business career entrepreneur success

Informational, Expert and Reference Power Bases

We discussed the first three of the six power bases. Let’s see how the next three: informational, expert and reference are different. And, this is one of the reasons that might make you improve your skills and knowledge and, why not, teach others.

Informational, expert and reference power bases

Let me go back to our scenario and show you what I might say when relying on informational power. Jim I just found out that your client Hensley Enterprises is unhappy and actively shopping around including having lunch with a sales superstar from our main competitor. Losing that account would be tough on you your team and our company. They are second largest client without them would be lucky to hit any of our targets this quarter.

Here’s what I heard to remove mutual friend the bull pricing viewer using isn’t cutting costs enough for them and it pushes them to keep more inventory than the one in stock. I hear that they want to cut costs and inventory so they can downsize their warehouse and get their costs under control. When’s the last time you talk with them?

The power base of information

That was a lot of information and that’s the power base of information, it has nothing to do with the position and everything to do with information it’s been accumulated and has been passed along. That shows how informational power can be used without necessarily applying a particular influence tactic.

Now the end result is likely that Jim will be spurred into action without me having to say anything more and best of all, with regard to influence, any solution that Jim now comes up with will be one that he has commitment to follow through on because he will have come up with it on his own.

How the agent is perceived by the target

I’m not going to need quotes for the last two power bases: expert and referent because this is hard to depict. Those power have their bases in action and perception. Those power bases refer to how the agent is perceived by the target. If Jim sees his supervisor as an expert and his supervisor raises questions about the handling of the Hensley account Jim will likely ask lots of questions trying to learn from his supervisor.

In the same vein if Jim really admires his supervisor and constantly strives to make him proud then moving Jim to action should be quite easy for the supervisor. Expert and referent power like informational power are quintessentially personal. Jim’s supervisor can use these personal bases of power to influence them rather than relying on his formal position and its associated rewards and punishments.

Personal and not positional

Obviously when dealing, outside of formal work arrangements, such as when you volunteer your working with your family you have to rely on personal and not positional power.  When working with community committees or with neighborhood volunteers you don’t really have rewards and punishments that you can dole out, you need to build and leverage personal sources or bases of power to bring people together and guide them to action.

Even within formal work environments though personal power bases are really useful there are many many encounters in the workplace where you can’t and probably shouldn’t rely on position power such as when you deal with your peers or with your boss. In these cases having paid attention to and develop your personal power bases: gaining information, learning to become an expert in building relationships based on mutual respect will provide power bases that help you in all situations.

Actively seeking information

Developing these power bases does not involve some mystical practice. You can develop expert and informational power bases by actively seeking information from people and other sources. Make it a point to read the newspaper ask questions of those around you and seek to meet new people at work. For extra power you have to consider not just what you know but whether it is perceived as granting you status as expert.

Consider the people whom you want to influence what would they consider to mark or distinguish experts. Would a particular degree or online certificate make a difference or would a particular work assignment do the trick? Seek out the experiences and education that will demonstrate to others that you possess expert power.