Understanding how power works within organizations is key to understanding our ability to influence and affect change.
But before we dive into the power structures inherent in organizations, we need to understand the broader power structures that exist in society that influence not only our day-to-day lives but also how organizations within society function. One of the tools I like to use is this one from the University of Guelph’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights, called Building Community: Introduction to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Chapter 1 has a fantastic breakdown of the concept of privilege including a confidential tool that a person can use to assess their own privilege relative to dominant Canadian societal norms, and the pictorial of the wheel of power and privilege.
This tool, based on extensive research is an easy way to think about how privilege affects power and our seat at the table and thus, our ability to make the decisions in an organization that affect change. To an extent, this also fuels how others view our status relative to others. These factors can also play a role in how much influence we have, and how others view what we have to say.
A simple way I like to use this is a physical exercise.
For the sake of this post, just imagine that all the leaders in an organization are sitting around a board room table. This is where the decisions are made. The center of power.
Now, imagine, that for every category on that wheel:
This is a very powerful exercise to use within leadership teams especially those that are homogeneous and aggregated around the traditional power locus. It is a striking visual reminder for those of us with privilege. We are the ones who are responsible for making sure that we are bringing our teams to the table equitably and ensuring that we are taking on the responsibility of leveling power within the organization.
When thinking about change, those remaining at the table have the most power to make change happen. So what can they do to lend their power to enable change for others?
This is one example of a tool that I use to evaluate power as part of Connected Change™ and challenge teams to face power dynamics within their own organizations. I find, however, that this exercise works best in person, both for the physical aspects of it, and also for the vulnerability of the team.
What are some of the ways you could adapt this exercise to be used virtually?
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