All of us need to feel that we have some form of power and are in control of our lives.
It’s easy to be swamped by rules and procedures and become disempowered – as this story* by change management guru, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, demonstrates.
A woman went into her local Post Office to buy some stamps so that she could send her Christmas cards.
‘Twenty stamps please,’ she said to the man behind the counter.
‘Sorry,’ the man replied, ‘I can’t help you. I don’t have enough stamps for that.’
‘Oh well, never mind,’ the woman replied, ‘I’ll take whatever you have. How many stamps do you have?’
‘Twenty-five,’ the man replied.
The woman wondered if the man was being facetious, but one look at his face told her otherwise.
‘Twenty-five,’ the woman echoed incredulously. ‘But I said I only want twenty.’
‘I know,’ said the man ‘I’m sorry but I have to keep twenty-five stamps in stock at all times. I can’t sell you any.’
‘But why do you need to keep twenty-five stamps?’ the woman asked, getting even more annoyed.
‘No idea,’ said the man with a resigned air. ‘Those are the rules.’
Rosabeth Moss Kanter points out that it is powerless-ness, not power, that ultimately corrupts. If people have no way of demonstrating power, they become controlling of little, inconsequential things in life – like stamps!
How does this story relate to your own situation?
What rules and procedures in place that are meaningless?
How can you think and act more autonomously?
What do you need to do to bring about constructive change?
*Source: Tales for Coaches by Margaret Parkin. Published by Kogan Page 2001.
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