Personal Power

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Because of my job with Redgate (which I love and will never leave even after I’m dead), I spend a lot of time learning about compliance and all the new laws and regulations coming out of things like the GDPR and the CCPA (they changed the name evidently). However, I’m a nerd. I’m not a lawyer. Regardless, I spend a lot of time reading those laws, then, I try to take what I’ve learned and share it with other data professionals.

However, here’s where things go off the rails a bit. A lot of times, while talking to my data pro peers, I get the message back, “Yeah, we hear your Grant, and all this compliance stuff sounds pretty dire for our organization, but, I’m not in charge. I can only do what my boss tells me and she hasn’t told me to work on this.”

Let me tell a story.

Once upon a time, I went to my boss and said something along the lines of, “Hey, our organization is doing something foolish, you need to carry the message to the powers that be.” I’ll never forget his response to me, because I’ve tried, mostly successfully, to live by it ever since.

“Grant, there’s personal power and there’s institutional power. I can try to use institutional power to implement this change. However, you’ve got the knowledge, the passion, and the drive to carry this to the organization on your own. You need to grow your personal power with the organization and then, despite your position, you can more directly influence what happens.”

Now, I have cleaned this up a little. My boss could occasionally used more salty language than I used here. You can insert your own curse words where you feel appropriate. Anyway…

And they lived happily ever after.

The point is, yes, you don’t have institutional power to carry a message to your organization. It doesn’t matter if that message is something really broad like compliance, or just simple stuff like, maybe having an off-site backup would be a good idea. You can be the person that carries it into the organization. You can use your personal power to talk to the right people, to share with them your knowledge, yes, but more importantly for you, to share with them your desire to help the organization.

I’m not suggesting you bypass your boss. I’m also not suggesting you start hanging out in the legal team’s office haranguing them. I’m just saying, sometimes, you’re the right person to step up and deliver a necessary message. Never doubt that. You may have a unique understanding about something the organization didn’t know about. It happens every day. After talking with your boss, you might find out the organization was already on top of the situation. This won’t hurt you, again, you’re showing interest in a way that’s positive. It will benefit you and your career.

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