Align Employee Aspirations with Strategic Goals

Strengthen Your Bottom Line

Importance of Alignment

At When Toys Age, our job is to deep-dive into management mentality, culture innovation, and employee expansion.

When expectations aren’t met, companies often look in the same places for answers — new product development, organizational restructuring, changing leadership…etc. But we don’t solve our company’s predicament by redirecting attention & concealing it with false hope. We know that.

We all trace our company’s productivity and profitability directly back to the performance of our employees working toward accomplishing individual goals that align to support the company’s strategic goals.

Top-down alignment, when communicated throughout the organization, provides direction, and bottom-up alignment, then, uncovers the destination.

Without solid alignment to company strategy, every bit of motion becomes a challenge. Employees resist change and place personal agendas before the company’s. Managers struggle to rally the support needed to deliver management expectations. We start patching gunshot wounds with band-aids. Misalignment is the reason we see such high turnover. Rather than looking to top-down measures as a catalyst for transformation, why not look start from the fundamentals and strengthen our bottom line?

 

Source of Misalignment

Why do companies acknowledge this and still do everything they can to ignore it?

The answers is: traditional mentality sees employees as merely soldiers hired to complete tasks & hit numbers, and not as potential leaders who steer the company. Companies are willing to invest in employees only if they promise calculated value that fits within the box they created, or box z, as we call it. They believe that management steers the company in the right direction, and other employees are simply present to carry out orders — and you know, give a little more if they have the ability. Where, then, does the innovation fit in?

If we don’t see potential in our people, can we truly say that we see potential in the company?

Because that’s what differentiates a leader from everyone else — the ability to see what others don’t see. We see potentialThat’s our job.

And if we don’t see potential in people, do we have a right to blame them for recognizing their own potential? Can we blame them for wanting to leave, for turning to their own agendas if we never made the effort to align their agendas back to our goals?

Goal alignment must be established during the hiring process & consistently clarified, and with your help, we’ve been building a formula to measure this during the hiring process and continuously track success.

 

Growing a Company VS Growing a Business

This isn’t about catering to the individual, it’s about seeing and developing potential. Its about thinking ahead. It’s about growing our company, and NOT just our business.

The Employee-Company relationship is supposed to be a mutually beneficial one. Let me lay it out for you.

Business Exchange: Complete task. Earn money.
Company Exchange: Build the company. Build the individual.

So we must ask ourselves this: Did we hire an employee to grow our business, grow our company, or both?

If the answer isn’t instinctive, then perhaps it’s time to examine how important the company is to us, and whether or not we’re the right person to lead it.

 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

This isn’t as radical as discarding everything we know about the company. It’s about recognizing & developing potential, creating a culture that fosters innovation, integrity, value, and transforming management mentality & behavior to encompass these virtues.

At When Toys Age, we’ve developed our own set of systems and metrics to evaluate barriers and unlock potential in both individuals and within organizational processes. We train and build leaders by promoting leadership mentality, understanding their power, holding people responsible to their actions and goals, and aligning aspirations with company goals. We don’t teach them to be managers, we guide and allow them to be leaders. That’s our specialty.

If this sounds interesting to you, consider becoming an innovation ambassador, and bring our program to your team & company. Strengthen your bottom line and build your team from there. I promise you, it’s a better view.

Thanks for reading and Happy Monday!

WTA

The Power of Aligned Goals

It’s the age of unicorn startups with white knights who steal the limelight--a fast-paced thriller of a ride with fickle priorities and competition around every corner. In this age, the idea of a 5-year goal is just not feasible. Lori Becker, CEO and Founder of Boston-based education publishing firm, Publishing Solutions Inc., shares that while she likes the idea of 5-year goal plan, the changing economy and competition forces her to reevaluate. “Instead of a few years out,” she says, “I’m now looking quarter to quarter.”
 
Setting goals is not an easy task. A simple search on the internet could guide you through an array of goal-setting strategies, advice ranging from “10 steps to setting the perfect goal” to “Why you should have no goals.” Still, proper goal-setting continues to stand as one of our greatest challenges today.  
 
