Briefing Notes: Do You “Get” Your Informal Power

Published: June 21, 2020

The 28th Issue


Do you have the power – outside of your official role or job title – to create value and get things done?

Why this matters:
For sure, our official title bestows upon us some level of power or influence as defined by our role. But what’s always caught my attention is that person who may not have the title, but appears to be able to open doors, influence colleagues, and get people to rally around a project, a cause, or a crucial deadline.

You know at least one person like that, right? They’re all around us. And we can cultivate what they have too.

An HBR article calls this informal power.

Informal power — which is unrelated to your formal title — can enable you to mobilize resources, drive change, and create value for the organization as well as yourself. And in the modern workplace, informal power is increasingly pivotal and can secure your place within your organization.

To figure out our informal power, HBR suggests a “power audit” so we can find red flags – gaps in our sphere of influence where we lack power and can be at greater risk of being easily replaced.

After the power audit, we can then focus on improving our standing with four sets of activities:

  • proactively using our skillsets to help others beyond the demands of our role. “You don’t want to be the expert whom nobody knows.”
  • positioning ourselves at the “intersection of workflows” through cross-functional initiatives and lateral moves
  • getting to know our stakeholders and collaborators better as individuals
  • joining social and professional associations outside of work to expand our network beyond the insular group of immediate co-workers

Bottom line:
Our value cannot and should not be defined by whatever formal role we’ve been assigned inside a company or organization. If it were so, we would be at risk of being easily replaced by a cheaper, or younger version, or by an AI. Creating value for diverse set of stakeholders can go a long way toward making us harder to replace.


Switching from climbing a corporate ladder to starting a small business meant I was in for a steep learning curve. Back in the day, this would have meant investing loads of money on a business program and going to school nights and weekends. Thankfully, the world has evolved and we now have access to JIT training and bite-sized programs that fit our busy schedules. I couldn’t have done it without the online classes at CreativeLive.

If you’re starting out in your self-employment or business ownership journey, you’ll want to review the list of best-selling business basics classes.*

*P.S. This is an affiliate link.


  • We feel better about going to work when we have friends at work. We’re more likely to engage in projects when we genuinely enjoy the people we work with. But when we WFH, it’s a little harder to become friendly with co-workers. And this is especially true when we start a new job or a new position (very likely these days!). How to become friends with your coworkers while working remotely.
  • We’re in the middle of a pandemic and people are losing jobs, getting furloughed, or having their income slashed. Tough times mean we have to make hard choices. Typical financial advice may not apply. Should we worry about our credit score?
  • We grew up learning about traditional jobs and career paths. We weren’t encouraged to juggle wearing many hats and taking on different projects. But times have changed and our traditional notions for what constitutes “a career” must evolve as well. And for those of us who’s thinking of our second, third, or fourth acts, it’s crucial we define what that means in the context of the new economy. Here’s a guide on how to build a career from different income streams.
  • Audio: Smarter Side Gigs | HBR IdeaCast. Why any ambitious professional needs a side gig — not to pursue a dream or earn som extra cash — but to enhance skills, knowledge, and network in a way that benefits their existing careers.


“This is the age of the amateur. The world is open for anyone who can figure out what the new unmet needs are and can solve them.” — Amy Bonsall, CEO of nau, a business dedicated to bringing humanity back to the workplace


In the (near) future, seeing a therapist for help with our anxieties and other psychological tolls (such as what COVID brought on) can be more accessible and affordable… with a Chatbot App. The FDA has been approving a handful of apps and digital services that doctors may prescribe. And the small industry was expected to grow as we all (regulators, doctors, patients) get more comfortable with the concept. Then COVID happened and the FDA suspended many of its usual rules to widen access to care during the pandemic. Doctors were freed to prescribe digital therapy more widely and pushed companies to accelerate plans to develop and release apps. The Therapist is In and It’s a Chatbot App.


… in 2010, when the No. 1 movie at the box office was Avatar. Hypercool darlings Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were “in” couple from a lucrative supernatural teen romance. Netflix was just starting to stream in Canada. Hollywood is apparently going to run out of new movies to show unless production ramps up. So, I thought it might be a good idea to have a cheat sheet on which old movies are worth your precious shelter-at-home time. (Because you’re still doing as much of that as possible, right?). Here’s EVERY movie of the 2010s, ranked.

(Side note: I’m distressed that I’ve seen way too many of the ones at the bottom of the list and not enough of the top 50.)


🎙  Season 3 just wrapped up (proving that time indeed flies, even in quarantine). And in episode 134, I shared my key takeaways from the conversations I’ve had around career continuity and resilience. Plus what I’m doing to implement those takeaways. You can catch that on your favorite podcatcher. Or you can read it all here.


Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to produce and requires paid subscriptions to numerous journals, magazines, and books to get the widest and best source of information. If you find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!

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Are you waiting for the Second Wave? Or just ignoring the continuation of the First One?

No matter. Just keep wearing the mask.

Best wishes for a productive, safe, and sane week. Send over any comments, your go-to WFH tool, side-gig idea, or your favorite movie from the last decade.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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