Monday, February 17, 2014

Tiger Tooth Mountain Resume Service
Robert A. Hall

Bob Hall in front of Tight Tooth Mountain, 1967

I recently retired, due to Pulmonary Fibrosis, from a 41-year professional career, where I was the hiring authority in my office. The first ten years were as a Massachusetts State Senator, the last 31 as a very successful Association Executive. During that time, I reviewed thousands of resumes and cover letters. A crisp, well-written, error free resume often got an interview--if the person appeared to be close to the necessary qualifications and experience. I also sent my resume to well over 200 potential employers as I moved up the career and income ladder. I have also rewritten or created many resumes for friends and colleagues. As a member of the Marine Executive Association, I've often translated resumes for transitioning Marines from military-speak into civilian business language.

On December 23, 2013, I underwent a lung transplant and so far am doing very well. I look forward to returning to productive work, at least part-time. Helping people with resumes seemed like a good way to get back into the workforce, because I'll have to work from home for the near future at least.

I am not looking to become wealthy on this, just to do something productive and be compensated for it at very reasonable rates. You need to understand that resumes are very subjective, like websites, and in the end, you must be comfortable with yours. (You can spend $1M on a website and the next "expert" will say it needs to be redone--that's what they do.)

Below are my rates. If you are unemployed or living like us in genteel poverty in what used to be called "straightened circumstances" (Social Security and retirement savings is rather a change from an executive pay check), I'm willing to work with you to help you. If you pay in oatmeal cookies, however, they must be made with Splenda, as I now have steroid-induced diabetes, so sugar is out.

Rates (If you can provide me information via e-mail in Word):

Review your current resume to see if I think I can help:        Free
Re-write your current resume/cover letter:                             $25/page
            (Less if I only make a few small suggestions.)
Create a resume/cover letter from scratch for you:                 $40/hour
            (This will involve interviews and typing so it can get tedious.)
Mock interviews and interview coaching:                              $50/Session
Other writing projects:                                                            Negotiable
(I have published hundreds of articles, opinion columns, plus some short fiction and poetry. Also, as a hobby, several books with the royalties going to charity.)

More Information

Resume: Robert A. Hall

Books by Robert A. Hall

How to be the indispensable employee. By Robert A. Hall

Contact: Bob Hall     608-285-5929

Resume: Robert A. Hall

Robert A. Hall            
709 Harrington Drive, MadisonWI 53718     
Voice: 608.285.5929   Cell: 608.215.3193
E-mail: tartanmarine(at)                                

Relevant Experience:

2008-2013       Executive Director
American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, Rosemont, IL
Managed all executive functions for a 1,950 member association of the leading total joint arthroplasty surgeons in North America. Developed and implemented the first written budget, of $1.3M which has increased to $2.2M. Increased assets by $4M, 178%. Reorganized and hired new staff, while growing staff 42%. Wrote AAHKS policy manual for Board approval. Drafted membership development plan, and increased membership 82%, setting membership growth and conference attendance records in each of the first four years. Wrote plans for PR and Marketing the Annual Meeting. Brought layout of newsletter and conference documents in-house, revamped the print AAHKS Update newsletter, and the monthly News You Can Use e-newsletter. Developed first employee handbook, and enhanced staff benefits. Completely revised the bylaws, which were approved by the membership. Negotiated and oversaw migration from three small, limited function databases to the Personify Database AMS hosted by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Drafted website reorganization, negotiated hosting by AAOS and launched new website. Developed and presented the first-ever Board orientation.