In hopes of identifying the missing ingredient, we’ve embarked on journeys from perusing the extensive database of goal-setting strategies to interviewing champion goal-setters. What’s the missing link, you ask? What we realized was that the secret to setting the right goal is not in how you set the goal, but in first understanding why you set the goal. In other words: how does each goal align back to the mission, how do your goals support one another, and how do your goals come together to carry out your mission?
 
We’ve all been a part of strategic planning sessions where every participant seems to carry their own agenda. They come in with their goals all ready to present. Each participant takes his turn presenting his goals, and everyone else at the table listens to him and asks the same questions in their heads.
 
 
1.     Why?
 
What they’re really asking: How does each goal align back to the mission?
 
You mission is your impact and ultimate message to the world. It’s the why behind the existence of your organization. For this reason, every goal that you set must directly drive that core mission. One important thing to ask while setting goals is whether your goal directly fuels the mission. If not, how can you revise the goal to create a more powerful link? In other words, what is the true purpose of this goal, and how can you change it to create a more direct impact? Oftentimes, what you’ll see is that there is a more effective way to achieve the impact you want to create. 
 
2.     How will this work?
 
What they’re really asking: How do our goals come together to carry out the mission?
 
The greatest challenges are always the ones lurking in the shadows—the ones we should have seen coming but never thought to pay attention to. Before finalizing your goals, it’s crucial to ask: Do these goals come together to tell a story? What picture are our goals painting? 
 
Rather than focusing all your attention on the next steps for your current projects and initiatives, consider taking some time out to think about how it aligns with everyone else’s agenda, and whether what you’re working on makes sense for the organization and everyone else. The right goal doesn’t just support the current initiatives within your department, it aligns with the other goals to fuel the overall direction and rhythm of the organization.

3.     How does this benefit me?
 
What they’re really asking: How do our different goals align?
 
As a final step in goal setting, it’s important to not only to visualize the goals coming together to support your mission, but also how the goals align and support each other. 

What we’ve found after working alongside managers and companies is that if you take all the goals and place them side-by-side, you’ll quickly see the ones that don’t align. 
 
As seen in our Triple Alignment Model each goal is interconnected in a way that the success of one goal supports the success of another. This doesn’t mean that one is required in order for the others to succeed, but that they’re connected in a mutually supportive way. 

For those who haven’t used our model, the Triple Alignment Model is a strategic & visualization tool that measures alignment between goals & teams, and fundamentally reimagines the way we approach team building and goal setting. If you haven’t already, check out our tools and resources to guide you through your next goal setting session--whether that’s for a new project, new product, or new quarter, you’ll experience the power of alignment. 

Setting values that support agile goals

In this agile age, we find ourselves constantly bombarded with new goals and tasks, sometimes at the same time. Focusing on the right task becomes difficult when goals aren’t set properly. So, in a professional setting we review them to ensure that we have set the right goals. This process would be annually, quarterly, and by project. But what’s the step between setting goals and accomplishing goals?

It’s finding the right people with the right mindset.

It’s asking questions like - What kind of team do I want to assemble? What does the team stand for? Who needs to be on the team? Who can contribute as an individual player?

Organizations set 4-6 values in the beginning, then host annual events that recognize employees who have exemplified these values. The best of them find ways to accurately measure them in performance reviews. That’s not bad-but why stop there?

One of the greatest scholars of the 18th century, Samuel Johnson said, “Man more likely needs to be reminded than informed” and we listened. At When Toys Age, we’ve built a model that shows how your mission, values, and goals align. We show a new method to establish values by asking yourself a question: What values serve as reminders of what we are becoming and who we need to be?

As an organization, we set our values early on, we know what we stand for and who we want to become. As we achieved our goals we realized that some values are better aligned and more relevant too. Now when we as we set new goals, we embody these values as a team to achieve the best outcome.

  1. Unity & Understanding: Establishing values is a great team building activity that gives all its members a sense of belonging. When we talk about values, people’s strengths, passions, and beliefs are revealed, which deepens understanding and connection between team members and promotes a sense of individuality and diversity.

  2. Accountability: As a team, we are not just holding each other accountable to our tasks and responsibilities; we were holding ourselves and each other accountable to strong values and a better version of ourselves. That takes trust, teamwork, and friendship.

