We spend much of our time at work. In fact, for most of us work takes up nearly a third of our weekday hours.
When we spend so much time in our work environment, it’s important we feel positive about our careers. Yet finding your power at work is often a struggle.
How do you get out of a rut at your workplace? Even if your job is okay and you feel you’re doing well, is it enough? What’s the secret to getting more satisfaction and fulfillment out of your 9-5?
For many of us, the answer to a happier workday means engaging in self-examination. Are you standing in your own way?
Discovering Power at Work by Expressing Yourself
Do you feel stuck? Overlooked? Powerless at your job?
For starters, most people look at job dissatisfaction and start blaming it on every aspect of the workplace BUT themselves:
- My boss is a jerk.
- My team doesn’t support me.
- I haven’t been given the promotion or position I want.
- They expect too much of me.
- I don’t click with my coworkers.
If any of these statements have come out of your mouth recently, it may be time to look around and identify the roadblocks keeping you from harnessing your own power. Often people’s reaction to the way power is being used around them is the very thing that’s getting in their way of claiming their own power and strength.
Many people at work complain and criticize others, but without a clear goal or resolution in mind. Before you start to criticize those around you, it’s important you examine your feelings. First, what are you doing that earns you the right to point fingers at others? Second, if the criticism or frustration is valid, how can you express it responsibly with a clear resolution and vision for the outcome?
Frankly, at work, many of us simply bitch because that attitude or habit has become ingrained into our office culture. We bemoan and whine about circumstances “out of our control.”
When we complain just to complain, we’re handing off our power. It often feels far easier to blame someone else, than to go through the process of finding your power at work.
Once we realize change is within our grasp, we can start to take the steps to refocus and harness our power, taking control of our position and interactions at the office. The first step is to express what you think, need, and desire from your boss, coworkers, and team. Say it responsibly, taking personal accountability for your role and contribution. Second, align yourself with the company’s purpose.
So, if I were to express my frustration with an aspect of the office, I would first examine my vision and goals for the outcome. How do I plan to contribute to the resolution? Next, I would discuss it with colleagues, starting out with, “I see our company’s purpose as X. I believe our highest functioning in the direction of our purpose would be to take steps Y and Z, rather than the A and B ideas we’ve been discussing.”
By aligning with the company’s purpose, you’re finding your power at work, taking responsibility, and not blaming others. You’re working to ensure the outcome aligns with the overall purpose and goals. When this happens, your office interactions become purpose-driven. You’re moving forward with a goal in mind. You will see a paradigm shift toward being more engaged, influential, and visible. Using direct and honest feedback, fueled by alignment to your company’s purpose, will lead you toward becoming a powerful leader.
What Do You Really Want from Work?
Finding your power at work means identifying your true yearnings. What do you really want? Hint: it’s not just a new car or a bigger salary. What is the yearning of your soul?
Our deeper yearnings inform our goals and direct our path. If we yearn to have control, for example, we may be driven toward a leadership position. If we yearn to make a difference, we may find ourselves gravitating toward teaching, training, instructing, or helping professions. If we long to matter, we may be seeking the validation that comes from positive feedback.
Once we identify our yearnings, we can align our goals toward them. We also become focused in our pursuit to get our yearnings met. This means not being afraid to speak up, disagree, or engage in conflict when we dislike a situation. Often, if we want something, we need to ask, speak up, and express our desires.
At the same time, there is also power in silence. Not the passive-aggressive silence some people use to manipulate others or steer a situation toward the desired outcome, but the silence that comes from engaging and listening to others.
When we’re truly engaged, we’re focused on connecting with those around us. We’re working not only toward our own yearnings, but toward identifying and meeting the yearnings of others.
Many people fail to maximize their potential in their careers because they don’t recognize or claim their personal power. Each of us holds vast amounts of personal power and human potential. We define leadership as the power within individuals to influence the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others.
You may be sitting quietly in a meeting, but if you’re truly engaged and listening, you’re holding your power. If your eyes and your mind are engaged with the conversation, you’re participating in the meeting and bringing aliveness to the situation. If you zone out, your eyes go dead, you doodle on a piece of paper and otherwise disengage, you’re killing the entire dynamic.
Finding your power at work means being present, telling the truth, learning what you can in each situation and realizing the influence you hold in each situation.
If you consider that knowledge is power, then expanding your self-knowledge is expanding your personal power.
We may get so eager to express ourselves and react to the way power is used around us that we forget the importance of learning and listening. Once we learn to be present and active in our participation in meetings and discussions, we shift into higher personal power.
The Power of Allies and Support
The truth is, it’s often hard to understand our relationship with power and authority. It’s even hard to understand the way we view power objectively.
To most people, power means force. It’s something someone else has. Power isn’t “nice” and in fact, we may think there’s something wrong with having power.
If you were spanked or disciplined heavily as a kid when you did nothing wrong, for example, your view of power gets mixed up with authority and the misuse of power. This may lead you to a pattern of reacting against the power of others, rather than expressing your own power.
Most people spend more time avoiding rejection than they spend seeking their own satisfaction and fulfillment. We fear rejection and the pain that comes from mistakes or critiques. So instead, we hold back and fail to go for it.
When we become our own roadblock, it’s often helpful to work with an outside source like a mentor, ally, or coach to point us in the right direction. As Bill Gates once said, “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player.”
In a similar vein, Harvard professor Howard Gardner identified seven areas of intelligence. These areas include arts, kinesthetic (body) intelligence, mathematical intelligence, scientific understanding, and interpersonal intelligence. Many of us go to school for years, we go to the gym and work with a trainer, but when it comes to interpersonal intelligence, we’re left to navigate on our own.
Working with a guide like a life coach helps us learn how we relate to ourselves and relate to other people. It helps us strengthen our emotional intelligence “muscle” and move toward more fulfilling relationships.
We seem to think we’re doing okay as long as we have a positive rapport with others. Yet, underneath it all, we need to have rapport and satisfaction with ourselves.
An ally may come in the form of a good friend, a boss, an advisor, or a life coach. For many people, truly finding your power at work requires the backing and assistance of a team. This isn’t because of personal inadequacies. It’s simply because an outside source gives us perspective and objective feedback. It’s then our job to listen and apply that feedback to our lives.
If you’re hoping to find more power at work and greater job satisfaction, start with self-examination. Are you taking responsibility for your feelings? Are you expressing your yearnings and engaging with those around you? Do you work to understand the vision and goals of others you work with? Do you need an objective source, like a life coach, to help you navigate and move you forward toward your goals?
Each of us has great power and potential. It’s up to us to uncover it and move toward harnessing our power. As we fulfill our potential, we’ll discover greater satisfaction at work and in all aspects of our lives.
For more on discovering your strengths and potential please visit us at the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming networking event where you’ll meet others who are on the path to living their best lives.
About the Author
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.