2002-2007       Executive Director
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Madison, WI
Managed all executive functions for a 7,800 member international academy of dental professionals, with members in 60 countries, affiliates throughout the world, and a subsidiary charitable foundation. Developed and implemented $8M annual budget. Reversed a two-year deficit of $1.2M. Operated at a combined Fiscal Year 03-07 surplus of over $5.5M, nearly tripling the financial reserves. Increased membership 62%, from 4,817 to 7,806, reversing a decline. Oversaw highly-successful conferences, three of which set attendance records. Oversaw start-up of eight international affiliates. Supervised staff of 21. Restructured staff, terminated five staff members. Hired seven new staff and promoted three staff members from within to fill vacancies due to staff resignations and restructuring. Facilitated development and annual updates of new strategic plan. Developed first policy manual. Revised the Employee Handbook. Retained new attorney and IT company. Wrote articles for the Academy Connection newsletter, the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry and numerous association management publications. Represented the Academy to other dental/healthcare associations and at trade shows.

1999-2002       Executive Director
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Cherry Hill, NJ
Managed all executive functions for a 6,500 member national professional association for PNPs. Developed and implemented $1.6M budget. Operated at a solid surplus, increasing reserves over $500k. Increased membership 21.7%, from under 5,400 to over 6,500. Presented advocacy workshops to chapters nationwide. Supervised staff of nine. Hired new office manager and support staff. Worked with Board to select new lobbyist. Recommended facilitator and oversaw development of new strategic plan. Redesigned publications for consistent look. Doubled the size of the newsletter while reducing printing costs. Wrote copy and produced layout for the PNP newsletter. Worked with programmer to develop and implement new custom database in Access. Represented the association in meetings with federal legislators, industry representatives and other nursing/healthcare associations. Published articles about Pediatric Nurse Practitioners in the consumer press. Wrote the NAPNAP Political Guide and articles on lobbying for the Journal of Pediatric Health Care. Developed design for updated Internet website
1997-1999       President
Graphic Arts Association, Philadelphia, PA
Managed all executive functions for a 400-company-member printing industry regional trade association. Brought a $100k annual deficit to $0 in the first full year. Developed and implemented $1M budget. Developed and implemented a reorganization plan for the association, out-sourced several functions, reduced staff from 14 to 8, hired new controller, bookkeeper, and membership/education director, eliminated departments to build single staff team, merged subsidiary organizations to reduce over-head and paperwork. Developed and implemented new dues structure, reducing dues for many member companies. Replaced department databases with one networked database, iMIS. Revamped, edited, wrote and produced layout for monthly newsletter, UpDate. Increased communication with member companies. Developed new Internet webpage. Wrote new mission & vision statements. Conducted the association’s government relations program and worked with state agencies and legislators.

1994-1997       Executive Director
Pennsylvania Optometric Association, Harrisburg, PA

Managed all executive functions for a 1,200 member professional association of doctors of optometry. Developed and implemented $740,000 budget. Hired and supervised staff of eight, including government affairs, public relations and meeting planning professionals. Increased member participation in political advocacy. Presented lobbying workshops to local chapters. Oversaw the association’s government relations program and worked with lobbyists, as POA achieved its long-term legislative goal of allowing optometrists to prescribe therapeutic drugs. Represented association at national meetings, to other associations and at political events. Edited, wrote and published articles for monthly newsletter, the Keystoner.  Increased membership by over 6%. Established e-mail communication and Internet webpage. Instituted tracking program and greatly increased HMO compliance with freedom-of-choice statute. Wrote the POA Political Handbook, the POA Vision Statement and legislative documents.

1983-1993       Executive Director
Florida Psychological Association, Tallahassee, FL

Managed all executive functions for a 1,300 member professional association for psychologists. Opened first full-time office, acquired equipment, hired and supervised staff. Maintained member records and financial accounts. In 1990, located, negotiated price and purchased an FPA mortgage-free headquarters building. Planned, selected sites and managed increasingly well-attended conventions and workshops. Edited, wrote, produced layout for and published the bi-monthly Florida Psychologist, the Political Handbook, the annual Membership Directory, and other publications. Increased membership by 190%, from 449 to 1,306. Developed computer database of members, students and all licensed psychologists in Florida. Monitored Board of Psychological Examiners meetings, other governmental agencies and allied associations. Supported lobbyist in very successful government relations program. Hired and supervised Director of Government Relations and other staff.

