Dr. Verna Cornelia Price: A woman of power


Four years ago, Dr. Verna Cornelia Price quit her job as a professor at the University of Minnesota, bought computer equipment, set up her company J. Cameron & Associates in her basement and waited for success.

“I thought it would happen in like a week,” she said. “It didn’t. It took years.”

Now Price is a successful motivational speaker and author who creates programs that enhance the effectiveness of organizations by empowering individuals. In 2002 she published a book: The Power of People: Four Kinds of People Who Can Change Your Life.

MWP spoke with Price about her theory of personal power in the workplace.

Q: How does cultivating personal power make people more creative and innovative?

A: Typically in the workplace, here’s what happens: we try to tell people how to make it happen, as opposed to saying to the people, I trust you, I hired you because you have the skills and competencies. If you don’t have them, I will help you get them. Now go do it. It doesn’t matter to me how you do it, I just want to make sure that you get it done.

In the language and the principles of personal power, everyone has personal power. When we begin treating people like they’re powerful people, they’ll begin acting that way, and they’ll begin adding to the workplace.

When you begin to have voice, you begin to speak to communicate and to create.

Q: How do these ideas help organizations and individuals to become more effective?

A: If you bring personal power to work, you become more innovative, more creative, and as a result, you’re going to create stuff that’s going to work for that company. The company is going to profit, the bottom line is going to grow, and in the meantime, the employees are going to be more satisfied. The more satisfied you get, the more work you do, and the more profit you do. The domino effect it has on the workplace is quite amazing.

Q: What are the four types of people described in your book?

A: Personal power in the workplace comes out in one of four ways: you’re either going to use your power to add to the workplace, subtract from it, multiply it or divide it. So we call these people adders, subtractors, multipliers or dividers.

The notion is that when you are taught how to use your personal power effectively, you’re going to use it to add, because when you begin to add, everyone benefits––especially you.

Q: Do your ideas apply differently to small organizations than they do to large businesses?

A: No, they don’t. It’s the same principle. I worked with 150 of Target’s financial people and I got the same “Ah-has!” there that I got in a nonprofit down the street.

Q: How do these ideas specifically apply to women? Do they apply to men also?

A: I think the fact that a woman, a woman of color, is actually talking about power in the workplace is huge. For so long, women have felt powerless in the workplace.

Women need to learn, even when it’s not welcomed, how to still use personal power anyway, in a positive way. To be able to get your work done, be creative, be able to show your company that you know how to make things happen. For some women, when they discover their personal power, their companies can’t handle them anymore and they have to move on. For others, it’s exactly what their company has been waiting for and it creates a huge pathway of success for them.

Q: What projects are you working on?

A: We have a project called Girls in Action, teaching 120 girls from North High School about personal power.

I’m working on [a book] Dealing with Subtractors. I would love for it to come out by fall 2006. I’m also writing a book about personal power for teenagers.

For more about personal power, visit Dr. Price’s website at www.drvernaprice.com.