  3. Goal Alignment: Reinforcing the importance of our goals and mission by reminding ourselves was instrumental in achieving our outcomes. It’s the who to our what, where, and why.

Check out our website to learn more about our Triple Alignment model, and how you can integrate our model into your system and core HR processes to set the right goals, hire the right people, and continuously measure alignment between your mission, goals, and values.

 

Enriching Innovative Potential

As the story goes, AirBnB co-founder, Chesky famously asked Peter Thiel what his single most important piece of advice was.

Thiel replied, “Don’t fuck up the culture.”

 

& So Let’s talk About Culture

Creating a culture of honesty and innovation isn’t a simple task. And while it takes a system and cooperation to maintain, there are some very simple ways you can start building it. Innovation often begins from the top, but it’s terribly misleading to believe that the visionary leader is the key to innovation. In reality, it takes a network, an ecosystem of work styles to maintain sustainable innovation. This “visionary leader” isn’t necessarily the idea generator or architect of the ecosystem, but simply, the person who signs off on paperwork to accelerate the project.

Innovation isn’t this grand idea that takes millions of dollars, years of complex experiements, and complete transformation to build. And it’s also not something that you can brush off until “next year.” It’s something that if you don’t pay attention to, you will most definitely fall behind AND it’s something that you can start developing with a little determination, recognition, and guidance.

Perhaps one of the best pieces I’ve read on innovation is a book by Tom Kelley called The Ten Faces of Innovation. For those who aren’t familiar with Tom Kelley, he runs the marketing side of IDEO, one of the world’s most innovative (and inspirational) design companies. In this book, Kelley explores the different types of roles in the workplace that foster innovation and push boundaries. The following post is based on my understanding of Kelley’s observed roles, as well as my experiences with them, followed by some thoughts on how to include these roles in your company.

Before reading further, it is important to understand that these roles are all unique, and spark innovation in their own ways. There are the Learning Roles, the Organizing Roles, and the Building Roles, all of which come together to establish and maintain innovation within the company. From the Hurdlers who know how to navigate bureaucracy to the Set Designers who manipulate space to enhance internal activity, all these roles are crucial to propelling the innovative agenda, and must be properly appreciated and deployed.

 

The Learning Personas

The learning personas are driven by the thirst for knowledge and expansion, the ones who never fall complacent. They are the forward thinkers and the pushers of new boundaries who prevent your team form being too internally dependent, and also to remind your team that there is still so much potential for growth. These roles force you to question what you think you know by showing you what you didn’t know you didn’t know.

The Anthropologist

Kelley describes these types as “rarely stationary.” Highly intuitive and inquisitive, they venture into new fields to observe & absorb, and return with new insight, ideas, and mindsets. They are highly theoretical and are able to apply abstract concepts to their problem solving approach in all aspects of a project. Anthropologists are the eyes of wisdom, with the gift of seeing what others miss, absorbing and collecting knowledge, finding inspiration in the most unusual of places. They don’t just learn; they understand concepts and reapply them to other scenarios.

The Experimenter

As we can surmise from the name, these types are testers of ideas. They take a raw idea and assess the end result from different persona perspectives for risk and potential. These idea assessors are decisive and collaborative, with an eye for efficiency and effectiveness, allowing them to transform theories into models, ideas into products.

The Cross-Pollinator

Kelley describes Cross-Pollinators as people who draw associations and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts to break new ground. Like the Anthropologist, these personas are highly inquisitive and love to explore. They’re the idea mappers who have an aptitude for idea absorption and pattern recognition, bringing in ideas from the outside world to enlighten and inspire the company. As collectors of inspiration and experiences, their ability to connect dots and open minds are highly impactful.

 

The Organizing Personas

These personas have an instinctive know-how when it comes to navigating the system and the people within it. These people think in strategies and destinations, with the ability to both move people across mountains AND the mountains themselves. They have a deep understanding of how the process works, and are natural at executing new ideas, direction, and methodologies. The Organizing Personas are strategists at their core, and you better believe that they play to win.

The Hurdler

Yes, the eternal strategist and tireless problem solver who lives to tear down boundaries and leap over barriers. With a determined yet graceful state of mind, they see potential and ask, “why not?” The Hurdler looks risk in the eye and smiles, as he/she is built to leap beyond them.

