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Off topic: The secret to financial success?
Thread poster: Sylvia Smith
Sylvia Smith  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:01
French to English
Jan 28, 2007

Hello colleagues,

Some food for thought…

A study done by the Carnegie Foundation and Carnegie Institute of Technology found that:

“Even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering – to personality and the ability to lead people.”

This study was done in the United States in the 1930’s. Would you say that this conclusion is still relevant today, in our line of work?

One could argue that the advent of the internet, which has reduced much of our interaction with clients (I suppose this applies mainly to freelancers - my apologies to our in-house colleagues) to e-mail and file transfers, has shifted the balance away from people skills.

Or, one could argue that this new form of communication, and the highly competitive market, have made it all the more important to make a good impression through just a few lines of text.

Any thoughts?

Looking forward to your comments….

Sylvia


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gamax  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 22:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
The most valuable asset it's allways yourself... Jan 28, 2007

Hello Sylvia!

Yes, saying things like this title sounds like a topic extracted from one of those "be succesfull!!" books. But it happends to be true, for better or worse. The issue would be in just how do you manage to transmit your real capabilty to others, how do you deal with prejudices and false social paradigms.

For one thing the internet bussines world has all the opportunities your ability might be able to grab, providing your are capable of persuading target people with, as you put it, a couple of well writen lines.

On the other hand, it gives a fine and fair opportunity to people who do not feel confortable dealing in person with others, but with the ability to write well.

Has ever happened to you that having aquaintance with a rather shy person, you get to his writings and get a very pleasant surprise?

It occurs to me that perhaps the personality tests and emotional intelligence parameters will have to be reviewed somehow, since the brilliant, leading and appealing personality might not be that important in "being succesful" when it comes to an intelligent, cultivated, capable person with the only liability of having a little or a much of misanthropic trends.

Could this help to have a few less embittered, dispointed, lonely people in this world?

I expect so


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John Colangelo  Identity Verified
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Local time: 09:01
Member (2006)
Arabic to English
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The secret to financial success ... Jan 28, 2007

Let me guess ... Lower my rates to 6 cents a word?

John


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Human Engineering Jan 28, 2007

“Even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering – to personality and the ability to lead people.”

I agree if you can lead your boss or clients to pay you more and your colleagues to do your work..


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:01
English to French
+ ...
Tricky question Jan 28, 2007

I have long known that I am not just a translator. I am actually three things (from a work point of view): a person, a service and a business person. The question is, what are our clients looking to buy? Do they want a person before getting the service? Or do they want the service, the business person and only then the person? Or maybe they just want the service, not the person... If they want a good quality service, delivered by a person who communicates well and is available when they need him/her, then human skills can be equally as important as the quality of the service itself.

I think I have great "human engineering" skills and I do believe that in some cases, that's what won me the trust of a client for a long-term, rewarding business relationship. But of course, if I was a shobby translator, that client wouldn't have used my services again, no matter how good I sound on the phone and how much I can flatter the client, or how well I am able to explain to them what I am doing or how well I can negotiate.

I am a bit surprised at the percentages in the first post. I always knew "human engineering" mattered, more than many of us think, but I wouldn't have guessed that it mattered this much. Maybe this is due to the fact that, at least as far as the translation industry is concerned, several skills are needed simultaneously. I think this can't be expressed by a pie chart, as presented above. I would say, in my case, that most clients want the human skills as much as they want the professional skills, but that doesn't mean 50-50 - that rather means 100-100! In my case, however, I think about 80% of my clients are looking to buy both, and about 20% want only the quality service, and don't care about my being pleasant and being able to explain things. I believe the two always overlap.

I believe that the internet age has made it necessary for people to have more human skills, because over the internet, it is more difficult to prove your skills and your experience. So, if you talk to a client like you know what you're talking about and are able to propose different solutions to their problem, as well as you sound like a smart person AND pleasant to work with, they will trust you with their translation needs more easily. In other words, it's hard to see a person smile through an e-mail - so you need human skills to have the clients perceive your smile all the same.

I have had clients complain to me that they were looking for translators in a certain subject area and they just couldn't find anybody, because even though they got many e-mails, all of those e-mails gave them the impression that the person was either crazy, not taking the job seriously or lying about their competences. I told myself "Here's to smart e-mail writing!" and gently patted my shoulder.


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John Colangelo  Identity Verified
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Local time: 09:01
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Seriously ... Jan 28, 2007

In our profession, I think people just want service. They could care less if you keep all your pens and pencils in your shirt pocket or if you're just a geek. Do the job. Get it done before the deadline and Happy New Year. This sums up work through the internet.

