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Strategies for Building Your Cognitive Power

Strategies for Building Your Cognitive Power
Now we’re going to talk about strategies for building your cognitive power. We’ve talked about strategies for building your structural base of power, legitimate power, reward power, coercion. We’ve talked about strategies for building your personal base of power. Whether that be expertise, information, or that referent or charisma, base of power. Now I wanna shift to these strategies for building, what we called your cognitive power. And remember, what we mean by cognitive power here, is how you feel, how you think about yourself in any given situation. Do you feel powerful, or do you feel powerless?
I work with a lot of leaders around the world who are in extremely powerful positions, but because of the politics of the organization, or how the organization works, they have to manage as if they have no power. Because even though they’re in that really high power position, cognitively, they do not feel as if they have an extensive amount of power. They in many cases feel powerless. And so a lot of the work is, how do we enable them to feel powerful, so that we can get the benefits of power, but also while minimizing the risk of the potential cost of that power.
And so, our research is pointing us to some strategies that we can use to really begin to build and enhance that cognitive power irregardless of whether you’re in that power position or not. And so the first strategy that we often talk about actually goes right back to the research I shared with you earlier this week around priming that feeling of powerful versus powerless. And if we look at how researchers prime that powerful versus powerless mindset in people, we can begin to learn strategies that we can implement ourselves to shape our own mindset and make us feel more powerful than powerless. So for example, one of the strategies that researchers often use to make people feel more powerful or more powerless.
If we want people to feel more powerful, we have them engage in open body postures. And if you took part in the first course of the specialization around inspiring and motivating people, we talked about charisma, we talked about how you carry yourself, your body posture in terms of motivating and inspiring other people. The open body posture is an example of that. So, these slides or this slide here will look familiar to those folks, where we talked about a closed body posture, where you’re smaller, you’re very tight, you’ve got your arms crossed, your legs crossed. That’s what we called a closed body posture.
And that body posture is associated with a mindset of feeling powerless or low power versus that more open body posture where I’m sitting back, my chest is bigger, I’m taking up more space. That open body posture, my hands are out I’m almost hugging if you will my audience. That open body posture is associated with a high power or a mindset of being powerful, a feeling of being powerful, very important for how you think about creating a mindset for yourself. The more you engage in this open high power body posture, the more likely you are to feel powerful. And the data’s very clear on this.
So as you can see here, these high power body positions, hands on the hips, hands out. These are according to our research some of the body posture, these open body postures that really put you into a mindset of thinking and feeling powerful as opposed to powerless. And as we talked about in the earlier course, these open body postures, they not only have an effect on how other people see you, they have an actual physiological impact, a physiological effect on your body. Your testosterone hormone for example, when you’re in that high power body posture, that open body posture, you’re energy hormone, testosterone, increases 20% increase in energy.
You’re cortisol hormone, the stress hormone decreases 25% when you’re in that high power body posture. And these physiological effects shape how you think and feel, putting you into this more powerful mindset, as opposed to powerless mindset. Again, open body posture is a way that you can prime yourself to begin to think and feel powerful. And you have to do this in the accompaniment of other people. You can do this in the privacy of your own office. Privacy of your own house before you leave the office that day. Our research shows that these physiological effects are long lasting. They don’t just go away immediately. They actually last over time.
So use that open body posture to prime that feeling of powerful for yourself. Another strategy that researchers use is to give people feedback or to create reminders of your position power. So, if I remind you that you’re in a position of power, legitimate authority for example, reminding yourself of that, finding creative ways to remind yourself or to solicit and receive feedback on that position of power. Very powerful way for you to build that cognitive, that feeling of powerful as opposed to powerless. Those simple feedback mechanisms or those reminders.
And then thirdly, and this is a very interesting and I think powerful way to elicit this feeling of power is a lot of researchers, some of which I’ve shared with you this week in the course. What they do is they ask people to recall an incident, an experience that you were personally involved in where you had power over someone else. Simply asking you to describe the situation, write about it, write a short paragraph about it, describe the situation and importantly, describe how you felt in that moment.
If you can remind yourself, whether you write it down or not, but if you can remind yourself of experiences, of times in your life, of incidences where you did have power and you felt that power, what our research shows is that can elicit that same feeling of powerful as opposed to powerless, even if you’re in a position where you don’t have that legitimate or formal authority. So one strategy for building cognitive power is to emulate or copy how researchers prime power in people they study. Open body postures, feedback reminders on the position power that you do have.
And then even in times where you don’t have that position power, force yourself to recall an incident in which you had power over someone else. Describe that situation. Describe how you felt. You won’t even realize it but psychologically, and even physiologically, you are changing and really embracing this powerful mindset as opposed to powerless. The second strategy that I will call your attention to, and again this goes back to the conversation that we had a while ago around the beliefs and stereotypes that can enhance our power or can constrain our power. I would encourage you to challenge the beliefs that you’ve identified that can constrain the power, and then really harness the beliefs that enhance that cognitive power.
So for example, if you have beliefs about, we talked about gender. If you have beliefs about men and women, really challenge those beliefs. Or if you see other people having these beliefs about gender and its effect with power, really challenge those beliefs. I do this with my students all the time, where they will make statements about gender and the effects in the workplace, and I’ll really challenge those beliefs and those stereotypes. Is it about the gender? What can we do to overcome those stereotypes so that both men and women can have that feeling of being powerful as opposed to powerless? We have to challenge those stereotypes. Same things true with age and tenure.
In many cases, many of the organizations I work in, I look relatively young compared to the people that I’m working with. That look can be deceiving to a lot of people. And so I often have to challenge that belief or that stereotype. In terms of what we look like, in terms of age, for example. And what that means in terms of our power. Or organizational tenure would be another example. But you have to challenge your own beliefs, and challenge the beliefs and stereotypes of others, as a strategy for really building that cognitive power, that feeling that we are powerful not powerless.
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