In Tucson, where I lived for many years, there’s a popular line of t-shirts based on the Mexican card game loteria.
My favorite, El Mundo, features a picture of Atlas balancing the world on his shoulders. He’s the same fellow, sculpted in bronze, who towers over Rockefeller Center in New York City – knees bent, biceps bulging, head bowed, a look of intense concentration on his face.
We all carry the world on our shoulders
Whenever I needed a power boost, I put on my El Mundo shirt. I often wore it when I was leading fundraising workshops, hidden beneath a dress shirt.
At the end of the class, when it was time for customary pep talk, I would start unbuttoning my shirt. This action was always greeted by a nervous silence, since most people had never seen a teacher undress in class.
After unfastening four or five buttons, I would stretch the shirt open across my chest, revealing Atlas, and ask, “Anybody feel like this guy?”
The students laughed and cheered. They understood.
I wore El Mundo a lot. Changing the world is a hard, sweaty business, and I needed all the energy – real or imagined – I could get.
I wore that shirt until it was a rag. It literally fell off my back. I still teach people how to raise money, but I draw my power from other sources – mostly faith in myself, the inspiration I draw from those around me, and we work we do together.
Where do you get your power?
I know a touring musician who performs, night after night, city after city. This requires massive amounts of stamina and self-confidence.
She’s a big fan of the power poses made famous in a Ted Talk (42 million views!) by psychologist Amy Cuddy. Before the show, you’ll find this musician backstage, practicing postures that reflect and augment her inner strength, skill, and mastery. This strategy increases her confidence, which makes her a better, more joyful performer.
Where do you get your power? What gives you the energy, courage, and self-confidence to facilitate, teach, sing, dance, or lead any sort of group?
Start by being yourself
For years, I worked with a really skilled facilitator and trainer who was also a natural introvert – not the personality type we tend to associate with leadership. He had very little ego and took up very little space, but he could manage a group brilliantly.
His power came from his authenticity. He was true to his personality.
In fact, he used his personality as an asset. Whenever he intervened to redirect the conversation or pose a question, he did so in such a gentle, unassuming way that no one felt threatened.
Make no mistake – in these moments, he was exercising his power clearly and effectively, but also in a manner consistent with his persona and his beliefs. And people responded.
Colleagues in the training and facilitation world describe this behavior with terms like “embodiment” and “using yourself as an instrument.” In other words, know who you are, embrace it, and figure out how to make the most of who you are to facilitate change.
Discover your power as a group leader, trainer, and facilitator
Beginning this October, I’m helping to launch a new Training, Facilitation, and Consulting Certificate Program through the Marlboro College Center for New Leadership
I’m so excited to be working with my colleagues Stephanie Lahar of Stephanie Lahar & Associates, and Dianne Russell of the Institute for Conservation Leadership, two of the most skilled people I know.
One focus: Helping participants understand how to apply their unique attributes – skills, experience, personality, and perspective – to the work of leading groups.
If you’re ready to claim your trainer power, please consider joining us this fall.