Human Engineering Skills

“15% of one’s financial success in life is due to your technical knowledge and about 85% is due to your skill in human engineering.”

– Dale Carnegie

I love when smart people say what I’ve been thinking in a much more eloquent way than I ever could (I guess it’s a long time until I get some quotes of my own…). I’ve been at a training all week to get certified in one of my favorite approaches to life – Crucial Conversations – and our trainer led with this quote on day one.

I’ve always believed that for most jobs (at least the jobs I come across in my world), there are many technically qualified people. It’s not hard to find people who have the technical skills to do what you need done – marketers, trainers, writers, accountants, volunteer managers, sales people. It’s much harder to find people who have the personality and people skills to blend with your team. But “human engineering” sounds WAY cooler than people skills, so that’s what I’m going to go with from here on out.

Hiring for human engineering skills and then training for technical knowledge isn’t a new concept. Nor is the importance of said people skills. I do think, however, that we often lose sight of its importance because it’s an intangible and we don’t know how to ask for it in a job description or posting. Describing it as the “X Factor” isn’t helpful, nor is the “It Quality.” Yet, we somehow know those people when we see them. Carnegie seems to almost quantify it and make it sound quasi-scientific with the term human engineering – like it’s an actual valuable skill rather than some touchy-feely business you can’t quite put your finger on.

Crucial Conversations builds on this idea. Through these concepts, we can identify successful human engineering skills that result in better handling of difficult discussions. And I would certainly make the argument that knowing how to handle difficult situations is what separates the good human engineers from the great ones (and increase their own financial success – thanks, Mr. Carnegie!). I’ve always admired people who can say almost anything to anyone, regardless of the situation, and walk away with everyone feeling better about where they ended up. I absolutely think those are skills are worth paying for – knowing how to get to the heart of the issue, speaking candidly and establishing mutual respect. They’re more rare than we think and it’s time for the market to recognize the necessity of those skills and pay up.

I’ll have more to say about Crucial Conversations in the future, but for now, check out the book and get yourself to a training if you can. Developing your human engineering skills is well worth the investment, and if Carnegie is right, that investment should come back to you in no time at all.

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