“Despite doomsday forecasting by shortsighted experts,” Kelley says, “the Hurdler gracefully sidesteps the obstacle…[turning] setbacks into an organization’s greatest successes.” How about that, huh?

The Collaborator

The Collaborator is the one to “dissolve traditional boundaries within organizations.” Their ability to see potential in people makes them natural persuaders and team builders, engaging employees and stakeholders to assume new mindsets and roles under a united vision. The charismatic element of this role creates opportunities for leadership & coaching.

The Director

The Director is the one who stands at the destination holding the flag of Victory. He/she is a visionary, with an acute understanding of the bigger picture, the ins and outs of the organization, and the risks and potential of the company. Directors believe in their people, their cause, and their direction, and empower others to take charge, to be the best they can be.

 

The Building Personas

You can find the building personas at the heart of the action, and are easily identifiable due to their visibility. They’re the pieces that hold together innovation byleveraging the knowledge and insight from the Learning roles, and connecting it with the direction and energy from the Organizing roles.

The Experience Architect

The Experience Architect’s specialty is in taking something ordinary and creating an unforgettable experience out of it. As they are usually empaths with extraordinary attention for detail, Experience Architects focus on channeling their positive energy and eye for aesthetics to create remarkable individual experiences regardless of whether it is internal or external facing. You can find Experience Architects facilitating new products/services, events, programs, and learning more about people’s experiences every chance they get.

The Set Designer

The Set Designer in an environmental creature, with a talent and passion for manipulating space to foster inspiration. They make it a goal to create an environment that motivates them everyday, and makes the whole workplace place feel right! They continuously adjust the space to reflect the activities within the company, which thereby sets the tone for collaboration and engagement. Don’t underestimate the power of versatility.

The Caregiver

Like the Experience Architect, Caregivers have a strong focus on human interaction and connection. Kelley refers to them as the “foundation of human-powered innovation,” and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. These personas understand the importance of genuine connection, and the power of strong relationships. Deeply connected with their integrity, caregivers drive both meaningful and sustainable transformations that align individuals with the vision of the company. Regardless of their role within the organization, Caregivers are able to combine ideas from the Learning Personas, direction from the Organizing Personas, and atmosphere from the Building Personas to generate an authentic and impactful message to individuals.

The Storyteller

Storytelling is an integral part of IDEO, so just by the title, we get a glimpse of the magnitude of this role. Storytellers use the magic of stories to captivate their audience’s imagination. These compelling narratives are expressed in so many forms, through so many mediums that the idea spreads like wildfire, sparking inspiration, action, emotion, and movement in all directions. Through creativity, authenticity, and deep connection, storytellers unite teams, strengthen core values and principles, address underlying issues, and generate countless opportunities for growth and collaboration.

What’s Next?

As individuals, it is our job to understand our own potential and capacity to grow. Last month, I wrote a post about understanding your power in the workplace, where I discussed different types of workplace power, and how to channel the power. Similarly, I hope that we can understand these Faces of Innovation, and identify the areas that we offer the most (and least) value. When looking for people to surround ourselves with (even outside of work), this is really helpful to keep in mind.

As leaders — industry leaders, parents, thought leaders, politicians, managers, CEO’s — it is our job to recognize these personas within our teams, and help them discover their power and voice. From there, we must bring everyone in our team into the innovative process, and allow them to build on the knowledge, processes, and atmosphere that already exists.

Also — it’s crucial to apply these during the hiring process as well. It’s natural for hiring managers to focus on core competencies during the hiring and selection process, because focusing on core competitiveness reaps immediate effects. If you’re looking to build a sustainable, innovative organization, however, look beyond the skills that can be learned, and look at the character & potential of the individual. All I’m saying is pay attention to what you pay attention to.

For recruiters and HR Managers, reexamine and reevaluate job descriptions, and consider the types of people your organization is lacking. Make that a key focus on your hire, because there is no use for another idea generator if no one is present to execute the ideas. It is your duty to emphasize the importance of innovation to management, the hiring manager, and to the applicant.

At When Toys Age, we offer both self-assessments, organizational assessments, and other tools that help identify, communicate, and deploy these roles into operational strategy.

