Dynamics of Power

Everyone has power. Power is defined as the ability to influence another person.  Power can be the ability to influence a coworker, family member, friend or all of the above. There are many dynamics of how a person has and uses power and I’ll outline the way that it pertains to the workplace.

Many might think that the only person who has power in the workplace is the boss, but that’s not true. There are many instances where employees might have more power than the boss. For example, picture a manager who knows how to manage people but is new to the company. The employees that know there job and the company well actually have knowledge power over the supervisor. The supervisor would be completely lost if the employees quit. Power does not only come from authority and below I’ll outline the different types of power so you can understand the dynamic.

  • Reward Power is when a person has the ability to control rewards for individuals. Examples of this are how senior managers can control the amount of benefits you receive. This can also be applied to a situation where you and a coworker need to work cooperatively to coordinate your days off.
  • Coercive Power is when a person has the ability to cause an upleasant experience for someone if they don’t do what the coercer wants. An example is a coworker that can hold knowledge of something you did or said that not many people know about.
  • Legitimate Power is power based on position. This is the supervisor/employee type of power.
  • Referent Power is when a person wants to be like or liked by someone so the person held in high standards has power over the other. This type of power is usually knowledge-is-powerattributed to very charming people/personalities.
  • Expert Power is based on knowledge. A person has expert power when they have more expertise in a subject area than others.

It’s important to understand the different types of power because it’s important to know when you have power. Being aware of your power dynamic in situations can be valuable when knowing the right time to ask for a raise, voice concerns, or provide feedback. Everyone has power so make sure to use yours wisely.

 

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Managing Projects 101

student apartments

South Gateway Student Apartments

There have been plenty of times throughout my career where I have been handed large projects and have had to figure out how to get them done. Some of the projects have been really big – including opening an eight million dollar student housing facility at the age of 26. Others have been not as overwhelming such as managing events. Now that I’ve “matured” and have several projects under my belt I have learned to establish the following elements into the project implementation process.

Come up with a plan

This one might seem basic but you’d be surprised how many times people move forward with a project without thinking it through. A plan can be a marketing plan, business plan or both. A plan helps you get ahead of the project versus always being in reactive mode. In the plan make sure to lay out your goals and objectives for the project. For example, with the student housing my goal was to open the building by August 9 with students. My objectives included recruiting students from southern California and reaching 60% occupancy in the first semester. Once those were established I could then work on the details to get to the goal.

Break it up into smaller pieces

As I started to allude to above, once you have a plan for what you want to achieve the plan must be broken down into little steps. For example, in order to attract students to the student housing facility, I needed to have a website. I also needed to have brochures, attend college fairs, and have applications for prospective students to fill out. By breaking down the big picture into little steps you are able to conquer one thing in a synchronized manner at a time. This makes the project a lot more manageable.

Create a timeline

student apartments 2

South Gateway Student Apartments

After you’ve broken down your project into little steps you need to identify when the little steps need to be finished before you can move onto the next steps. For example, I needed to have the website done before I could start taking online applications. I also needed to have the website and brochure done before attending the college fairs. I needed to have pictures taken and copy written before I could do the brochure and website and I needed a budget before I could begin anything. Everything has a place in the sequence and establishing start and end dates is essential to keep the project moving along.

Every project that I’ve worked on has included the above three elements. The three steps are universal for any project you can be working on. Leave a comment to let me know of a project you’ve worked on where the three steps I’ve outlined have been helpful.

Leverage Your Technology Skills

Millennials are known for being technology savvy. Depending on what end of Millennial you are, some can’t remember a time living without a computer. I personally can remember my families first computer. I remember saving a document with an additional letter after each version because I didn’t realize that the document would save the new version on its own if I simply hit save.

I am writing this blog post to highlight to all the Millennials out there that our technology savvinness is a skill and one that we should be proud to have. While there are significant variations on what media technology savvinness can apply to, I will highlight the three pieces of software I have found helpful in all my positions.

CREATED IN WORD!

CREATED IN WORD!

Word

Word is an exceptionally powerful piece of software. I know it might seem like such a basic piece of software but I’ve found it extremely valuable to know how to use, and use well. Word has many features such as linked table of contents, page breaks, extensive templates for just about everything, mail merging and much more! It is seriously a powerhouse that I’ve found very helpful.