1973-1982        Senator
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston, MA

Elected to the Senate in 1972, immediately after graduating from college. Defeated well-known incumbent by 9-vote margin. Re-elected four times by large margins, including being nominated by both parties in 1976. Retired undefeated in 1982. Organized, managed, raised funds, recruited volunteers and planned functions for these campaigns. Wrote copy, scheduled, and planned layout for flyers, advertising and direct mail for all campaigns. Sponsored over 60 bills that became law. Acquired broad experience in constituent casework, problem solving and drafting legislation. Hired and supervised office and research staff of aides and volunteers. Wrote and placed news releases. Gained extensive public speaking, media and interpersonal experience. Appointed party Whip. Represented 149,194 constituents in ten communities. Served on ten standing committees.

Military Service:

1977-1983       United States Marine Corps Reserve

Regimental Public Affairs Officer. Rank: Staff Sergeant. Declined commission as Limited Duty Officer in Public Affairs field due to time constraints of association management position. Wrote news releases, feature articles, public service spots and ads. Tripled favorable news coverage of unit. High Shooter in reserve company in 1978 235/250.

1964-1968              United States Marine Corps

Radio Relay Team Chief. Rank: Corporal. Served in Vietnam as a volunteer. NCO Leadership School, 1st in Class. Electronics School, 2nd in class. Passed Armed Services two-year College Equivalency Exam.


1981-1982  Northeastern University, Boston, MA
      Public Relations I & II, 6 credits, GPA: 4.0.

1977-1980  Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA
      Earned MEd in History attending night classes, 33 credits, GPA: 3.68.

1970-1972  University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
      Earned BA in Government, 74 credits, GPA 3.03
Student Senate, Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society. Minor in Education. Certified to teach Social Studies at the secondary level in Massachusetts. Class champion in fencing, beginner foil, in 1971.

1968-1970  Mount Wachusett Community College, Gardner, MA
Earned AA in Liberal Arts, 64 credits, GPA 3.42.
Student Government President, Dean’s Key, Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Fraternity, Who’s Who in Junior Colleges. SAT in 1968, combined score 1,424. Verbal 99th percentile, Math 95th percentile. College chess champion, 1980. “Lettered” as first board for the chess team.

1981  Institute of Speed Reading, Harvard, MA
Tested at 1,435 Words per Minute with 97% comprehension.

Other Activities:

·         Earned Certified Association Executive credential from the American Society of Association Executives. Inactive due to retirement.
·         Freelance writer. Published articles on association management and other topics, op-ed columns, fiction and poetry in over 75 national and regional publications, including Association Management and Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul.
·         Published ten books, including Chaos for Breakfast: Practical Help and Humor for the Non-Profit Executive, published by ASAE.
·         Presented well-received seminars on lobbying, leadership, membership development and parliamentary procedure.
·         Former member of American Society of Association Executives, and Association Forum of Chicago. Life member of the Marine Executive Association.
·         Served as PR Chair, Tallahassee Mensa.
·         Taught Scottish Country Dance classes, served as branch chair and secretary.
·         Attended numerous seminars and workshops on association finances and management.

Books by Robert A. Hall

The Good Bits: The Marines, the Massachusetts Senate and Managing Associations
Author House, 2005.
A collection of life stories and anecdotes the author gathered for his granddaughter. (Royalties have not yet shown a profit over the publication costs!)

Chaos for Breakfast: Practical Help and Humor for the Non-profit Executive
American Society of Association Executives, 2008
All royalties from this book on association management go to the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation and The Center for Association Leadership.

C.Y.A. Protecting Yourself in the Modern Jungle
CreateSpace, a subsidiary of, 2011. if you order directly from CreateSpace, the PFF receives a larger royalty:
First published in 2010, this book has been reissued through CreateSpace/Amazon at a lower price, with all royalties going to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. A humor/self-help book, this is advice with an attitude.

