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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why being good at what you do isn't enough for success (power series)

Ever thought: “Why are other people getting great jobs so easily when they’re not even as good as me or they have less experience/skills/knowledge”? Well, there’s no need to go and find the next course on interview skills or mentor. It may be time to look at your relationship to power. As the tragic events of London this weekend illustrate, echoing the wider violent instability globally, reality can be dark. Having left Algeria due to terrorism and daily violence in the 90s, it’s an uncomfortably familiar scenario: young, disaffected men expressing their frustration and acting out a hellish vision of the world, killing ordinary people without mercy. Strangely, this is where Tony Robbins, someone who is very much seen as a seasoned player in capitalist commercialism, helped me to come to terms with such apparently senseless acts of violence. He often refers to the six human needs and how we develop strategies to meet them – healthy and unhealthy strategies (see the video below for the six human needs and a short reflection on why it's important to understand needs). At the simplest level, acts of violence are meeting a desperate need for significance. Wielding a weapon to threaten or harm another provides a moment of power, attention and importance. Rather than 15 minutes of fame, they opt for 15 minutes of power. In the most brutal way. What does this mean for your success in your career and life? ORGANISATIONS DON’T TELL YOU THIS When I do deep work with clients, we often a hit of vein of loathing of “power”. The experience of power and authority for many has been negative if not traumatic, due to our evolutionary history and survival-based values which still pervade our social culture. It’s fight, flight or freeze. In fact, do you tend to compare yourself to others? It’s your survival instincts trying to size up the “other” to decide whether to fight, run or freeze. If you are good analytically, you may end up hiding behind intellectual and technical competence as a protection. Intellect and technical skill are sufficiently prized in our culture that you can hope to be shielded, remunerated and rewarded in society in exchange for your giving them over to an organisation. However, if you start moving up the ladder of power in your organisation or decide to do something outside the confines of an institution for the first time, as I and many clients can tell you, you will have to face the full range of human nature, including your own (it’s much vaster than the formidable intellectual/technical part). This is what happens: inner-conflict erupts over whether they want to join in the "power struggle" and organisational politics. They can even start to doubt themselves and worry whether they have to sell their soul to make an impact. This is where I ask my clients to get comfortable with power, and explore what it means to them. The goal is to reach a happy relationship with it. Why is this important? Because for every person who grasps greedily for power (including through violence), another tries to avoid it abdicating all responsibility and the possibility of a positive impact in the world. And like any relationship, resolution lies in the creative middle. WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO POWER? A tool I use frequently in coaching, to understand the strategies clients use for meeting their needs, is the Karpman drama triangle. Stephen Karpman identified three roles people play in groups that fuel unhealthy power dynamics. David Emerald identified the reverse, healthy dynamics in The Empowerment Dynamic - see the diagram below.

I’m not going to go into detail but understanding power dynamics and how they play out, can give you the awareness you need to make the right decisions for you in your career and life. This is particularly important when you are trying to decide whether to leave a job or not in your mid-thirties for reasons I won’t go into here. Ask yourself:

·What does power mean to you? Is it positive, negative, neutral?

·What’s your experience of power in your work, relationships and growing up?

·Do you tend to occupy a particular role (victim, persecutor or rescuer)?

·How does it feel to occupy that role?

·If you let go of your usual role, who would you be?

POWER IS A CONCEPT: IT’S WHAT YOU BRING TO EACH SITUATION THAT IS REAL A common question people ask me is whether they should leave their job or leap into a new career. While I am biased towards entrepreneurial freedom, there is a time and a place for everything. It’s important to make true peace with where we are in work and life, learn as much as we can and play the game of life with a big dose of (self-)compassion. If an organisation or situation isn’t right for you, it will become obvious as you become more self-aware and drop any fear-based behaviours, with the support of a healthy entourage. Until next week, Amina NEWS Some of you read Wise Wednesdays because you're interested in coaching. If you're ready to take a leap, I opened two new coaching spots this June for my six month Career and Life Transformation process “Create a career and life you love now!” (One has been taken.) The process may be for you if:

  • ·you’re passionate and hard working but not sure how to move forward;

  • ·you’re going around in circles and your confidence seems to be dropping;

  • ·you want to feel inspired and clear again, combining sharp strategy with intuitive wisdom;

  • ·you want to use your talent to have a positive impact in the world and use your skills differently;

  • ·you're comfortable with the Doctor Amina approach to life and are not afraid of being taken out of your comfort zone to get to where you want!

If you think that’s you, let’s assess the situation and find out! Book a Discovery Session here or email me on

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