"Power is a subject that makes many people extremely uncomfortable," Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer argues, but just because we don't like to think about power doesn't mean it's not the lifeblood of business. "Power is in fact all around...like air and water and gravity," he insists in a recent short video for Insights by Stanford Business.
Ignoring power, therefore, won't make it disappear any more than wishing away gravity will help you fly. Instead of sticking your head in the sand, Pfeffer suggests you get real and start thinking constructively about accumulating power. How can you do that? In the video he offers a handful of actionable (if not necessarily universally palatable) tips.
1. Build a power map
You can't gather more power to yourself if you don't know who is currently in possession of it, Pfeffer points out. Therefore, the first step to increasing your own power is to take a look around and find out who really holds the reins. It might not be whom you first suspect (or who the org chart indicates). "Often times, it's an assistant or a secretary or people who aren't necessarily that high up in the organization chart," he says.
2. Ease their burden
Once you know who has the power, it's your job to get close to those people and make sure they support your aims. That might sound Machiavellian, but Pfeffer insists that cultivating power in this way is both practical and essential, and he offers commonsense approaches to cozy up to the powerful, such as making sure you put your skills on show in a way that's visible to them. For instance, he recommends "doing small tasks that make those individuals' lives easier."
3. Strengthen social connections
Power is as much about who likes you as what you can do, so if you're looking to cultivate power, you can't get away from networking. Make sure you spend time with the individuals who you identified as powerful so you can build closer personal relationships with them. It might make you feel grubby, but there are ways to network that are authentic and honest.
4. Employ flattery
Pfeffer's next tip won't sit well with everyone, but like it or not, it's effective, he insists. What's this controversial trick? Simple flattery. "People like to think good about themselves, and we all love people who make us think good about ourselves," he says.
5. Unearth underemployed resources
Not really comfortable with brown-nosing? Then how about this idea: Search out underutilized resources around you and figure out how to exploit them to their full capacity. Pfeffer gives the example of an organization that has a fund for training or events. Those looking to gain power could try to get ahold of some of that cash to bring people they would like to network with to speak at the company. Or be the one to organize a dinner or other team-building occasion for your colleagues. The aim is "to put yourself at the center of a series of relationships," Pfeffer explains.
What advice would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.