Power is contextual


It happened few weeks ago that I had to attend a training related to safety. You know, this kind of training any employee should follow to have appropriate reflexes when facing  a situation where human lives could be saved or lost. You know, this kind of training  you have cancelled three times and feel guilty enough at the end to accept. This kind of training where, lets be honest, you get bored after one hour and which systematically ends with a psychotherapy style, each trainee telling his or her story about his uncle who had a terrible accident … well, you know.

Training begins, round table, attendees from different companies, different styles, different jobs. Trainer was great, managing smartly the group to keep us on track. But after 20 minutes, in spite of trainer efforts, it appeared that two people, while being in the room with us, were not with us. Guess who ? The big manager and the HR manager, both starring at their smartphone, fingers running, reading mails, chatting – smiles always trade you. The situation was so evident that the trainer had to lecture them – with humor, to make it acceptable.

On which two consequences : HR manager stopped typing but went on surfing ‘discreetly’ and the big manager answered ‘I am managing emergencies, you know’. He listened a bit before jumping again in his digital life. He raised his head some time to time to kindly participate, take the lead on the discussions, or influence the agenda. He is also the one who put pressure on the trainer at 11:58, reminding that there were two minutes left as indicated in the training program.

Few thoughts . Is that real that some people do not remember that professional power is only valid in certain situations ? Even if a manager has been conducted all his efforts to become a manager (e.g. sacrificing a lots of his private life) the potential power he handles is not universal. Specially in the current context where each of us has a chance developing multiple talents and expertise on professional and personal side. In addition, management is a skill for making right decisions for choosing appropriate strategy and people to make a company profitable, but this does not mean that those skills are applicable to any domain – specially in safety.

Smart managers are the ones who are able to listen, and learn in each situation, including in boring ones. The ones who are able to remember that their power is contextual, non transferable and temporary – so they should not get used too much to it.