How to Be An Influential Leader

Two blog posts I just read about leadership and influence really sparked my interest and caused me to do a little digging online and in my “rusty” memory. The phrase that came to mind was “They Oughta Wanna.” I knew it was from a book but couldn’t remember the actual title, author, etc. I did remember that it had to do with getting employees to do things management figured they should want to do–except it wasn’t happening.

Why am I mentioning this now? If you’re in a leadership position or hoping to be in the future, this is a subject you “oughta wanna” explore!

Where “Oughta Wanna” Comes From

When I was taking a course from UC Berkeley by correspondence years ago, I read the book mentioned above but then managed to forget the details and didn’t know how to find it again. (That was in pre-Internet days, when you couldn’t easily look up phrases that might help you find something.)

Today I came across a blog post titled “Don’t Like Organizational Politics? Get Over It” by Scott Eblin, an executive coach and author. That post led me to one he had written about a year ago, titled “Three Ways to Increase Your Influence.” More on those in a bit–for now, I’ll just say they started a train of thought for me.

What happened next was that my mind made a leap to the book I had read somewhere around 1986. I thought, hey, maybe I could find it online by Googling “They Oughta Wanna.” It turns out the book is still available and has gone through two more editions since I first read it. The official title is Analyzing Performance Problems: Or, You Really Oughta Wanna, and its subtitle is How to Figure out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What to do About It; the authors are Mager and Pipe. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it–you can get it economically from Amazon.com.

How “Oughta Wanna” Relates to Being an Influential Leader

Eblin’s posts about organizational politics and increasing your influence probably led me to remembering the book because they have a lot to do with how leaders work and whether or not their leadership produces the results they’re aiming for. If you lead an organization where people don’t respect your authority the way they “oughta wanna” and whatever you’ve been trying in an effort to improve that situation hasn’t worked, you can relate to what Eblin says in his posts.

For example:

  • I’ll often hear people say “I don’t do politics,” “I can’t stand the politics,” or something else closely related. If you feel that way but want to be effective in your organization, you need to get over it.
  • One of my favorite lines is that it’s important to understand the difference between what should be and what is. Stop for a few moments and think about how often that line applies in real life. You’ll hear someone say something like, “They should be doing that because…”
  • Most leaders, no matter how great their positional power, have to learn how to influence others to actually get things done.

Management Title vs. Influential Leader

The upshot of this is that if you are or want to be an influential leader, having a management-level title (Vice President, President/CEO, Director and the like) won’t automatically do it for you. Although every organization is different in one way or another, it’s a truism that they’re all made up of people, and people don’t necessarily do what “they oughta wanna”! You have to figure out a way to influence them to buy into the desired behavior, which might include convincing them that engaging in the target behavior will benefit them far more than avoiding it will.

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LinkedIn Endorsements vs. Recommendations

As I might have said before, although I’m generally a supporter of LinkedIn as a strong online resource, I’m not wild about their addition of endorsements, which I suspect was done to benefit them more than their members. On the other hand, I do like their recommendations feature, which allows you to share complimentary remarks about your professional value and achievements without sounding conceited. In a way, comparing the two features is like comparing apples to oranges. Unfortunately, there’s more at stake here than that.

A couple of days ago, I read an editorial in the Netshare member newsletter (by Netshare CEO Katherine Simmons) that reinforced my own thoughts about LinkedIn’s changes over the past several years–and, in particular, the past several months. Simmons makes a few comments I agree with 100%, including one about the endorsements:

“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of my connections who took the time to endorse me. But frankly, I’ve been getting a lot of endorsements from people I don’t know for things I don’t do! For my part, I know I’ve hit that endorse button a few times when I really didn’t have the slightest idea whether that person knew anything about Change Management. It has become sort of a game – the career version of Facebook’s ‘Like’ button.”

What Can Endorsements Do or Not Do?

I’m not an expert on all the ins and outs, but my understanding is that one thing endorsements do is make it easier for employers to search LinkedIn for people who have particular skills they’re looking for. That doesn’t sound negative on the face of it, but think a moment or two. You might throw in all the relevant terms you can think of to take advantage of the 50 skills-and-expertise items you’re allowed to use; but is that really what you most want employers to know about you?

Endorsements might peg selected things about you, but what they can’t do is give potential employers a really strong sense of the value you can bring to them, by offering a solid, third-party indication of that value. For one thing, as Simmons points out, it’s all too easy to click a skill for people without giving any serious thought to whether they actually have that skill and have used it successfully in their professional life.

