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Team Rowing

Power Dynamics – Episode One

Relationships, whether they be organizational, professional, or personal, require us to navigate power dynamics.  More often than not, we are also operating with imbalances in those dynamics as we try to communicate– imbalances that we must acknowledge and understand as we interact with other humans.

To that end, this is the first of two in a series about how to recognize when these dynamics are coming into play in the professional sphere (though these skills can certainly be applied in other parts of your life).  My goal is to provide some tangible tools you can use to be a better communicator and a better leader within your organization.

The View from the Top

When we are operating from the leadership point of view, we are often managing one or more people in their work flow and likely assigning them tasks and/or assignments.  We may also be receiving tasks and assignments from a level of management above us, a board or other stakeholders, or even directly from clients depending on your industry.  This can result in pressure coming from multiple directions. 

Which is where this First Lesson comes in: When under stress, you need more preparation to communicate with clarity.

What can this look like?

Let’s say you have an important new client.  You are responsible for many higher-level tasks and the client demands face time and access to you. This means an important task (or several) must be assigned to an associate.  Perhaps this task requires research and specificity to complete, and your choice in assignee has the specific skills required, so at this point you might feel like you are “done.” 

But I’d counter that if you don’t also take the time to communicate expectations,, specifications,, time allocation, and clarification procedures, then your task may become delayed or even completed with errors.  In most businesses, time costs money.  And so, a little extra time and expertise spent at the beginning saves time and money in the end.

This brings us to Lesson Two: People work more diligently if they consent to the work they are doing.

Getting a full buy-in from the person assigned to a task actually facilitates the quality of that task.  So rather than just putting an assignment in a task cue or dropping it on someone’s desk, make a point to connect with them and make an ask.  

Start by asking your associate if they can complete a task, and then provide the parameters at the outset that allows them to ask questions and gain clarity.  It might be that they can’t actually say no to the assignment, but the discussion at least gives them agency in the process.  While this can certainly be done over email, it just takes longer to get to the same place over email than it does with a clear verbal conversation– and there’s less ownership.  

The upside to this approach is that now not only will your assignment be completed well, but you will have also built your relationship with your direct report.  This also enhances your own leadership skills as the shift in mindset improves your focus, and how you are perceived in the organization as a whole.

It will always be the case that two-way communication is more effective than simple directives, and this approach will save you time and stress in the end.
Do you have specific ways in which you like to communicate in your leadership?  I’d love to hear from you.  Send me an email and start a conversation.

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