free us from ambiguity:

Example: What specifically do you mean by that?

 

WHAT NOT TO DO: CLOSED and OTHER DISEMPOWERING QUESTIONS

what not to do

1) Closed Questions call for a specific answer, either yes or no, or calls for the respondent to select an answer from a limited range of choices. Closed questions often begin with what, when, or how many, or ask the respondent to agree or disagree with a statement.

Example: Do you like black or white?

2) Leading questions are those that force or encourage the person or group to respond in the way intended by the questioner.

Example: Were you at the meeting with Bob last night?

A non-Leading example would have been: Where were you last night?

 

SUMMARY

Continuous improvement and radical change relies on good and bold questions been asked.

Coming back to Procurement and Contract Management, results in a recent IACCM study,show that 88% of Contract Management professionals believe that improvement of the quality of the Requirements specifications was the number one factor to improve contract performance in their organisations (see here).

Imagine if the above tool of well placed and well thought of questions was used to clarify and specify Requirements Specifications for our RFx. 

How much better the Procurement and Contract Management process would then be?

 

 

Multitasking, a misused term! How to put your real multi-tasking power to good use!

“Do not multitask. I’m going to tell you what you already know. Trying to brush your teeth, talk on the phone, and answer e-mail at the same time just doesn’t work. Eating while doing online research and instant messaging? Ditto. If you prioritize properly, there is no need to multitask. It is a symptom of “task creep”—doing more to feel productive while actually accomplishing less. As stated, you should have, at most, two primary goals or tasks per day. Do them separately from start to finish without distraction. Divided attention will result in more frequent interruptions, lapses in concentration, poorer net results, and less gratification”  Tim Ferriss – The 4hr workweek

Multitasking is a term I constantly find people overuse and misuse.

I have seen this especially with people who are eager to prove that they have the ability to do everything at the same time.

Recent research highlights that “trying to focus on more than one thing at a time causes a 40% drop in productivity” (see below infographic for more research outcomes on the effects on this kind of  “multitasking”).

Moreover, the outcomes of “multitasking” is usually outcomes that are sub-optimal in quality. This of course creates more work negating the perceived “benefits” of saving time through Tim Ferriss’ described “multitasking” anyway.

The art of focus management is very important. More so, when you are working in an open office environment where distractions are very common and beyond anyone’s control.

Let’s see what the right way to think about multitasking is and a few tips on how to avoid disruptions as well as a presentation explaining a popular productivity method that can assist towards better focus management.

caffeinating, calculating, computerating

MULTI-TASKING

So, do we not focus on multitasking as a key skill for the modern professional?

Of course we do, but we need to redefine the term.

“MULTI-TASKING can be defined as the ability to work on multiple projects within the same span of time e.g. Have multiple projects on the run, but not at the same time”.

Good organisational skills, good action and project management skills are essential to achieve this.

It is obvious that the quality of work is in the effectiveness and efficiency by which we approach a task or project. Hence, we have to always look at these two terms working in tandem.

Efficiency means that you choose the right steps to the desired result and effectiveness is the fact that you get to the result.

Remember good old Einstein:

Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler”.

STEPS FOR INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS FOR MULTI-TASKING

1. Focus Management – Select periods to work on specific projects and tell your colleagues that you do not want to be disturbed during this time. Select symbols to denote that this is your “mental focus time” e.g. A do not disturb sign always works 🙂

2. Become aware of where you dedicate time during the week. Eliminate the tasks that do not have an effect on the business and are just noise (meetings you do not need to attend and email people copy you in for the shake of been copied in are just some examples).

3. Work on your ABCs i.e

  • A- Tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT come first,
  • B- Tasks that are IMPORTANT but not URGENT come next and
  • C- the rest can wait.

4. Set out a time to review tasks and prepare a list of steps that need to be done (David Allen’s Getting Things Done method is highly recommended). The below presentation briefly describes this method:

 

OTHER RESOURCES

The below infographic gathers some research that proves that the multitasking as described by Tim Ferriss above is not efficient nor effective.

