Observations of the Ultimate Business Power Moves

I am a student of both verbal and non-verbal cues and pride myself on picking up on them faster than the average person… who is communicating in their 2nd language or is a toddler. That is to say, I’m quite dense in the moment, and frequently pick up on them in the shower days or weeks later. Usually as I’m running back the encounter in my mind for the 3rd or 4th time. SO, THAT’S WHAT THEY MEANT!?

One such “recentish” encounter brought this to light and got me thinking about the most exciting game in all of business. Power moves. These power moves can only be pulled off with the proper training and enthusiasm and are not for the faint of heart (or really anyone with a conscience).


I’ve frequently worked in startups and have had regular encounters with the CEO (not just because I’m a big shot).  At one such meeting at a previous employer I was meeting with the CEO recounting the merits and tactics I’d employ in pursuit of various targets from a trade show. During my 15 minute recap it was pretty hard not to be distracted by his behavior. I thought that he must surely be on some  powerful medication because he frequently (and progressively more violently) yawned.

Alas, there was no apology for violently yawning – which meant I must be boring him. It definitely felt a bit jarring and derailed most of the rest of our conversation. Perhaps I was to take it as a cue that our meeting was over? Regardless, that’s a power move and it may have caused a lesser man to put his proverbial tail between his legs, but not me! I only rambled on for an additional 20 minutes lunging at things that I thought might pique his interest. So really there were no winners in this game of nonverbal chicken, only losers. Though he probably would say he won.

Prefacing statements with, “Look.”

I had a boss at one point that loved this and would employ it without discernment or regard for collateral damage. Really he was my bosses bosses bosses boss. He was significantly above me and he loved, loved, loved — really with almost any statement, no matter how irrelevant or insignificant a factoid — to preface statements with, “Look”.

“Look, the demand is not there for that feature. There are features we are prioritizing that will cater to a broader segment.”

“Look, New York is really displeased with last quarter’s results, we need to do significantly better and do better at setting realistic expectations.”

“Look, the fastest way to get to that coffee shop is by taking a left here.”

“Look, red shoes really brings the green out of your eyes.”

You know who else prefaces a lot of statements with “Look.”? President Obama, that’s who. The difference is that he is trying to distill very complex issues into digestible bites for us. And he’s right to do so. We are morons and deserve no better (in-aggregate). He’s also frequently talking to Republicans via voters — that insist on stupid things and deserve to be talked down to.

This guy has earned the right to preface every statement with "Look" - corporate bosses, not as much. Photo courtesy: Justin Sloan

This guy has earned the right to preface every statement with “Look” – corporate bosses, not as much. Photo courtesy: Justin Sloan

Cool -or- Thanks as a response to something asking for much more.

The one-word response to a thoughtfully crafted email with questions and requested explanation is the ultimate power move. Cool. Think about a time where you wrote out a recap of a meeting or conversation with “action items” and the respondent gives you a “cool” or “ok” – you were a powerless mite. YOU ARE NOTHING!!O:!?!K#LJ!EJRJ!WIOERJIOEJROIJE@O.

That being said, it is possible I’ve been taking this the wrong way.”Short emails are more associated with people at the top of the food chain. If you also send short emails it puts you in the company of the decision-makers,” said Will Schwalbe, co-author with David Shipley of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better. According to Schwalbe, short emails are “much more respectful of everyone’s time.” So in actuality, it’s NOT rude to dismiss a thoughtful email (with requested answers and actions of the recipient) with a one word response – it’s MORE respectful.

The other 2 I came up with are so ubiquitous now that they don’t really count as power moves:

looking at phone during meeting/convo. Obviously, anyone that works in an office has someone more important than them looking at their phone right now while you are trying to have a conversation with them (while you multi-task and write out both prescient and witty blog post)! ACK! Who doesn’t love their smart phone. I for one am definitely not addicted to mine.

calling someone by their name when there is no need to repeat their name. This is much more subtle, but equally as deadly. We all know what my name is, and while I guess it’s mildly flattering that you do too (considering your standing), I’m not sure why it needs to be added to this statement!I’m not a child and NO I WILL NOT GO TO MY ROOM!!!!!!


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2 thoughts on “Observations of the Ultimate Business Power Moves

  1. totallyrandomgoodadvice March 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm Reply

    Hey, I really liked your post. I think what David Shipley meant with his quote about emails is to be brief and to the point, not to give non-responses. It was a power move that basically told you to sit down and shut up. It was also rude, and I’m sorry it happened to you.

    The power play that really drives me up the wall, though, is interrupting. I’ve had teachers who called on me, and then half way through my argument they interrupted me and either gave me an answer to a question I wasn’t asking or changed the subject. Either way, it effectively shut me down until the subject changed again.

    • WorldsBestDaddy.org March 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm Reply

      Hi Maxine, thanks for the comment. I agree, the Shipley quote could be considered out of context and that he brings up valid points about respecting time with brevity. I tend to sensationalize a bit. Funny insight about the classroom setting – totally appropos considering you are getting an MBA! Thanks! James (Kung-foolery)

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