We are building a software tool that intricately aligns all our assessments and tools into a simple platform to guide your company through each step of the employee engagement journey, from recruiting and onboarding to continuous feedback and development, diving into goal alignment, innovation capability, management mentality, internal coaching programs, and so much more. For more information or just for fun, feel free to shoot over an email!

Thank you for reading and Happy Tuesday to you all :)

WTA

Radical Alignment in 10 Questions

 

Inspiration

This post is inspired by a stranger who kindly shared his 14 hour work schedule with me a few days ago.

His job consists of 4–6 hours of meetings per day — meetings with the team, clients, board meetings, and 1:1’s to ensure all his reports have time to meet with him to align their goals & direction. Or even just for them to just complain. He manages a team of 24, and meets with each employee either weekly or biweekly.

I was deeply shocked by the number of hours he devoted to meetings — what about his brainstorming time, work time, preparation time, learning time?

Inspired by his story, I have assembled some of the most effective and insightful questions I’ve asked (and encouraged my colleagues & clients to ask) over the years. The purpose of these questions is to elicit feedback that establishes a long-term foundation for trust, openness, and alignment.

 

A Task for Managers

I once read an article suggesting managers to prepare for 1:1’s by asking their reports to make a list of all the tasks and projects he/she is working on. The manager should then make the same list and use it as a basis for communication & alignment. I’ve personally tried this method and found it very effective, and was surprised to see what was being missed in the 1:1 discussions. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve shared this method with dozens of other managers, who have mirrored my results and fascination.

Continuously fascinated by cultures with open communication, I’ve spent the last years studying feedback, and which types of questions generate the most growth. Getting honest and helpful feedback isn’t always easy. And oftentimes, the feedback we hear only confirms what we already know or want to hear. It takes a great leader to create a culture of open feedback, and the right questions to learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know. Examples of what executives & managers have uncovered from these questions are: employees who were planning to leave, a new product/service, poor use of technology, inadequate leaders…etc.

 

Questions To Ask New Hires

1. Aside from your current manager, is there someone in particular within the company you would like learn from?

This question uncovers not only which mentors are most admired, but more surprisingly, employees’ learning styles. According to our studies, the mentors who employees choose are those with teaching styles that align with the individual’s learning style. This is especially important when examining the employee’s potential for growth under his/her manager relationship.

Furthermore, this exercise forces employees to examine their future and also research the leaders of their company.

At When Toys Age, we use questions like these to help develop & shape your mentorship program. Employees have found powerful advantages in having mentors outside of their department, as they feel more personally connected to the company as a whole, as well as their personal growth.

2. Other than your current department/role, what other departments or roles interest you?

I personally love this question because there’s unlimited potential in what you do with it and where it could lead you.

  1. Discover Their Passions: When you ask why, watch their eyes light up. This is passion speaking, so remember what it looks like. Know what your employees are good at, and learn what they love doing. Then create a role around it. I’ll never forget what my last boss said to me, “Be excellent at everything you do, and unmatched at what you love to do.”
  2. Establish a Joint Project: Let your employees explore their passions and goals. Give them an opportunity to test their fit by initiating a joint project between two departments. Oftentimes, employees are happy to take on the project in addition to their roles. Plus, you never know what you might learn. This is a chance for two departments to collaborate.
3. Are there things about the company that you feel you should know?

I used to ask a variation of this question, but especially like how Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company phrased it.

Asking this question allows you to assess what type of communication your company is missing, as well as areas of expansion. Companies have taken this question further to discover what employees want to learn about, and then restructure their onboarding & ongoing training programs. When you ask this question, examples of what you might find are:

  1. Your employees struggle with the software your company is using
  2. Employees outside of sales/product don’t understand your product all that well
  3. Your vision lacks clarity or requires revision
  4. Certain policies are outdated and no longer apply
4. Describe your ideal lifestyle.

This question says so much about an individual — what they value, what their long-term goals are, where work/the company fits into their priorities. If you ask this, you’ll have solid grasp on how to motivate and reward them.

