How to become a strong(er) manager
I think we all like to be a strong manager. If we are not then it will be difficult to fulfil our role.
We have a key employee. They do not comply with our instructions. We know if we push too hard they will leave and it will have a negative impact on our goals and set KPIs. Therefore, we are not in a strong position to negotiate! We don’t like it and we feel uncomfortable. What we lack is power. Power – to put us in a stronger position. Let me give you a tool that puts you in a better bargaining position, making you a strong manager.
When I was in my 20’s, the final part of my Master of Science degree was to write a thesis (12 months of writing – bless me). I chose “How to Gain Power” as the foundation. The concept has been ingrained in me ever since.
“Power is the ability to get someone to do something that he or she would not have done otherwise”
It could be as simple as “please hold my pen for a minute”. If someone does something because of our influence, directly or indirectly, and would not have done it otherwise, we have power over that person and have exercised it. Hurray!
The big question is always “How do we get power?” Power is not something that we simply just have or don’t have. Power is rooted in dependency.
Let’s assume we are the employer and “John” is our employee.
We pay John a salary, John is dependent on the money earned. If he loses his job he cannot pay his bills. Therefore, we have power over John. So, when we ask John to do something he will often do so. He knows if he doesn’t comply he may lose his job and his immediate income.
John is in sales, he generates income for the company. If he leaves it will cost money replacing him. So, when John asks for something we will consider it and may give in so we don’t upset him and ultimately leaves.
The reality is you both are dependent on each other – that is why there is a relationship.
We will accept more pain from each other before we break up… If we don’t want him to leave then we can make him more dependent on his position and the company. (Note: There are many forms of dependencies – not just money, e.g. social, learning, prestige, flexible working hours etc.)
Also, we can make ourselves less dependent on John. If we are not very dependent on John and can relatively quickly replace him we will not give him much more room to move compared to anyone else – less special favours – we are less tolerant.
John knows if he loses his job it will be an uncertain future. Therefore, he may not push too hard…. as he has the most to lose.
We may be very dependent on John but choose to act like we are not. That is the poker game. We may tell John – “If you don’t do what we ask you to do then we will terminate your employment@. We would further tell him that it would not faze us because we can easily replace him.
(We know full well that this is not the case, however, his perception is that we are less dependent on him than he is on us. Therefore he sees us as strong managers)
We should map out our dependencies. When we know them we can take actions to minimise them over time. This could be decisions such as not having only 1 (or only a few)
The list is long.
To be effective managers we need to create a position of power.
How else are we going to get someone to do something that he or she would not have done otherwise?
If we as managers don’t change people’s behaviour, we are not managers
“Power” manifests itself into situations and relationships. No relationships – no situations – then no power to be executed and the concept of weak or strong manager does not exist.
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