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How to Build Power at Work (the Right Way)

How to build power at work (the right way)(1)

If you tell someone you want to build more power at work, you might get an evil stare.

evil stare build power at work

Yes, the idea of power at work gets a bad rap.

Abuse it, and you’ll have deserved the headline-grabbing smackdowns, the embarassing dismissals, and the never-to-be-fixed friendships.

But cultivate it carefully and use it wisely, and you’ll create working environments that support you, your colleagues, and your causes.

And that’s exactly what we need in our world of work today.

So let’s help you build more power at work, the right way.

With more power, you can create more:

  • Freedom and flexibility
  • Autonomy and independent decision-making
  • Growth and opportunities
  • Respect and recognition
  • Money and financial rewards

In the right hands–YOUR hands–power is an amazing thing. Build your power at work now in these three steps.

How to Build Power at Work, the Right Way

1. Clarify why what you do matters.

To build power at work, you must get specific on why what you do matters.

Or, as author Donald Miller says, “If you confuse, you lose.”

Here’s a story from a client of mine.

J is a VP for a large multinational tech firm (I’ll withhold his name for confidentiality, a key factor in all of my professional coaching relationships) . He leads a broad line of business with responsibility for five different name-brand products and over 450 people.

For a while, he felt he was getting lost in the crowd, not invited to meetings he thought he should be at, or not included in conversations that involved his division.

He also worried that if he wasn’t sure about why his work mattered, then perhaps others weren’t sure. And if others weren’t sure, would he quickly look like overhead, and be on the list for layoffs? It was certainly possible.

As his coach, I worked with him to build his confidence to have more specific, strategic conversations with his boss and his colleagues.

In these conversations, he discovered the truth: that people weren’t sure exactly what he did each day.

They saw the results of the teams, but they didn’t know how J was involved.

They didn’t know what his superpowers were, or how he brought them to work each day.

In short, they didn’t know what difference he could make.

What to do if this is you

So we walked through this exercise. You can do it, too.

  • Me: What’s the most important thing you do in an average week?

J: Working with the team leads on each of the products in production to make sure they’re communicating with each other and we’re eliminating any roadblocks.

  • Me: Why is that important?

J: The team leads are all technical geniuses, and sometimes they can get too deep in their own lane. I’m looking across all the lanes and making sure that none of them are going to step on each others’ toes. I’m probably the one person who at all times knows what stage each product is in.

  • Me: So why is that important?

J: When we have to make financial or staffing decisions, I can quickly assess how it’ll impact these core products and I can figure out how to rejuggle staffing or save money.

  • Me: So, what’s the difference you make?

J: I connect all the dots across the suite of products so we don’t waste time or money.

aha--you can build more power at work


Power is focused energy. The focus on “connecting the dots so we don’t waste time or money” is much more focused than “VP of XYZ business.”

And this isn’t about having a catchphrase or elevator pitch. It’s about getting to the bottom of what you really do–and why it matters.

2.  Build your tribe.

With apologies to any budding supervillian, true power is never generated alone in your basement.

It’s magnified through people–people who know, like, and trust you.

So now that you know the difference you make, the next step to building your power at work is to start looking for others you can help.

Yes, help.

Because true power is proportionate to the ability to serve.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who could be helped by this thing that I do that matters? Who cares about the same things I care about here at work?
  • Who do I already know? Who do I need to meet? Who do I need to ask to introduce me to someone I need to meet?
  • Where do they hanging out? Where do I need to show up?

Growing your valuable, cooperative relationships helps you build your power at work in ways that aren’t slimy, unethical or stinky.

For more strategies and scripts, download my planning guide “How to Network While You Work” free here.

3. Tell your stories.

The historic baseball player Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.”

Power comes from talking about what’s true for you.

what's true as you build your power at work

If, like my client J above, you’re great at connecting the dots so that teams don’t waste time or money, say so.

If you see someone struggling and you can help, speak up.

Don’t believe the myth that your work will speak for itself.

Today, you must speak for the work.

And speaking up builds your power.

But I don’t want to brag!

You might worry that talking about how you make a difference is bragging.

But the truth is that if you’re coming from a place of true power–of knowing that you’ve got something that can be of help to someone else–then you’re not bragging.

What you’re doing is offering to serve a need.

You’re being in service.

After all, if you don’t tell the world about how you make a difference, then how can they know how to use your gifts?

(More ideas on how to speak up here in my video “How to Brag–Yes, Brag!”)

Remember, You Always Have Power

While you build your power at work, don’t think you’re starting at zero.

You already have more power than you know.

You already make a difference–it’s now time to get clear and amplify that.

You already have a tribe–it’s now time to consciously grow and nurture them.

And you already tell stories–it’s now time to tell more, more often.

Power isn’t just for a certain few.

It’s also for people like me and you.

Go build yours now.

Read this next:

How to Have More Power at Work

Is It the Culture? Or Is It You?