Motivation and rewards are an integral focus of our work. At When Toys Age, we study the effectiveness of a company’s reward system to enable the proper employee incentives for growth. Far too often do employers rewards employees without understanding what they value. An $100 gift card & lunch with the boss might not be what your employee wants. And carelessness with reward systems can cause heightened expectations and therefore, dissatisfaction.

If you’d like to share your incentive program success story or learn more about our method for assessing proper incentives and building an effective reward system, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Continuous Alignment

1. Is there a part of your job that makes you nervous? Are you afraid of anything at work?

This could range anywhere from a personal insecurity around the responsibilities of the position to a negative work-life balance, to a poor relationship with his/her manager, and even reservations about the direction of the company. Answering this question requires a great deal of honesty and vulnerability, so managers, please treat these answers with respect & an open mind.

And don’t disregard the answer to this question. This question is remarkably powerful because what you decide to do with it can make or break your relationship. If you choose to ignore your employee’s fears, you’re pushing him/her to find someone who won’t.

2. Do you believe you’ll be able to reach your full potential here?

This is a simple yes or no question, and self-explanatory. Holds immense weight nonetheless.

3. If you could hire a personal assistant, what kind of work would you delegate?

This is a two-part assessment:

  1. Did they consider the aspirations and skills of the hire? Did they describe the ideal candidate?
  2. This answer reveals the parts of the job that aren’t as high in priority, and is an opportunity to delegate or automate! It also tells how fit they are for their role.
  3. An insightful follow-up question is: Hypothetically, if you were to quit tomorrow, what would your reason be?
4. Is there something our company should measure that we currently do not?

Answers span from employee recognition to investment proposals. The answers to this question are all things that employees notice, things that they see that you may not. These answers will help grow your company, business, or both.

When conducting our preliminary evaluation of a company’s culture/innovation capacity, this is one of the most telling questions. In the past, we’ve transformed this question into Quarterly Company Shark Tank Sessions for our clients, who now keep a far more open mind on what they measure.

5. Have you seen great work go unnoticed in the office?

This is a powerful question for many reasons.

  1. It allows the employee to think beyond themselves and their desires
  2. It establishes connection and builds support within the company
  3. Studies show that standing up for someone empowers individual confidence and places individuals in their natural state of comfort
6. What have you recently learned outside of work that you have applied in the workplace?

This question digs into what is happening in the employee’s life outside of work. Whether the employee reveals a recent life experience or something they learned while taking a course, this question is crucial because it prioritizes the employee’s growth, and also shows that your interest in the employee’s well-being expands beyond the workplace.

A variation and perhaps potential follow-up question is Have you seen something recently and wished that it could be done here? Boom — potential project.

Conclusion

Over the years, we’ve assembled a database of hundreds of questions & strategies that dive deep into individual aspirations, goals, and barriers, and weaved the responses into the company’s mentality, culture, and overall identity. Whether in management mentality, culture innovation, or employee expansion, these questions are there to serve one mission: To eradicate barriers & unlock potential.

At When Toys Age, that’s our job, our pride, and our deepest gratification.

To learn more about our offerings or invite us to your company, please email hillary@whentoysage.com.

Thank you for learning with us,

WTA

Oh and P.S. In addition to consistent 1:1’s, look into establishing a system that promotes consistent feedback. Create a process that belongs solely to your company & team. The purpose is to cut back on meeting time and still continue robust & honest communication.

Maximize Your Power in the Workplace Regardless of Your Position

 

This post is inspired by and dedicated to a good friend of mine who approached me raising the issue of his lack of power, authority, and influence in the work environment. I hear these types of questions frequently, and every time they arise, it makes me smile a little because there’s so much potential they’ve yet to discover & acknowledge.

Power isn’t something you hold or keep, it’s something you create. In order to own your power, you must build it yourself, and continue building it every day. Here’s a personal story for you, followed by the body of the post to guide you to understanding your power within the office environment.

