research

Empathy: The Game Changer

Do you mirror others’ thoughts and feelings?

I recently wrote a post in support of empathy in the workplace. A new study by DDI proves I was on to something.

In their recent study, High Resolution Leadership, in which they synthesized the assessments of over 15,000 leaders and how they shape the business landscape, DDI (Development Dimensions International) found empathy had the greatest overall impact of ANY skill they assessed. Imagine that. One of the “softest” skills imaginable had the most measurable impact on performance. If you’re in the HR space, you’re already familiar with DDI and know that they are one of the most highly respected consultancies in the business. So, in my view, this study is huge. Simply put, greater empathy means higher performance.

You can read their online report by clicking on the link above or here. Of, if you want a quick read, this article from Inc.com sums it up nicely.

You want high performance, right? So what will you do to develop your own empathy skills or those of others in your organization?

How to mine the Companies feature on LinkedIn

I promised this post a long time ago, and have not tackled it until now because there is simply too much good stuff there and it’s hard to whittle down!  However, to be readable, I really must make it short and sweet.  So, here are my top five tips on using the Companies information on LinkedIn:

1. Find your target companies and “follow” them

Why: Updates about the company will show up on your home page.  You can keep up-to-date with what is happening in their business, including posted jobs, and be attuned to changes that may be to your benefit, for example, if someone was promoted, perhaps their position will need to be backfilled. 

How: On the company page, click on the yellow Follow button.

2. Review the company statistics.

Why: You can get a general sense of tenure, what functions may have a significant presence on LinkedIn, where the company has employees and more.  

How: Click on the link that says “Check out insightful statistics about…”

3. Review the list of employees.

Why: You won’t be able to see all employees generally, but can review enough to see what titles they use, where people in various functions are located, get a sense for company specific lingo and more.

How: Click on the blue (hyperlinked) number next to the phrase Employees on LinkedIn.

4. Find a contact.

Why: Well, why are you looking?  Is it because you are seeking information or an introduction? In either of these cases, your best bet is going to be someone who is already in your extended network.

How: Click on the lists of folks at the company who are in your network or are fellow alumni. Consider how close of a connection they are, what function or geography they work in, what level they are and so on to determine who best to reach out to.

5. Prepare for interviews (or networking meetings.) 

Why: This one’s obvious. There is a bounty of information at your fingertips.  Shame on you if you go in unprepared.  Doing your research shows you have genuine interest (as well as good research skills).  

How: Review everything possible on the company page including the things mentioned above.  Review the profile, if available, of the people you will meet with as well as others in the department by searching for their name in the main Search box or in the employee list.

I have just scratched the surface with these five tips, but if you use these, it will provide leverage to expand and enhance your networking and job search activities.This is the kind of insight that people in the past would give their right arm for.  Don’t waste the knowledge you can gain through a few clicks.  Knowledge is power.   

 

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!

Being Strategic – The “It” Factor

I have often worked with professionals who are on their way, climbing the corporate ladder.   They’ve done everything right – taken the right jobs, worked harder than the people around them, developed good relationships with their leaders, and so on.   And then…they hit a wall. 

“You need to be more strategic,” they’re told. 

“But what does that mean?!” they cry.  And, often, they get very few specific answers. 

Being Strategic seems to be like the It factor for a performer.  People know it when they see it, but it is hard to pin down and put into words. 

If you are struggling with this, consider:

Strategy – deals with  the longer term,  asks “where are we going and why?” and perhaps most importantly “where should we be going?”

Tactics – deal with the details of how to get there

To use another analogy. think of driving a car.  

You can drive a car and reach a specific destination, even if you don’t know what that destination is, as long as someone navigates for you.  You make tactical decisions and take action to brake, turn, and accelerate in the right places.   Your ‘strategic partner’ is your navigator.  They know where are you are going – literally ‘seeing the bigger picture’.  If you do not know where you are are going, are you going to be able to add anything of value to a discussion about what route to take?  No.

But, if you do know the destination, and have a broader knowledge of the world around you, you can say, “It would be better to take the 108 because there’s construction on the beltway.”  Or, “There’s a better place that’s closer.  Let’s go there instead.”

So, in the business world, if a key factor is having a broader view, how do you gain it?  Here are some tips:

#1:   Get to know more about the business world outside your company. 

You have no excuse for not doing this.  There are innumerable free or cheap resources.  You have instant, online access to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the BBC.  A  forward-thinking periodical I absolutely love is Fast Company, and they have online access as well.   There are a bazillion blogs and websites out there.  Do you have an iPod?  Go to iTunesU.  You can download presentations from pre-eminent business leaders – for free.

#2:   Pay attention to what is going on in your business community.

Again, there are many free or low-cost, easy-to-access resources.  BizJournals operates Business Journals in 40 cities in the US, and have online resources, some free.  I get a daily email blast of headlines and selected stories for my local area.  It takes me probably less than 10 minutes a day to stay on top of what’s happening.   If you have an Economic Development Commission or similar entity, they are usually excellent sources of information on what’s growing and changing in the area.

#3:  Keep up with leading research in your field.   

I’m not talking about the re-hashed stuff you see in most professional association journals. (Sorry, but it’s true, unless you’re in a medical/research/academic field.  I do think they have their use, but it’s not in this arena.)  Subscribe to a peer-reviewed academic journal or just search them online and buy copies of only the articles that interest you.  Or, see the note above about iTunesU.  Researchers from leading schools, including MIT, Stanford and Cambridge openly discuss their research – for free!

#4:  Talk to others in your company outside of your department.

It sounds simplistic, but it’s astonishing how narrow most people’s views are!  You know what I’m talking about – the silo effect.  You’ve probably complained about it before.   But, if you take the initiative to learn how your actions affect other departments, or what they are working on that might affect you, how do you think that will affect your decisions? Your actions?

When you implement the above practices, you are in a much better position to be a ‘navigator’, to get your head out of the day-to-day ‘how do we get there’, to speak up and influence the direction of your team or your company.  Then, you are on your way to being Strategic. 

Coming next…Strategic Self-Presentation