Imagine being in a locked, airtight room with five co-workers. Which of your co-workers panic? Who hoards oxygen for themselves, and who sacrifices oxygen for the good of the team? Now imagine you’re in the same locked room with five co-workers and a limited supply of power — I’m talking about decision-making power. Who devours power? Who sacrifices power in the best interest of the team?
Every interaction involves power, but how that power is used and by whom is what I find interesting. Some people hoard power — they try to dominate all that occurs. Others don’t want power and are happy to fly under the radar. But for a healthy, sustainable interaction, there should be a dance of power. One person might lead for a time while others follow; then the lead role shifts.
So how does this relate to remodeling? Think about all the situations in which the dance of power occurs: in the design and sales process; between you and your team; in your relationships with vendors and subcontractors.
And think about the dance of power that occurs when we invade a family’s home and demolish rooms in which they have built decades of memories, and the dance of power that occurs as we reach the substantial completion checklist and ask for our final payment.
Resetting the Rhythm
The next time you are with someone who causes you stress, feel the power in the room and evaluate how it is consumed and by whom. If you want to reset the relationship, you have to reset the dance so that power is equally shared. The real trick is how to do that.
Whether or not power can be leveled depends upon the willingness of all involved to adapt. Here are some behaviors that will help create a healthy, sustainable dance of power.
- Recognize and give credence to how power is used and consumed in interactions.
- Avoid reacting emotionally. Recognize that everyone brings a unique approach to power that’s dependent upon the situation, their culture, their parents, and their upbringing.
- Surround yourself with people who share power — commonly known as “team players.”
- Beware of someone who hoards power. In those encounters, it is important to be fair and candid but to also be firm about what you feel you should control and why. In turn, recognize the other person’s power over other areas of the interaction. If possible, codify this understanding in writing because, over time, a power-hoarder will be tempted to get back into your space and consume more power. (If you’ve ever had an “off-limits” plate of homemade cookies in the house, you know exactly what I mean.)
We remodelers deal in tangibles, but I am suggesting that intangibles — things we can’t see, touch, or feel — are what truly drive our world. And the biggest intangible is power. Acknowledging the dance of power is an enlightening first step to getting along in this world and in this remodeling industry. Take a deep breath and reflect on that.
—Bruce Case is president of Case Design/Remodeling, in Bethesda, Md. firstname.lastname@example.org
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