When I got out of college, I could have taken several different jobs. I graduated my undergrad in half the time it took everyone else to, had quite the professional experience, and one lovely tale. The options seemed endless, but I chose to start from the bottom up. Or so it seemed.
I applied as an executive assistant at a large corporation, and within a month, I held brainstorming sessions alone with the CEO, solved daily puzzles with the CFO, established a long-term friendship with the CPO, and contributed to the exclusive team leading the big new product.
Once that was over, I applied to a different, extremely different company for a similar position. The first thing I asked in the interview was, “Do you see an opportunity for me to create a role around my skills and aspirations?” They answered yes I and ended up leading much of the initiatives contributing to the transformation of the company.
I didn’t take these positions because I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I took those positions because I knew exactly what it is that I loved, and what it was that I still lacked. I was an absorber, and I absorbed every ounce of information and knowledge they threw at me. I knew that if I was going to start something of my own, I needed more than my skill & talent. I needed to know best practices, processes, systems, technique. And boy did I learn voraciously.
And let me tell you, I didn’t feel powerless at all. I had all the information, I knew all the right people, I knew exactly what was going on. Everything that happened in the organization, I was the first to see. I had exposure to daily practices and sentiment that management didn’t, and the information and knowledge that everyone outside of the management team didn’t.
When I left my job, my boss told me that the management team had a meeting about me, and concluded that they were all going to work for me one day.
I’m not here to boast, but rather to say that it’s our job to understand our power. This position could have just as easily become a secretarial role — copying papers, scheduling meetings. Instead, I automated, designed, planned, created, and most importantly, ABSORBED. And what I absorbed was precisely the piece I needed to be where I am today.

This is based on the work of social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven, and my observation and experiences with different types of power. Use these types of powers to assess not only your own leadership style, but also those who you follow.

 

  1. Titular or legitimate power

This is the hierarchical command and control power that comes with the position, role, or title. This traditional type of power comes with the responsibility of making decisions and commanding others to follow orders, and also ensures that when a decision is made, the responsibility links back to someone.

The weakness of legitimate power is that the power follows the title, and not the person. Also, this type of power is situational, and applies only under specific conditions & environments. Legitimate power, if used exclusively, does more harm than good, and the overuse of this power generates distrust and resistance in subordinates. The managers I’ve seen who rely on this type of power to justify obedience and compliance are often least effective, and don’t realize how unreliable the power is. These people often lead and work with high levels of insecurity, causing variance of stability in performance and leadership. If your position allows you to make important decisions, use it carefully. When exerting legitimate power, understand that the power doesn’t belong to you. Try to combine this power with other types of power, and you’ll find yourself in a more stable position.

Likewise, if you’re working under someone who abuses this power, be sure to assess the situation before carrying out orders.

2. Coercive Power

Another type linked closely to legitimate power is coercive power, the ability to punish for noncompliance. This is perhaps the most ineffective means of power, yet used most often to strike fear. People who use this form of power set up consequences for disobedience, and force others into compliance. Variations of this power come in the forms of threatening and bullying, and lead to resentment and dissatisfaction.

While your position may allow you to punish others, the power alone doesn’t give you the right or justification to do so. In fact, you could force them to leave and therefore lose that power in the process. Be careful if you overuse this power, because people often respond to threats with greater threats.

Coercive power suggests insecurity and discomfort, and therefore takes away from legitimacy. If you are a coercive power user, just know that each time you threaten someone, you compromise trust and encourage disconnection. Make sure that’s what you want because you will see immediate effects.

3. Reward Power

Perhaps the opposite of coercive power is reward power, also closely linked to legitimate power. While coercive power is the power to punish, reward power is the ability to reward. Simple, right?

Like coercive power, this is a type of conditional & short-term power, only as valid as one’s position and ability to reward. Overuse of this type of power establishes high expectations for return, and focuses the subject’s attention on their gains rather than the bigger picture.

Managers often take advantage of the fact that they have the right to reward their employees, and seek to control their employees by giving them a reward once a task is completed correctly. A classic case of conditioning, they establish a culture of “do this and get that.” This is the type of power I’ve seen used most incorrectly; it’s far too easy to misuse rewards, and more often than not, it heightens employee expectations, frustration, and dissatisfaction in the long-run. A quick tip: if you’re going to reward your employees, take the time out to figure out what their values and desires are. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a manager is not knowing how to properly motivate your employees. When rewards aren’t perceived as valuable, your power weakens.

4. Informational Power

Knowledge is power. And having information that others want or need places you in a position of power. I’m not referring strictly to knowledge that you’ve assembled over the years, but also your access to information. Examples of informational power are if you know what the new title structure looks like, can access financial reports, understand approval workflows…etc.

