The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Confusing power and relationship

Nick, the CEO of a small company, was discussing with a group of investors. They had come together to analyze a company they wanted to buy. Very quickly the conversation shifted to future roles in that company and suddenly the conversation started going nowhere.

Nick had prepared the meeting with one of the investors. But finding himself now in an uncomfortable position he started acting out. He had already seen himself in a new role and couldn’t understand why the investors were asking him questions. In his mind, everything had already been discussed.

He had entered the meeting assuming that his preparation was sufficient. He thought that he had assembled all the power he needed to move forward. In such a mood he lacked the ability to listen. Actually, he was forgetting to make that effort.

Nick was subject to two simple human reactions. One was his desire to define a power relationship and the other was to let his ego see himself further ahead. Most of the time, humans easily figure out how power is distributed in a room. We are wired to see where it is and to find our place in that relationship. It serves us to determine who we believe will follow us and who we prefer to follow and how. It is the most useful behavior in any group we belong to. Most often it is subtle and often quite flexible. We just step into the relationship and adapt when necessary.

Problems start to appear when our ego comes into play and desires to place us in a different position. In such a situation there are two options, either tension starts to appear or we start to put the relationship first.

Putting the relationship first means to make an effort.

It means to start asking questions when things lack clarity. It means to be attentive to the reactions in the room and to allow ourselves to perceive them. It means to focus on the situation, what is being said, the way our body reacts, and how emotions come up instead of focusing on our ego.

All of this is available to us.

But it does require making an effort instead of letting ourselves go into our natural preferences.

Nick had come into the meeting feeling he had established the right power balance while preparing with one of the investors. In the meeting, he failed to see the fluctuations of power as it naturally installed itself in the larger group.


Reference: How to cultivate good professional relationships (French)

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