I’ve had a similar experience to hers with regard to people I know little or not at all, which makes me wonder what they were thinking when they endorsed me! I try never to endorse anyone for something I’m not sure they do, and I certainly don’t want to endorse someone I don’t know well.

LinkedIn Recommendations Do What Endorsements Can’t

It used to be that you needed at least 3 recommendations in your profile to reach 100%. I’m not sure when that requirement was dropped, but it’s no longer in force. However, I continue to encourage clients to seek recommendations from people who are qualified to rate their performance–former bosses, colleagues/peers, customers, etc.

There are at least 3 reasons for this:

  • You don’t feel as if you’re bragging about yourself if someone else describes your contributions in strongly favorable terms. Correspondingly, people reading your profile don’t get the impression that you’re full of self-importance.
  • Sometimes companies frown on employees’ providing letters of recommendation for a former employee. However, a brief comment in a LinkedIn recommendation might be viewed somewhat differently and be acceptable, especially since it has become so much a fact of life on LinkedIn.
  • Recommendations remain in your profile 24x7x365, without your having to do anything to keep them there. Unless you choose to hide a recommendation for some reason, it stays visible and working for you all the time.

What Makes You a Satisfied Employee?

Job satisfaction can be hard to measure, and it can fluctuate depending on what’s going on in your work and/or personal life at the time. However, if you’re feeling unsatisfied at work over an extended period, that’s not a good sign!

Companies theoretically worry about this kind of thing. Unsatisfied employees tend to be less productive, have a negative attitude more of the time, jump ship as soon as they can find a “better” opportunity, and so on. However, not all employers take employee job satisfaction as seriously as they should–and as you might like them to.

Employee Development and Employee Satisfaction

One gauge of an employer’s commitment to having satisfied employees is the quality and availability of employee development programs. For example, does your employer offer on-the-job training–that is, actual time-scheduled workshops or other resources during the work-day? Does the company provide reimbursement for off-site/after-hours educational programs that could advance your professional capabilities and value?

In today’s tough economic climate and challenging business conditions, these questions aren’t just rhetorical. A lot of companies have pulled away from offering such programs at all, and even some of the better companies have scaled back their offerings. That might be understandable, but it’s also probably short-sighted in terms of employee retention concerns.

According to an article by Ashlie Turley titled “Employee Development is More Important Than Ever,” a survey by CareerBuilder in January indicated that “32% of businesses lost top talent in 2012 and 39% believe they’ll lose top performers in 2013. The survey also found that 25% of workers expect to change jobs in 2013 or 2014.”

This isn’t news to you if you’re one of those in that 25%. You’re probably already looking for greener pastures or are planning to start in the near future if you don’t have much hope that your current employer will come up with better offerings soon.

So What Would Make You a Satisfied Employee?

I suggest it starts with feeling appreciated/valued by your current employer and seeing potential for career growth and advancement within the company. Turley’s article states that employees, “especially the high achievers, don’t just want an employer who will compensate them for what they already know. They want an employer who will help them learn and achieve something new. Employees realize that remaining stagnant in today’s workforce is career suicide, and they are looking for companies that understand this reality and are prepared to help them grow.”

Career suicide. Hm-m-m-m-m-m. Sounds like something I “preach” to clients a lot! If you can’t grow where you are, but you stay there because you feel stuck or you’re in a rut that has become more comfortable than moving on would be, you will almost certainly end up regretting it eventually. Your marketability to potential employers can decline over time if you can’t point to a career-savvy reason for having stayed where you were for so long.

That being said, when was the last time you took a good, hard look at your satisfaction level in your current position? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just been too busy to pay attention or have been consciously or unconsciously ignoring the situation. Either way, I encourage you to give serious thought to whether or not you are a satisfied employee and, if not, what it would take to make you one–where you are now or somewhere else. Maybe it’s time to dust off your job search skills!


Fuzzy Career Thinking = Poor Career Results

If you view your career as something that only needs attention when you’re about to be pushed into a job search by circumstances beyond your control, you’re indulging in fuzzy career thinking. More than likely, that will lead to poor career results. It’s basically true that you can’t get more out of something than you’re able–and willing–to put into it. Career progress definitely falls into that category.