Informational power is one of the top 3 most effective forms of power, and among the least utilized. When you have informational power, people look to you for answers and next steps. Your decision to distribute this information can serve as a catalyst for massive transformation. While you are in a position to share it, you have the options of withholding, concealing, distorting the information, giving you the power to manipulation people, systems, opinions, and your environment. You can use this tool to help others or as a bargaining chip, but ultimately, acknowledge that it may not be your information to share. If you abuse this type of power, you may lose it.

Many people do not understand the power of information. Don’t be one of them.

5. Expert Power

Expert power is very similar to informational power on many levels. It narrows in on an area of expertise, and the ability to do something better than everyone else. Like informational power, expert power is both functional and accessible. These types of power are easy to recognize by others, and therefore easy for the individual to leverage in a variety of situations. There’s so much untapped potential within these non-traditional sources of power that when used correctly, gives you substantial leadership force. A high level of expertise and experience allows you to naturally gain the respect and trust of others. In other words, if you offer value in your expertise, others will look to you for leadership, making expert power an excellent foundation for leadership. This, coupled with integrity, charisma, and vision establishes you as a powerful leader beyond your expertise.

6. Referent Power

Referent power, combined with integrity and character, is the among the most effective, influential, and stable forms of power. Individuals who have referent power attract followers through charisma and the ability to connect with others on a deeper level. When I think of referent power, I think of celebrities who have the ability to start trends and influence taste & opinions.

The most important thing about referent power is character, integrity, and responsibility. Because some people are born with a natural charisma & seduction, referent power can be powerfully dangerous if abused. It could be used to alienate large groups and create trends with extreme negative impact. I’m personally very skeptical of those who rely on referent power alone.

As mentioned prior, referent power, combined with strong values, creates a foundation of respect. Add expert power to this concoction and you have yourself a fan (Me).

7. Connection Power

This is the last on our list, but certainly not least. Connection power bears similarities with referent power and informational power, and is becoming increasingly powerful in our days of networking and finding like minds. Connection power is the ability to connect people, and also the access to connections.

When you have connection power, people look to you for guidance, for their answers. They approach you with the illusion that you have the ability to transform their future, and they’re not wrong. This type of power multiplies by spreading connection and developing more power. By connecting people together, you stand at the core of people’s friendships, create more friendships, and expand this vibrating frequency of network, community, and energy.

Conclusion

The most effective people and leaders understand how to use these different types of power, and equally important, when to use them.

Below are helpful questions and considerations inspired by Mindtools:

Carefully examine these types of power, and how you’ve used them in the past. Then create a list of ways you can use these powers to gain influence in your workplace. Be sure to assess how ready you are for these types of power, because if you’re not ready, these techniques will be ineffective.
If you have used these powers in the past, analyze the expected and unexpected consequences. Were you ready for them? If not, what do you need to gain in order to use them appropriately? What will you do differently next time?
How have others used these types of power with you? What was your reaction tot hem? If necessary, develop a strategy to reduce someone else’s illegitimate use of power over you.
Remember that you are never without power. Try to plan ahead for the next time you feel powerless. What types of power do you have, and when would they be appropriate to use? How can you be more aware of your power and when you use it?

I hope that this post will inspire my friend to discover his power at work, and also in day to day life. It’s incredible how very little of our power we recognize, and far less we actually use. But beyond that, this post is meant to show us how to use our power and how NOT to use it. In this day, it’s so easy to abuse power and use what we have to gain what we want. Use your power with integrity and have some faith in people. Your power is only as strong and the energy you use to earn it.

For the people I’ve seen who continuously abuse their power, I just have one question for you: why not spend that energy making positive impact and growing yourself rather than fretting over your power? If you focused on the right things, you wouldn’t have to worry about your insecurity and position.

At When Toys Age, these are the types of questions we examine to close the gap between management & employee expectations, and align individual aspirations with the company’s strategic goals. Our goal is to see potential, and the foundation of that is guiding you to understand your power and use it to build yourself and build your company.

Thank you for reading.

Warmest Regards,

H

When Toys Age