The Coming Collapse of the American Republic: And what you can do to prevent it
E-Book available at Smash Words:
All royalties go to The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to help wounded veterans.

Old Jarhead Poems: The Heart of a Marine
All author royalties go to The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to help wounded veterans. This collection of Marine poetry was awarded the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Robert A. Gannon writing award for poetry.

Advice for my Granddaughter: For When I’m Gone
A book to provide practical guidance on life decisions for ‘tween and teen girls. All author royalties are donated to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation

Share the Cup: Poetry of Love and Life
A collection of traditional, structured poetry, including many in the sonnet form, written over a period of almost 50 years. All author royalties are donated to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

Eddie Grabowski's Gift: A Marine Christmas Story
Eddie Grabowski’s Gift is a short novella, with an old Marine’s lessons on life, love and giving. All author royalties are donated to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation to support the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The Old Jarhead's Journal: Random Thoughts on Life, Liberty, and Leadership by Robert A. Hall. 
The Old Jarhead’s Journal is a collection of Random Thoughts on politics and life and Conservative Political Essays. All royalties are donated to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

Advice for Boys: From an Old Marine by Robert A. Hall
Advice for Boys a companion book to the author’s Advice for my Granddaughter for girls. All author’s royalties are donated to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation

How to be the Indispensable Employee

Fifteen Tips for Being the Indispensable Employee
Robert A. Hall

            Some employees are more valuable than others. Sorry if I’ve hurt your self-esteem and bruised your feelings. It hurts my feelings that the New England Patriots pay Tom Brady millions and won’t even give me a try-out. Okay, so I’m a LOT older than Brady, in lousy shape compared to him, and lettered in chess in college. Every human being is unique and equally valuable, right?
            No. Tom Brady fills the stands and puts millions of fans in front of the TV on Sunday, providing an excellent return on investment for his large salary. The only entertainment value I’d provide would be for the lynch mob of fans hunting me after my first appearance on the field.
            However valuable you may be to your family and friends, that doesn’t make you valuable to an employer.
            All employers are looking for employees who provide value. Those who provide the most value are the least likely to be cut in a downsizing, and the most likely to receive raises and promotions, because the powers-that-be want to keep them around.
            That’s obvious, right? Then how come so many employees act like their job is a right, and that they must be catered to?
            The really successful and valuable employees are always trying to make themselves indispensable. Here are fifteen tips on becoming the indispensable employee.
            1. Commit yourself to constant improvement. Perfection doesn’t exist, but all organizations and individuals can be better tomorrow then they are today. Look at your job every Friday and ask yourself, “How can I do a better job next week?” Then do it.
            2. Commit yourself to life-long learning. Takes courses and read books and journals that will help you do better in your area of specialty. But, equally important, expand your horizon. Read widely in other areas as well. Study the field that your organization operates in, so you understand the customers and their problems. Study the jobs of your colleagues, so you understand—and perhaps can help with—their problems. And study trends outside your industry that may impact the organization and customers. Yes, you can’t read or know everything. But you can always read and know more.
            3. Banish, “That’s not my job” from your vocabulary. Everything that helps advance the organization is your job. The more you contribute in other areas, the move valuable you will be.
            4. Banish, “We’ve always done it that way” from your vocabulary. Nothing is more constant that change. I was ten years into my professional career before I had a computer, fifteen for a fax, over twenty for e-mail and the Internet. If I was still doing things the way I’d done them then, I’d be unemployable.
            5. Avoid gossip, drama and back-biting with your colleagues. It seems like every office has a Drama Queen or King, who is constantly involved in small feuds, has problems with colleagues, and is generally high maintenance. You-know-who has to be tiptoed around. And the boss is dreaming about how nice life would be if only that person could be moved on. Don’t let it be you.
            6. Pitch in. Look for areas where you can help your colleagues with their challenges. Do more than your share, especially of the unpleasant takes, the “dirty jobs,” that are present in every employment situation. Don’t work in a silo.
            7. Banish Busy Work. Look for ways to be more efficient, so that time-consuming, repetitive work can be eliminated from your schedule. Can data-entry be computerized directly from the Web, or out-sourced overseas? Having lots of busy work to do doesn’t make you valuable; it makes your job fungible. There is always more valuable work available to fulfill the organization’s mission. Getting rid of busy work will allow the boss to assign you more valuable work.
            8. Make the boss’s life easier. What skills can you apply, what can you learn, what can you take on that will solve a problem for your supervisor? Solving a couple of the boss’s problems every year will make you pretty indispensable.
            9. Be the “Go To” employee. If there’s a problem, and they think first of getting you to work on it, they won’t think first of you if staff census needs to be cut.
            10. Keep a cheerful attitude. Sure, we all have problems. But people don’t like to work with those whose hobby seems to be whining and complaining. Your boss doesn’t either.
            11. Go the extra mile for the customers. Don’t have to be pushed to do what needs to be done to keep the customer happy. When you provide out-standing customer service, the customers will mention it to your boss, who will appreciate you all the more.
            12. Share the credit. When your supervisor says you did a great job on a project, saying, “Well, I couldn’t have done it without Mary’s research” reflects well on you, and makes you a star for Mary. Sincere compliments cost you nothing and mean a lot to your colleagues.
            13. Don’t try to outshine your colleagues. Say you have a great idea as to how the marketing department could increase sales. At a staff meeting, in front of everyone, you could pipe up and say, “Well, I think marketing could have increased sales by….” Or you can go to the Director of Marketing privately and say, “I have an idea I was wondering if you’d thought about, that might help our sales….” Which will serve you better in the long run?
            14. It’s your organization, too. Yes, we are fond of saying, “it’s the customers’ organization.” But it’s also yours. And not just your little piece. Take ownership. If your area is doing well, but your organization is floundering…your area is NOT doing well. It’s like folks on the Titanic saying, “Well, the BOW may have hit an iceberg, but we’re nice and dry here in the STERN!”
            15. Be the most dependable person around. Under-promise and over-perform. If you say you will do something, your supervisor should be comfortable forgetting about it, because she knows it will be done well, on time.

