What the Stockroom Guy Taught Me About Power

I once learned an unforgettable lesson in power from a home improvement store stockroom employee. In fact, the experience so well illustrated power in action that I tell this story in my influence trainings when discussing resource power (more on this below).

Power at work

Here’s what happened. I was in the plumbing department cruising the aisles for a couple of parts for a toilet replacement job I was doing at home. (Seriously.)

I was in the back area near the stockroom when a guy in a suit came sailing into my aisle in a hurry. He then proceeded to move up and down the nearby aisles very quickly looking for something but not finding it.

He asked a salesperson where he could find a particular part for a sink and was told that it was likely in the back storeroom since it wasn’t on the shelves. He was directed to the doorway entrance to the stockroom. It was the type of door that has a top and bottom section with a shelf area at the halfway point. The bottom half of the door was closed and the top section was open.

There was a bell on the shelf which you had to ring in order to get the attention of the person in the back. The suited guy rapidly rang the bell: ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. He waited about 10 seconds… and did it again: ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.

Then he did that two more times.

During the rapid bell-ringing I became very interested to watch what was happening, so I put my plumbing supply purchase on hold and turned to watch the show. I was standing at a 45-degree angle to the open section of that doorway and could see into the stockroom. It was dark at the entrance, but there was a light on way in the back. Between the third and fourth set of dings, I saw a guy sauntering from the back of the stockroom toward the door.

He was a shadowy figure as he approached the shelf where the bell sat. When he got there, he put both hands on the shelf, palms down, looked the suited guy in the eye and said, dryly, “Can I help you?”

The suited guy said, “Yeah, I’m looking for thus and such and I was told it’s back here.” He was speaking hurriedly, and his tone sounded a bit demanding.

The stockroom guy looked at him and without a hint of expression said, “We’re all out.” Then he took the bell and closed the top door.

Resource Power Gives You Control

A resource is anything you have that someone else perceives is valuable. Examples include headcount, products, services, knowledge, information, physical space, materials, budget, supplies, your own time.

Positional power, or authority, is not the only type of power people have in organizations. When a resource is perceived to be – or actually is – limited and you’re one of the few, or better yet, the only one who’s the main gateway to that resource, your power increases.

This stockroom guy clearly had resource power — he was the main gateway to mister suit getting or not getting the sink part he was after. Stockroom guy didn’t need any other type of power in the moment.

3 Steps to Increase Your Resource Power

  1. List the resources that are within your span of control. Consider that your connections, time, expertise, and access to information are resources.
  2. If you were to take the fullest advantage of at least one of the resources listed above, which resource would it be and what would you do?
  3. You don’t have to control any resources in your organization to make the most of your resource power. If you don’t control any resources directly, what valuable resources are controlled by others whom you know well? You can benefit from resource power by becoming a broker of resources; the power is in knowing who needs what and connecting those who need with those who have. As a first step in becoming a resource broker, list at least three people you know who control resources and three people who could benefit from the resources that they control.

Power and Influence

Your power has a direct affect on your ability to influence. We often have more power than we realize — and it’s a matter of recognizing it. We’re all familiar with positional power, but it’s only one source of our power.

When you control a resource, you have the power to be of service, or not. It makes little difference what position you hold in the organization. In addition to positional and resource power, there are four other sources of your power in organizations. I will discuss each of them in upcoming posts.

Question: What do you think — is resource power valuable when it comes to influence? Do you have any tips to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Aleph Studio

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