[Edited at 2007-01-28 21:18]

[Edited at 2007-01-28 21:19]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:01
English to French
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Yes, they want service first - but they sometimes want more than that Jan 28, 2007

John, I agree that initially, what the client is looking for is service. But when a client needs to pick a translator among many available to him/her that are all equally competent, how do they go about it? They will most likely pick the one they find is the most pleasant to work with. I know this, because I have a few regular agency clients who regularly pick the friendliest, most outgoing of their translators when I know that one of their most competent translators is out of work and available. Yet they pick someone else, since this very competent translator, who does amazing work might I add, is not very skilled in human relations (I have worked with him and wouldn't want to become his friend, even though as a translator, he is great).

Yes, the priority for a PM is to get the job done as best as possible, but that PM is also a human being, and s/he too needs a little human touch in his/her 9 to 5 merry-go-round, especially on bad days. I have clients telling me that the joke I added at the bottom of my e-mail lightened up a very hectic day for them. I have a client who presented the work at hand in such a professional manner (no guesswork, all tools available right away, everyhting crystal clear and the PM very available for any questions or concerns, with a very official looking PO), I thanked him for doing such a great job. He wrote back that it felt good to be appreciated, that he was seldom shown a sign of appreciation for what he does, even though he always assembles projects in this same very professional manner. This client showers me with work, and although I can't tell for sure if it's because I am their best translator in this language pair, I suspect they like me personally also and enjoy working with me, and that may be the reason why they keep picking me (which has a direct effect on my finances).

Also, delivering a project on time fits into the human engineering skills, just like replying to e-mails within a reasonable delay, giving comments on the source text to help the end client improve the source text, etc. Something many freelancers seem to disregard is customer service. I always have my customer service hat on when dealing with clients, at that belongs entirely to the human engineering skillset. What a difference it makes! No matter how competent a translator is, no matter how awesome the result of their work is, if they deliver it late or if they don't update on the progress of work when the PM is inquiring, their work is then worthless to the client.

These two skillsets go hand-in-hand, even if the quality of work is always one step ahead on the list of priorities.

[Edited at 2007-01-28 22:11]


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:01
Member (2006)
English to Polish
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Can you suggest further reading? Jan 29, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

(...)
Also, delivering a project on time fits into the human engineering skills, just like replying to e-mails within a reasonable delay, giving comments on the source text to help the end client improve the source text, etc. Something many freelancers seem to disregard is customer service. I always have my customer service hat on when dealing with clients, at that belongs entirely to the human engineering skillset.


Viktoria, what you say is very interesting. I would say I implement a similar approach in my freelance work. Human skills matter to me, too, and while I can't offer any hard evidence, I would say my human skills are part of why some clients like to work with me.

I was wondering if you could you suggest some further reading on the matter. Online, preferably...

Regards,
Maciek


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John Colangelo  Identity Verified
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Local time: 09:01
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Arabic to English
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I agree with you completely, Viktoria. Jan 29, 2007

In the ideal world, a good image, clean shaven (in the case of men), nice clothes, good perfume or deodorant, a nice smile, pleasant words, just plain kindness ... I could think of many tangible as well as intangible qualities that not only help you land the job, they help you maintain it and even move up in it. I just think that in this world of DSL people first get in the door through their best bid.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:01
English to French
+ ...
A few reactions Jan 30, 2007

Yes, I agree with you, John, it is more important than anything else to provide a quality service. That will always come first. But when and where there is room for more than just service, you also need other skills to keep an edge, and I believe the most important one would have to be human relations skills.

Maciek, sorry I don't have any links for online reading, they are hard to find for this specific topic, and I have to admit I never really looked up the subject as I'm sort of like a natural born communicator who has always loved to be in touch with people, so my human side takes some room - which I find I am lucky to be born with. Just look at the length of my posts - a person who speaks as much as I do simply NEEDS human contact, it's not an option, it's an obligation. So, I never really needed to look this up. I am oriented more towards sales, towards organizing my communicative side - that's my weakness.

But I did find some books for you on Amazon. Some of them can be sampled. These few look like a good place to start. I imagine that if there are books written on the subject, then this is probably something that deserves a thought.

Human Relations in Small Business, by Elwood Chapman
This one seems great! It is more specifically oriented at small business owners and it tells you a lot about how to deal with employees, but it also teaches you about clients and suppliers.

Business is a Contact Sport, by Tom Richardson, Gus Vidaurreta, Augusto Vidaurreta, Tom Gorman
These people talk about relationships asset management, or RAM as they call it. It's a book about recognizing the value of human relations in business and cultivating it. This one can be very useful for a CEO as well as a freelancer. It also has a rating of five stars, based on 31 reviewers!

The Ripple Effect: Maximizing the Power of Relationships for Life & Business, by Steve Harper
You may have heard of this one, it's a crowd favorite. It's a more general book, not only about the human aspects of business but also of life itself. This one I will definitely read. Reading the comments on this makes me think the author founded a sect and all these people fell for it! It must be a very interesting read!

I invite you to go to amazon.com, look up these books, read the reviews and the excerpts. The excerpts alone are interesting enough to read. Then, if you want to get one of these, try to find them for a super low price on ebay, you never know

Cheers!


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