            If you noticed, there is nothing on this list that you and I cannot do as well as Tom Brady. And following these rules can make you an indispensable employee.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Developing Influence--A Career Asset

Developing Influence
Robert A. Hall
March 9, 2014

I’m starting this article as I’m incarcerated admitted to the VA Hospital in Madison for some repair work on the new lung I received on December 23, 2013. I can’t say enough about the staff here, as all of the nurses, doctors, health techs and other professionals have been wonderful. I’ve developed friendships with several, including an excellent nurse, Jason Govia, RN. In between running to poke other patients last night, Jason, aware that I’m a recovering politician, said he had become interested in how people obtained influence. We tossed around ideas, and I concluded that since having influence with others is strongly correlated with career success, getting my thoughts in this essay would be a useful addition to my Tiger Tooth Mountain Resume Service blog: (

What is influence?

Influence, like whisky, comes in many variations, good and bad. Most people are influenced by money out of need for a paycheck or business income to feed their families and survive. Too many are influenced by greed. Six senators I served with later switched from Brooks Brothers to Orange Jumpsuits, and I think greed was a factor in every case—though I did think one Democrat got a raw deal. He took a $1,000 check for consulting before he was a senator, and claimed it on his tax return, so he thought it was legal. If you take what you know is dirty money, you ask for cash!

Many people who contribute to political campaigns on both sides do so because they believe the candidate deserves to be in public office based on character, ability and support for issues. My two largest contributors, at $500 and $1,000 each, never asked me for anything, not even a vote on an issue that I recall. Others—far too many in today’s world, alas!—expect something in return, and hope their contributions buy influence. I discovered that two of my contributors in 1974 (whose names I still remember!) gave $50 or $100 both to me and to my opponent. Clearly they didn’t care who won, but just wanted the senator to feel obligated. Personally, I’d have helped someone who only supported my opponent before I would have helped either of them.

