leadership dot #2504: expert power

One of the key things for new hires to learn is who has power beyond those with the official titles. In my Organizational Behavior class students study French and Raven’s five sources of power: Legitimate (positional), Reward, Coercive, Expert and Referent (charisma). They easily grasp four types, but they struggle with providing examples of expert power – unless, of course, they have professional work experience. Then it is easy to identify who has expert power and many times it’s the administrative assistant!

Expert power comes from the individual’s knowledge or skill, irrespective of their position, that is valuable to others. At times, a person may gain expert power from credentials or experience, but often the organizational experts are those in the support positions that are truly the experts on how the operation runs. Experts may play a role as basic as being the “go-to” person for unjamming the copy machine or possess information as nuanced as knowing how to snag five minutes with the boss. Expert power comes from being the one that others turn to when they get stuck or the one who is the person who can navigate the system like no other. Expert power can also be information power – the one who understands the pieces of the whole and knows what is really happening, not just what is supposed to occur.

Experts play invaluable roles in organizations, yet their contributions are not always recognized or legitimized – until, of source, something goes wrong and no one else knows how to resolve it! Today, celebrate the experts that are your administrative assistants. Acknowledge that their knowledge is often the power that keeps the enterprise humming.

leadership dot #2456: behind the scenes

Recently I have heard a growing recognition of the people who make another’s work possible. Some examples:

  • The newest Crate & Barrel catalog features three women carpenters and designers on its cover with the headline: She Makes Us Crate. The opening spread is dedicated to the women in the woodshop who build the sets which grace the pages of the catalog.
  • In a People magazine interview, Mark Harmon expresses his appreciation for the crew of NICS: “This show represents a livelihood for a whole lot of people who arrive long before I do and leave well after me and don’t get paid nearly as much,” he said.
  • The Academy Awards (and other similar shows) give trophies not just to the actors, but to the sound mixer, film editor, set designer, etc. etc. etc. – paying tribute to those behind the scenes.
  • When speaking in favor of a Wealth Tax during a stump speech, Elizabeth Warren noted that to make their mega-fortunes business owners relied on roads, bridges, infrastructure and other community services to achieve their wealth and did not earn it all on their own.

Take a moment to think of all those who have made your work possible: the maintenance crews, technology support, central office functions, past colleagues, delivery staff and countless others. More people do their work “behind the scenes” than could ever be on the stage.

Choose someone whose work has allowed you to do yours and show them some appreciation today.

leadership dot #2435: languages

On this Valentine’s Day, you may be wondering how to express your love to those you care about. Author Gary Chapman can help! He has defined five Love Languages that identify preferred ways of receiving affection. Knowing your preferred “Love Language” and that of others may help you to communicate in a way that is most meaningful.

A simple quiz can help you understand which of the five Love Languages resonate most deeply with you:

  • Acts of Service: Having someone offer to help and ease your burden
  • Quality Time: Someone being present and giving you their full attention
  • Receiving Gifts: Receiving a thoughtful token gift that is tailored to your interests
  • Physical Touch: Hugs or literal pats on the back
  • Words of Affirmation: Hearing someone share why they love you or why you are important

Chapman has also adapted his languages as a guide for how people can express appreciation to others. In his 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, he offers suggestions on how to apply the concepts to show gratitude to coworkers in a way that resonates with them. The quiz could be a fun icebreaker to discuss at your next staff meeting.

Whether or not you know someone’s preferred Language, it’s important to remember that different people favor different ways of receiving affection or appreciation from you. Become conscious of how you deliver your sentiments and mix up the ways you show others you care.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, 2009
5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, 2011

leadership dot #2269: unbox

As a prize for winning a golf tournament, a local teen received a Wheaties box with his picture on the front. “Back in the day”, having your picture on that box of cereal was just about the ultimate recognition in sports. It was reserved for Olympians, MVPs and All-Stars. It meant something.

But that was in an era before everyone had computers with desktop publishing software. It was time-consuming and expensive to do a mock-up so it was even hard to imagine what your image would look like under the famous Wheaties logo. Today amateurs can put their picture on cereal boxes, magazine covers and movie posters with a green screen or a click of a few computer keys. It takes something away from the specialness of it all.

Take a look at your recognition programs. Are you still offering something that had great meaning at one point but has lost its luster now? Does your demographic truly value the prize that you are providing? It might be time to think outside the box for your rewards.

leadership dot #2225: pillar

When a building is first built, there is often a cornerstone placed to commemorate the date of the structure’s origin. How do you acknowledge the ending of a building’s existence?

This was a challenge faced by the recovery and clean-up team after the World Trade Center attacks. After months of excavating and debris removal, the project was coming to an end and the workers needed some way to mark the conclusion of an emotional task. They chose to pay tribute to first responders and others on a cement pillar. The column now resides in the 9-11 Museum as a permanent display.

Recognition can take many forms and certainly does not have to occur on a formal plaque or engraved wall. When you need to acknowledge the efforts of others, remember the adage from Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message,” and ensure that there is congruency between the what you want to say and how you say it. For 9-11, there could be nothing more fitting than spray paint on a cement pillar.

leadership dot #2215: monument

One of the ways that the Yankees keep their legacy alive is through the prominence they give to Monument Park. This area beyond the center field fence is a tribute park to all of the Yankee greats – marble stones to their honor most cherished players/managers, displays of their numerous retired numbers and plaques for members of the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

Whether you are a Yankees fan or not, you can’t help but be a bit in awe of just the baseball history that is enshrined in this space. Legends such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra are recognized here.

The marble markers in Monument Park once were literally placed in center field – creating unique obstacles for opposing players as they attempted to field a ball hit between them. In the 1970s renovation, the “park” judiciously moved behind the outfield wall and now is accessible to fans as part of their game day admission.

Many organizations initially award their leaders in public but fail to perpetuate their legacy to future generations. You can learn from the Yankees about how to hit it out of the park in the recognition department.

leadership dot #2213: watch

As part of the Yankees Hall of Fame, replicas of all the jewelry that members of the World Championship teams have received are on display.

In 1923, the players received a pocket watch instead of a ring – fitting for the time. Earlier rings are quite modest with one stone in the center – reminiscent of a class ring. Contemporary teams receive baubles that look like they are trying to out-gaudy the previous winners.

Think of how your organization’s recognition has evolved. Are you still handing out the same certificate that your parents received? Does your gift reflect changing tastes and norms? Are you taking the recipient into account more than the organization when making your selection?

Don’t hand a pocket watch to someone who wants to flash their bling.