5 Tips to Avoid Fuzzy Career Thinking

  1. Realize that nothing stays the same forever. You might feel secure in your present job at this time, but although you hope that situation will continue indefinitely, you shouldn’t count on it.
  2. Keep an optimistic outlook because it tends to have a positive impact on your job performance. At the same time, don’t go overboard with it and let optimism cloud your good judgment.
  3. Check in periodically with people whose insights and opinions you respect, to get their sense of what’s going on (outside or inside your present company). They might see something you’re missing and should be aware of.
  4. Maintain a concise log of things you’ve been asked by your boss to do and have done successfully, as well as contributions you’ve made without being asked that proved to be valuable. Not only will this help you stay focused and alert, but also it will provide useful backup if/when you need to make a career move.
  5. Remember the old axiom about not putting all your eggs in one basket. Your current job–even your current career area–might not be the only possibility for you, either now or at some point in the future. Take a look now and then at other possibilities that might be worth exploring.

Something for You to Think About

“People get trapped into thinking about just one way of doing things,” a quotation from Erik Weihenmayer.

Erik was born with a degenerative eye disorder that left him blind by the time he was 13, but he was determined to overcome this devastating situation and lead a fulfilling and exciting life. The results are shared in his memoir: Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See: My Story. I think Erik must be a very unfuzzy thinker in terms of envisioning goals and pursuing them, but the fact that he has an open-minded approach to life is probably also what enabled him to consider possibilities that seemed impossible to other people–and achieve them.

P.S. This week, life and a busy workload got in the way of doing posts when I had planned, so you’re seeing them two days in a row. Don’t expect that to happen very often!


Job Gone–Now What?

Whether it’s a case of being one of 100 people receiving the dreaded pink slip or just one poor soul who ran afoul of management and was shown the door, your job has gone and it’s not coming back. What do you do now? Of course, the exact circumstances can and probably do have some bearing on the actions you take. Being caught in a group layoff–even a small one–has a different tone than being fired for not meeting management’s expectations in some way.

On the other hand, I think it’s likely that you’ll be looking at some of the same actions regardless of the specific situation. What can or should those actions be? What do you need to know in order to move forward productively?

4 Points to Consider Following a Job Loss

According to an article by John Beeson, “You’ve Been Fired: Now What?,” you might want to consider these points:

  1. Your first step is realizing that you’re not alone.
  2. As you dust yourself off, think through those parts of the situation you need to own…think carefully about the messages you have received, however oblique, to see if you can identify issues you need to be alert to.
  3. Or perhaps the problem was not so much one of lack of skills as of fit.
  4. Once you’ve gleaned the two or three key lessons you should draw from your experience, move forward and don’t wallow in self-doubt or what might have been.

Basically, what Beeson is telling you is that it’s important for you to gain any useful information you can from the job loss situation, make sure it helps you avoid a similar situation in the future if possible, and then put the loss behind you as quickly as you can by shifting gears to move forward.

Other Tips for Meeting Job Loss Challenge

I’m going to start by saying that unless the situation genuinely leaped at you out of the blue and no one who was wide awake could have seen it coming, you might have to ask yourself why you missed apparently obvious signs that trouble was brewing. On the other hand, if you were doing a good job, not making any dumb mistakes, etc., you don’t have anything to reproach yourself with in most cases.

As the saying goes, sometimes life just happens in spite of your best efforts. However, if you should have realized something was off-kilter and didn’t, it might be a real wake-up call that requires serious thought.

That said, when your job has gone, you still need to answer the question, “Now what?” in order to meet the job loss challenge. Here are 4 other tips to keep in mind:

  1. Give yourself time to regroup if the departure was an unexpected shock. Just don’t let the adjustment period drag on too long.
  2. If you were suffering from burnout prior to the job loss, make sure your recovery process and time-frame takes that into account.
  3. Strive for a balance between pushing for a new job “tomorrow” and telling yourself you have enough funds (savings, severance if any, etc.) to cover an extended period and don’t need to rush into a new job.
  4. Decide what to tell your network and when–you want them to know you’re in the job market again and give them an idea of where you’re heading with that, but you don’t want to give the impression you’re desperate, bitter against your former employer, paralyzed by indecision about what to do next, or any one of a number of other negative outlooks.

“Job gone” might mean big challenges for you and for anyone else it affects (such as your family). However, once you’ve figured out the “what next” piece, you’re on the right path.


Celebration Time: 200 and Counting!

