The Power of the "Little People."
No, this is not a reference to Gulliver’s Travels. Nor is it a slur against anyone or any position.
Rather, it is a call to awareness and appreciation. Whether you’re in the mail room, an administrative assistant, custodian or CEO, you have both more power than you realize, as well as limits to that power.
And it might surprise you to find out what kinds of power you – or those around you – have.
Power is the capacity to influence the way other people think, feel, and act. We gain that capacity when others believe that we have something of value that they want, need, or desire.
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Think about all the things we want, need and desire in our daily lives – both for ourselves, and all of our colleagues and teammates.
Power is how we manage ourselves and our relationships all day, every day. And the people and positions that many overlook or dismiss actually have much more power than they are given credit for.
Why do I share this? Because we all need to be reminded that EVERYONE’S position is important. Whether it’s us, and we’re feeling under-appreciated, or we have fallen in the bad habit of overlooking others, it’s a good reminder to look out for – and get to know – the ‘little people.’
Let me give you some examples.
As an attorney, I was taught early on to treat my assistant well, and to make friends with the other administrative assistants. Why? Because they are the ones who know who has the best projects, the important cases, and they know what’s going on with whom. They answer the phones, take the memos, and have access to the computers of the people who were in charge of my job.
Similarly, the custodial staff at my office not only has the ability to close the rest room (inconvenient!), but also have the keys to all the offices of both myself and my colleagues.
I have also been one who had to run down to the copy room, and the computer room (at different times), at the last minute for a late – or even overnight! – job. Let me tell you – when you already know these folks, and are on good terms with them, they will make sure your tasks get done.
I have been reminded over and over that those OTHERS might perceive with lesser value actually have much more power over us in the workplace than we might recognize and acknowledge.
Probably most of us only need a gentle reminder. As Latinos, we are often already taught a good deal of humility and respect. Moreover, many of our parents worked in jobs where they were under-appreciated and overlooked, so we are sensitive to this topic.
However, it’s important for me to remind others, since I am sometimes surprised and saddened when women I meet don’t give themselves enough credit.
Since part of what I do is interview powerful Latinas, I talk to many women all over the country. When I start asking questions about someone’s role or position, too often the women I meet undervalue their own positions and influence, or compare themselves unfavorably with others.
One of my favorite exercises that I do with many women is to ask them to state the following, and fill in the end with what is meaningful for them, “I am a Powerful Latina because…” (Change it for you if you’re a man, or non-Latino.)
The beauty, power and strength of answers that I hear from women in all sorts of positions, at a variety of life stages, and with different backgrounds, always amazes and impresses me.
You are powerful! Use it wisely! (And be aware of the power that those around you hold.)
Power to the (Little) People!
What is the source of your power? How do you appreciate the power of those around you?
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.