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Power by Force or Power by Influence?

I matured in the business world during the time of the blue suit, white shirt, and red "power" tie. Though that mentality is still very prevalent, things are changing...and at a very high level.

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Today, I read a comment that made my jaw drop, which doesn’t happen often. Commenting on the use of power, Ray Dalio, co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, said: “[Power] doesn’t necessarily mean forcing others to give you what you want… It includes recognizing that generosity, love, and trust are powerful forces for producing win-win relationships.”

Having matured in the business world during the blue suit, white shirt, and red “power” tie era of the 80’s, I’m very familiar with being led, and leading, through force. Long hours in the office, being in the office when ill, and sacrificing family time were all badges of honor.

As a salesperson, sales manager, and VP of Sales, I was a proponent of the “hard close” in selling. One technique that I was trained in had salespeople walk into a meeting and begin by telling the prospect:

“At the end of this meeting, I’m going to ask you for a “Yes” or “No” answer. “Maybe”, or “I need to think about it” are not options. Are you OK with that?”

Much of that mentality is still around. I still see some people in positions of authority who bark out orders showing no trust in their people’s competence or intellect. I see managers walking around the office with an arrogant air in their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. I see top-performers being rewarded for “killing” their competition, their co-workers.

If you’ve ever been that person with the arrogance and you “killed” your competition, it felt good…until you came in second, or third place, or last place. All of the sudden you realized that your only value was tied to the last contest you won, not to you, as a person. It didn’t feel so good to go from being raised up as a hero to dusting off your resume, did it?

A New Tone

Mr. Dalio’s comment shares a new tone, one of influence, instead of force. Does this mean that we’re all going to start putting stuffed animals, flowers, and pastel colors in our offices? If that’s your thing, that’s fine. But, for all of us, it means this:

  • We take time to know the people we lead, and those who we are on the same team, so we maximize their strengths and contributions
  • We “kill” the goals and help support others so they can be as productive by sharing ideas, processes, and techniques (Of course, not too much because you still want to win that trip to the Cayman Islands!)
  • We build relationships with prospects so we can serve their real needs through appropriate products and services, even giving them contacts of others who can fill their current need better that we can
  • We build more powerful organizations through strong relationships and ultimately, the byproduct is a better top and bottom-line

This creates “Wins” all around!

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