PERSONAL POWER: An Unorthodox Guide to Success by H.B. Karp

PERSONAL POWER: An Unorthodox Guide to Success

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The misleading title and subtitle can be discounted. Karp, a consulting psychologist, offers professional managers systematic and unpretentious counsel that has more to do with control than domination. His advisories qualify as unconventional only to the extent that self-reliance, poise, decisiveness, and related character traits are at odds with the behavorial norms of organizations or other groups, including families. In Karp's book, power is a process that equates with the capacity of individuals to obtain what they want from their environments. In this context, which probes ends, not means, specifically excluding the pursuit of power for its own sake and secretive exercises (i.e., manipulation), the author emphasizes that individuals must have a clear idea of their own goals before attempting to reach them. Those who take advance stock of their fallback positions as well as priorities invariably fare better in dealing with subordinates, equals, and superiors, he maintains. Karp does not advocate take-it-or-leave-it bargaining. In showdown situations, though, he recommends the use of ""strong language"" to minimize the danger of misunderstanding; equivocal responses (e.g., a reluctant yes when no is meant, unstated objections) tend to aggravate whatever problems exist. Nor does he depreciate the potential value of resistance (the antithesis of collaboration), which may provide organizations with new information, a means to identify talent, and other benefits. He supplies step-by-step instructions for handling troublesome recalcitrants, which favor addressing whatever inappropriate conduct is at issue, rather than indulging in ad-hominem critiques; included is a rundown of state-of-the-art counters to low-level forms of opposition like stalling. Karp views conflict constructively, albeit in an existential light (as a neither good nor bad constant). Among other things, he warns that enterprises depending on compromise (""the most popular and least effective means of approaching conflict"") seldom excel. Of greater concern to the author are adversarial relationships, ""a particularly nasty and toxic form of conflict."" In fact, he concludes without much comment that American culture supports and perpetuates antagonism: ""We acknowledge our poets but identify with our gunslingers."" Cautioning that there is no guaranteeing outcomes under such circumstances, Karp outlines a number of possibilities for coping, which stress focusing on options rather than actions or reactions. A worldly-wise guide to the risks and rewards of getting one's own way.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1985
Publisher: Amacom