This will be a much shorter post than usual. It’s Saturday, and I have lots of things on my to-do list that have nothing to do with my resume-writing and career-coaching business. Besides being a business owner, I’m also a homeowner, a parent of an adult who needs some extra help, the “slave” of two small dogs who want their share of attention, and a lot more. Sometimes it’s a challenge to split myself into enough pieces to handle it all and do it well. I’m sure you can all relate to that!

However, I do have cause to celebrate and wanted to share it with you. This is my 200th blog post! Okay, so that’s more of a big deal for me than for you, if I’m being honest. But the flip side of this accomplishment is that there was a time when I doubted I’d ever get a blog going, much less have one that anyone would actually read. (That was after an aborted attempt several years earlier.)

Although I still haven’t reached as wide a circulation as I’d like–because I really want to share potentially useful career-related information with as many job seekers and savvy career managers as possible–I do get comments from time to time and know that a number of people follow the blog, so that’s encouraging. Now if the spammers would get sucked into a black hole somewhere, I’d be thrilled!

What do you have to celebrate?

Have you recently conducted a successful job search? Did you earn a career promotion? Were you praised by your boss and/or colleagues for a great contribution you made? Did you go back to school and finish a degree that you left hanging years ago?

When you achieve a goal, whether it’s short-term or long-term in nature, please take time to celebrate it. As I’ve said before, you probably don’t want to focus on the celebration phase indefinitely, but do let yourself enjoy it for a bit without feeling guilty. You deserve that.

What’s next for job search and career management?

I think I’ll do a post on procrastination and its role in your job search or career management planning…if I don’t procrastinate and end up waiting a while on that, LOL.


Warm Networking, Not Cold-Calling

When you attend so-called networking events, you most likely don’t have a chance to gen-up on the other attendees ahead of time or give them an opportunity to do the same about you. That’s what I’ve labeled cold-call networking.

On the other hand, when you schedule a conversation with someone you haven’t met before, you do have a chance to pave the way–and you should. Warm networking offers much greater potential value than going in blindly.

Warm Networking Tips

You’ll want to keep these brief networking tips in mind when you’re doing warm networking. They can help you maximize the effectiveness of your interactions with the people you meet and have professional conversations with.

  • Avoid the mistake of assuming the person already has important information about you–your experience, strengths, etc. Even if you’ve been directed to this individual by someone you think has filled in background about you, you could be wrong.
  • Show respect for the time of the person you’re making contact with. Provide the most critical information about yourself, in a professional manner, but don’t ramble on, providing excessive details or information that is off-point at this stage. Also, have a clear sense of what you might get or hope to get from the upcoming meeting, so you don’t squander the time you’ve been given.
  • Make the interaction a two-way street. Do some research on the new contact before the meeting–even if your referrer has provided you with some information. He/she might have neglected to tell you something useful or might have gotten a few details wrong. This is one way to identify a way you might be able to offer value to the other person.

Don’t Blow Off Warm Networking Opportunities

When someone offers to put you in touch with a potentially useful contact, always treat that as a warm networking opportunity. Otherwise, the person you end up speaking to could dismiss you as less than you are and not perceive your potential value. A recent article on HBR Blog Network
titled “Don’t Let Them Underestimate You” tells a few stories about how this unfortunate situation can happen and gives some sound advice about how to prevent it.

Author Dorie Clark says: “We all hope our merits will be recognized — and it’s a jarring comeuppance when they’re not….Before you meet a new contact, make sure they’re aware of your background and expertise.” Then she offers a few suggestions you might want to consider:

  • Send a letter of introduction before the meeting. Clark received this suggestion from a psychologist, Robert Cialdini, who said a letter makes it possible to communicate information about yourself without sounding like bragging.
  • Prepare a few stories to back up your expertise (much as you would prepare for a job interview, I think).
  • “After the meeting, if you suspect they haven’t fully grasped your potential, don’t push it….When it’s clear someone has pigeonholed you, those protestations come off as slightly pathetic. Instead, recognize that you’re in the long game now, and you need to change their opinion of you over time. If the relationship is worth cultivating, keep in touch and periodically update them with news about your progress…; if you have mutual friends, let them talk you up. They need to “discover you” and your value for themselves.”

Warm Networking Can Pay Off Big

If done right, even cold-call networking could produce results eventually. However, when you’re fortunate enough to have an opportunity for a warm networking situation, pursue it with the right kind of preparation and you could see significant results.