Asserting Power to Control Our Lives and Choices

March 3rd, 2020

Asserting Power to Control Our Lives and Choices

By Dr. Lois Frankel
President, Corporate Coaching International
Speaker, Simmons Leadership Conference 2020

How do you define power? Can you share an example from your career when you asserted yourself to seize or retain your own power in a challenging situation?

I define power as having control over my life and my choices. When I first started my consulting firm, I was awarded a large contract to train several thousand Los Angeles County employees. The husband of an elected County Supervisor called and asked if I would subcontract part of the work to him. Although I was using subcontractors, I required everyone to provide me with credentials so that I could select the best consultants to represent my firm. When I asked him to send me his, he said, “You don’t understand how it works. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” I felt he was threatening me, given that his wife had a part in the decision-making process for awarding my contract. Retaining my power in this situation meant being willing to take the risk of pushing back on this insinuation of a “quid pro quo.” My response to him was, “I don’t think YOU understand how I work. My firm’s name is attached to this project, so ensuring the highest quality service is delivered is what’s of most importance to me. If you send me your credentials I will be happy to consider you among the other consultants.” He never did send me his credentials, but I felt as if I maintained not only my power but my integrity in what was a challenging situation. The project went well and no one ever mentioned this man to me again. In fact, I heard through the grapevine that he and his wife divorced shortly thereafter.

What did you learn from that experience?

I learned that integrity was more important to me than money and that asserting my power didn’t carry with it disastrous consequences.

How can women most effectively support one another on their path to success?

I believe the single most important way to support other women is to act in ways that reflect the belief that there’s enough to go around for everyone. This means making referrals, offering introductions, and in other ways sharing your resources so that others may also benefit from them.

What major issue do you think women should focus on to effect change?

Getting more women elected to public office. Until there is more parity in Washington and local government, we will not see a significant shift in business as usual.

If you could dine with anyone, past or present, with whom would you dine and what would you like to ask him or her?

I would dine with Eleanor Roosevelt and ask her to talk to me about her philosophy of philanthropy and how to do the best good for the most people.

Fill in the blank. People would be surprised to know that…

I am a Scrabbleholic. I belong to an on-line community of live, competitive players and believe it continuously teaches me about strategy, patience, and people.

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