Month: October 2010

What’s your IQ (influence quotient)?

In most of the leadership coaching I’ve done, the theme of influence stands out.  People who want to improve their leadership skills almost always understand that they need to expand their ability to influence others.  But their efforts translate into simply trying harder at using the same old skills, often to little incremental effect.

A number of years ago, I took a fantastic course on Consulting Skills through PDI (Personnel Decisions International).  Included in the course material was some intriguing information on influence tactics, based on the research by Yukl & Falbe.  We did a fun little exercise in which the participants guessed what the effectiveness of various tactics would be in gaining commitment vs. compliance vs. resistance of those we were trying to influence (the targets).  What I and others in the course came to realize was that we each heavily relied on one or two tactics and wielded them consistently regardless of their actual effectivness.  I rated rational persuasion at the top of my list.  Why wouldn’t it be?  That’s what typically works on me!   Isn’t everyone like me?  Ahh…the short answer is “no”.  

Rational persuasion is not the top tactic in terms of effectiveness.  Negotiation?  Huh-uh.  Ingratiation?  Pressure?  No and no.  Inspirational appeal is number one in gaining commitment from others.  This was an ah-ha, and made a lot of sense once I thought about it.  But inspirational appeal does not work in all cases.  The real ah-ha here is this:  all tactics work in some cases.  Therefore, the key to increasing influence is to learn to wield a number of tactics and recognize when and with whom they work.  In this manner you can really increase your influence quotient. 

Try it.  Invest 30 minutes to google and read up on the various influence tactics (search Yukl & Falbe to start).  Then, start paying attention to the tactics you use.  Observe others using different tactics.  Try some new ones out on your own.  Give yourself some room to stumble, but keep on going.   Soon, you’ll find you have an increased IQ!

To degree or not to degree

Help Wanted: Degree required. 

Seen this lately?  If you’re seeking a job, I’m sure you have.  And in the not too distant past, if you were my client, I would have advised you: “Don’t let that stop you from applying.”  Because I knew, firsthand and through much observation, that due to the war for talent, companies often ignored their own guidelines.   Now, however, the tide has turned.  Companies are sticking by their guidelines much more closely.  Why?  Because they can.  

So, what does this mean for you as a job seeker?  First and foremost, it means that if the kind of jobs you are interested in consistently require a degree, if you already have some college hours under your belt and have any means at all to go back to school, run, do not walk, to the college of your choice and complete your degree as soon as possible.  If you have taken no college classes, this is a bigger decision, but still one you should very seriously consider. 

Take night classes?  Yes.  Miss out on family events?  Yes.   Strain your brain studying again?  Yes.  Why?  Because the (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for people over age 25 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher is currently 4.4%.  Do you hear me??  4.4%!  For people over age 25 with some college or an Associate’s degree, it is 9.1%.  That is still below the national average, but significantly higher than 4.4%.  Which odds would you like to have in your favor?  And if the national average is 9.6%, what do you think the rates are for high school graduates with no college, and those who did not complete high school? 10.0% and 15.4% respectively.  (All information here is based on the September 2010 Employment Situation report and supporting tables available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov). 

This is the reality of the world today.  People who have been displaced from jobs they were successful in for 20 years or more are now not able to land those same exact jobs – because they lack a degree!  Do I agree with this?  NO.  Employers have become lazy and begun inserting “Bachelor’s degree required” as shorthand for “needs to be able to write a paragraph that actually means something and isn’t full of errors” or “needs to be able to use logic and sound decision-making skills to solve problems”.  If only having a degree meant that!   Sadly, it often doesn’t.  But that is a topic for another post.  

As a side note, I urge employers to say what they really mean in job postings and go back to using the phrase, “degree or equivalent experience”.  But, back to my primary message, I will again, urge you – if you have not finished your degree but have ever wanted to – do it.  Make the time.  Find the money.  Seek grants, scholarships and loans if needed.  Pick a decent, reasonably-priced school and go.  It truly is an investment in your future and the future starts now.