 

Multitasking

The Perils of Multitasking – infographic by onlinecollege.org

 

Image courtesy of Ryan Ritchie / flickr.com

5 Approaches to a Negotiation – (Negotiations and everyday life)

The ability to negotiate effectively is one of the key skills to have in life.

Do you have a practical model to think about a negotiation? Something that will work at a fruit market as well as a high status negotiation table.

Read on if you want to find out about a model I have found extremely useful and easy to explain to my 9 year old, as well as, esteemed colleagues and can be used as an additional framework for any occasion.

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WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED STYLE?

Before you read about this particular model check the below case study and choose your 2 preferred responses.

This will provide an indicator to your preferred negotiation style.

CASE STUDY

You hire a component for a particular gadget and the contract is up for renewal. Your supplier, who you have used for a while has good service quality but not excellent. Your company is expanding with the requirement for this component increasing by 30%, and therefore are looking for a reduction in the price. You would settle for no price increase; your boss would be satisfied if an increase was held to 2 per cent. Your supplier’s first offer, taking into account the increased volume, is at the same unit price as last year. How do you respond?

Potential Responses

  1. Accept the offer
  2. Explain you were looking for a 10% reduction, ask to be met halfway, i.e. a 5% reduction in the unit price
  3. Explain that you should also be looking elsewhere as a matter of company policy
  4. Stress the 30% increase in business you have to offer and the fact that the basic cost of the equipment has fallen, due to improvements in technology
  5. Suggest improved payment terms and a longer contract period in exchange for a better offer.
  6. Show appreciation for the offer that has been made and mention the ‘bad time’ users have given you over servicing

Now, spend a minute to consider your answers. Remember choose only two of the above six choices.

Ready. Well done! Let’s move on.

THE MODEL

Categorisation is essential for it is the way to frame and really understand how things work. In this model, the negotiation approaches are split in the below general categories (the #numbering corresponds to the above suggested responses):

  • Logic #4
  • Threat #3
  • Emotion #6
  • Compromise #2
  • Bargaining #5
  • and then there is Acceptance #1 but then this is not really a negotiation (if Acceptance is the first response).

So, which were your preferred responses?

Your choices are an indicator of what is your instinctive preferred style is.

What you choose to use at every negotiation should be quite different and should dependent on the context, the relationship, the required outcome etc.

Using one behavioural style at every negotiation despite the different power dynamics and the different preferred outcomes is not wise as this would not enhance the potential for maximising the value of the deal.

For example, as an extreme case, imagine you have decided upon a collaborative approach for R&D (mutual product development) with a supplier but your natural style is to Threaten (#3). Well, this is not an approach that builds bridges towards greater collaboration.

WAYS TO USE THE MODEL AND BE EFFECTIVE AT A NEGOTIATION

1. Know what you naturally prefer (in this CIPS white paper there is a test that more accurately measures your negotiation style)

2. Pay attention on what is the preferred method from the other side.

An easy way to do this is to identify key themes. Notice again the above 6 responses and compare them for key differences.

3. Get on your team people with natural talent at different negotiation style.

4. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Prepare on what style and arguments you should use. Prepare for what naturally you would expect from the other party. Prepare BATNA, WATNA etc

FURTHER USEFUL READING

Previous Blog posts about Negotiations:

  • Definition on what the term negotiation really means (here).
  • The first step towards an effective negotiation (here).
  • A useful guide to identify and avoid bad reasoning in a Logical argument (here).
    A checklist on prerequisites for an effective negotiation (here)

Great Books

  1. Clive Rich- The Yes Book
  2. Robert Cialdini – Influence
  3. Roger Fisher & William Ury – Getting to Yes

 

 

 

 

[Image courtesy of Andalousia / www.morguefile.com]