Excel

CREATED IN EXCEL

CREATED IN EXCEL!

Excel is another basic piece of software that most people know how to use but the real skill is knowing how to use it well. I’m still learning new excel functions every week. There’s no limit to ways you can sort through and analyze data and honing your skills in Excel will always prove to be valuable.

Photoshop

I learned some basic graphic design skills in college and have leveraged that initial training to be an extremely valuable asset in all my positions. There’s always new graphic design software that is coming out. I learned those basic skills in college on Quark Express, then I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. Now most designers are using Adobe Indesign along with Adobe Photoshop. To be honest, because I don’t make my living on graphic design I haven’t bothered staying extensively up to date on any design software outside of Adobe Photoshop and it’s always allowed me to do what I needed to do. Photoshop is a very powerful tool and knowing how to use it to edit images or design simple graphics will make you valuable.

Every job has its new piece of technology. The real asset that we Millennials have is that technology does not scare us. We are able to learn to use whatever is thrown at us at a much faster pace than most of our coworkers. Every time I’ve been thrown a new piece of technology or software I ‘ve found the world wide web to be extremely helpful in accelerating me through the learning curve. Resources like Youtube and Lynda.com can prove to be very valuable and I would encourage you to seek those resources to set yourself apart from the pack.

 

Managing People Part 2

Today’s blog post is a continuation of Sunday’s post where I provided tips on managing people. The two points I’ve covered so far are setting clear goals and expectations and showing patience and understanding. Today I’ll cover a few more things I’ve learned when it comes to people management.

Let people make mistakes

ID-100244674In the beginning of most people’s employment they make mistakes. Actually to be more accurate, throughout people’s employment they are going to make mistakes. At the end of the day the mistakes are part of the learning curve and are a cost of getting people up to speed. I have had jobs where every time I said or did something remotely different than how my supervisor would, the supervisor would immediately correct me (even if I was on the phone or in front of a large group of people). This made me nervous to ever make a mistake and took away any feeling of empowerment I could have had in the position. People are going to do and say things differently than you. They will even make mistakes. Let your people feel free to make mistakes and be themselves. At the end of the day people will wind up feeling supported and will enjoy their job if they feel empowered to make their own decisions. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t train people to do things a certain way. Training is extremely important, but it’s also important that after the training ends that you let people make mistakes. At the end of the day most mistakes won’t end the world or ruin your business – I promise!

Speak up when the mistakes are big

While this seems like it might be going against my above point it’s an important point to note. If an employee makes a really big mistake, don’t be scared to speak up and point it out. It’s your job as a supervisor to manage situations. It is important to set clear goals and expectations and clearly define the line. You can (and should) have a calm tone, but it’s important to make your point. This point is tough to clearly lay out but in general if you remain calm and explain the reasoning behind the scenario not being acceptable it’ll usually go over better than you expect.

Understand that you are a resource

There’s usually a reason why you were hired or were moved to a management role. It’s because somebody thought you had the knowledge and resources to heard cats. Well to be more serious, somebody thought that you had the skills to help people and the company achieve their goals. Take it as a compliment and know that you hold the key to people’s success. This means that you need to be a resource when people need more information and you need to help guide the work forward. You need to understand that managing people takes time and you need to be willing to give your time (and patience and understanding).

Those are the points I have for now. Please feel free to comment below with your feedback. As I mentioned in last week’s post these thoughts have come about because of past experiences and are in no way the end all way to handle people management. But in general, I hope you find the information helpful.

 

 

 

Managing People Part 1

If anyone ever told you that managing people was easy than they were messing with you. Or simply in denial. Managing people is tough. Perhaps the toughest part and something that you must come to terms with is that not everyone thinks like you. Every person is different and has different backgrounds, morals, and values. This is what makes people interesting, but it’s also the part that makes managing people tough. As a manager it’s your job to try to understand where people are coming from in order to understand how to properly help them and you achieve the necessary goals.

