Borrowed Power

glassWhen I was in corporate life, my boss shared some feedback with me. It was the kind of feedback that is second hand. In other words, it was someone else’s view of me, not necessarily his, but that person didn’t have the courage to share it with me face to face. That’s fairly interesting passive aggressive behaviour, but quite common in my experience.

Anyway, the feedback was that I should stop “borrowing power” from others.

I had absolutely no idea what he meant by that, so I asked him to explain. Apparently, I had a tendency to say, “X says”, or “Y believes”, or “Z thinks” before explaining that I also believed or thought the same thing.

This was “borrowing power” and it was annoying others. The sort of others it’s probably best not to annoy.

I was shocked.

My intention was to give credit to these others, and not to appear to be stealing their ideas. I really dislike it when people steal others’ ideas and pass them off as their own. That’s pretty common too, I’ve noticed.

Now, whilst the phrase was new to me, I’m no stranger to the activity of “borrowing power”. When I was in a customer facing role, I would shamelessly use the buying power and influence of my customer, the mighty Tesco, to persuade the company I worked for to do something that Tesco wanted, if I thought it would be good for business.

But when talking about X, Y or Z’s beliefs or ideas, I was not borrowing power, I was giving them credit, consciously anyway.

Given that we look at the world through our own lens, with all our beliefs, biases and life experiences, it is not possible for humans to be objective.

How I see a situation may differ from how you see a situation. What I pay attention to may be different from what you pay attention to.

The end of the story?

I changed my behaviour and stopped giving credit/borrowing power, and whilst I was pleased to be able to demonstrate some learning, some development, to those who one should not annoy, it always felt strange and disingenuous to me.

Borrowing power or giving credit, it’s subjective. It depends on the lens through which you view this or any other situation.

What lens are you using today?