When managing people it’s important to keep the following things in mind.ID-10081000

Set clear goals and expectations

I recently came to a realization as I was looking at a syllabus for one of my last classes in graduate school (personal kudos to me!). In school it’s clearly laid out what you need to do to receive an A. This includes clear guidelines on assignments, deadlines, and resources (to a point). This is an important thing to keep in mind when managing people. It’s important that you communicate your expectations and the deadlines for the work. There are so many times in my early phase of people management where I would be frustrated because people are not getting the work done in the timeline that I had in my head. Well that was the problem, the deadlines were in my head and were not clearly laid out somewhere in writing. The same issue occurs with priorities or general work needing completion. The somewhere in writing could be as simple as a whiteboard, email, or even a conversation. The important part to keep in mind though about a conversation is that you have to make sure that what you’re trying to communicate is clear. A conversation in passing or one that’s mixed up with a lot of different topics is not a clear outline of your expectations.

A very effective way to communicate goals and expectations is through a weekly meeting. While I understand that it can be an inconvenience to consistently hold a weekly meeting, it’s usually a very effective way to communicate your goals and expectations. It’s a great time to check in with your staff and find out where they are with their projects. It’s also a great time to communicate your work load and to discuss upcoming work.

Patience and understanding

I used to manage in the “what if”. Such as “what if this person being five minutes late to today’s meeting means that they will be late for every meeting from this point forward”. Also, “what if this person struggling with this one part of the project means that they are not going to be able to get this project done”. People have lives. People have things going on in their lives that makes them be really focused one day and a complete mess another day. People also have skills, talents, and training that work with some parts of projects and not with others. It’s important to show patience and understanding to your employees. It’s important to communicate your expectations of projects in a kind and understanding way and for the little stuff that doesn’t really matter, wait to have a conversation until the behavior starts to turn into a pattern. Or if it really doesn’t matter, let it go and focus on the important things.

The above mentioned points are thoughts that have come about based on past experiences. There are always going to be exceptions to the things I’ve written but I hope you find some of the points helpful. Stay tuned for next week’s part two on managing people.

Managing Your Career

 

As the saying goes, if you do what you love than it won’t feel like work. I took that literally and majored in Natural Resources for my bachelor’s degree because I loved the outdoors. I thought if I could work in the outdoors and teach people about the natural beauty that it would be the perfect job. After graduation when I started my dream career I quickly realized that certain things should be left as a hobby. On top of spending time outdoors all the time – in the snow, rain, and frost; the environmental field was plagued with job instability and low wages. Since my husband is a Forester for the USDA Forest Service, my mom gave me the best advice. She said to pick a more universal profession. The second best advice I received was it doesn’t matter what career you pick because if you’re good at it than you will enjoy it. This is why my switch from the environmental to the business world was successful. I wound up being good at managing a business and didn’t ever think about returning to the environment field.

Here are three things to keep in mind when searching for your perfect career.

Pick your major and/or future profession based on an actual job path

I can’t tell you how many people I have known who majored in Art or Psychology and are doing something completely college graddifferent now. While they are extremely interesting and fulfilling majors in college, they usually don’t turn into a career path, unless you’re exceptionally talented or are prepared to spend a lot more time in school. Pick a major and a career that you could spend time doing but also something that has actual job opportunities when you get out.

Don’t be scared to switch

In college I wasn’t positive that my major was my ideal path but I was too scared to switch because of the money my parents had already spent. This is where I would probably have benefited from trying classes outside of my major. Also, one thing I did do well was having the guts to switch jobs that I no longer found fulfilling. Each new job opportunity has helped me advance my career and skills to much higher levels than if I stayed at the same position. Not all job switches were instantly higher paychecks, but all jobs wound up to be higher paychecks and titles after a bit of time.

To be good at your job it takes time and hard work

This goes a little against my above mention of not being afraid to switch, but it’s also important to be patient. Being new at a job is tough. The first year at a new job is the toughest. Everything’s new and the learning curve can be harsh. But it’s important to be patient and keep trying. My last position led to an Executive Director role at age thirty only because I stayed through the tough times and worked my butt off. I gave up many nights with friends, loved ones, and vacations because of work. While you always hear that on death beds people regret not spending more time doing the exact things I gave up, I’m not sure if that saying is relevant for the early part of your career. You need to devote time and energy to learn and to get ahead. After some time in your role you can relax and take advantage of more flexibility that allows you to do the really important things in life.