Coercion and fear can also be an influence. If a druggie steps out of an ally and sticks a 9mm Smith & Wesson auto in your stomach, you are going to be strongly influenced to hand over your wallet and pray.

Influence is also a form of power, and, as you may have heard, power corrupts. People have understood hubris for thousands of years, but the cure escapes us. So entertainment and sports stars with few credentials, little knowledge and limited education, but enough opinions and certitude to outfit a progressive university, pontificate on global warming, foreign affairs, crime and economic policy. And the great uninformed lap it up. Influence, like any power, may be abused. More on this, below. 

And, of course, every teenager is required by law to have one “bad influence” in his or her circle of friends. My family thought it was my best friend Charlie. His parents thought it was me. Both were probable right.

So we need to define influence as discussed here. For the purposes of this essay, I’m talking about the ability to change people’s minds, attitudes, ideas and behaviors in (what you believe) is a positive way, through your influence.

Influence, in fact, is a variation of positive leadership. In 1966 on Okinawa, I was a Corporal and my outfit sent me to NCO Leadership School, doubtless hoping I’d learn to be like the senior NCOs. But the Corps preaches that “Persuasive Leadership” is better than “Authoritarian Leadership.” Unfortunately, four of the five NCOs who outranked me were strict authoritarians. The exception was a SSGT Russell, a black NCO, who was a fine Marine and a good leader, from whom I learned much. Unfortunately, the others tended to marginalize him. Maybe it was envy, but from remarks I overheard, I suspect racism.

Putting what I was taught into practice got me into even more trouble. But since I finished first in a class of 57, they could hardly court martial me—so they shipped me to the 26th Marines, a better outfit bound for Khe Sanh.

Most of the areas where you can develop influence through leadership, below, come from the Corps’ “Traits of a Leader,” because they apply strongly to exerting influence.

And let it be said that these influence factors apply differently to different people in different situations. Almost without exception, something that gives you influence with one person will cost you influence with another, because of differing circumstances, values, personalities or world views.

Factors you can’t control

But first, there are factors that give people influence, over which you will have little control:

Appearance: Studies show that people who are considered more attractive are more successful in life. (I’ve been successful, but I had to work extra hard to make up for this vicious type of discrimination!) Far more than 50% of presidential elections—though not all—have been won by the taller candidate. In 1960, people who heard the debate on radio rated Nixon the winner. People who saw it on TV thought Kennedy won—appearance counts. It’s known that employers discriminate, often unconsciously, against obese candidates, thinking they are lazy, unmotivated and likely to be out sick a lot, despite little evidence for that. The best you can do here is to keep your appearance as presentable as possible, within the limits that Providence has provided for you.

Ethnic and Racial Heritage: Again, this can cut both ways. People are more likely to listen to “one of their tribe,” (Marines in my case) than to those viewed as outsiders. People who are able to overcome this, and treat other folks as individuals, awarding trust or caution based on individual merit, rather than as members of a group, have lives that are richer and more successful—and this all gives them more influence. But even for the best folks, this always remains a challenge, as I don’t believe any person is free of biases in this area. Every culture has such biases and children are inculcated with them and must fight to rise above the bias. Changing your ethnic heritage is harder than changing your shirt. There was a perennial city council candidate in Boston who decided he was losing elections because he had an Italian name, so he had it legally changed to an Irish sounding name. He was soundly and appropriately defeated in the next election, as both groups voted against him for obvious reasons.

Age: Some people and cultures view older folks as wise and experienced (and we are—witness this essay), giving them more influence. Others view them as out of touch and unable to adapt. (And we are—I’m having a struggle using Word 10 on my wife’s laptop as I write this. Curse you, Bill Gates!) You cannot change your age, but if you are young, you can work to present a more mature appearance. If you dress like a kid, you’ll be treated like a kid. And if you are older than dirt, which according to Google is 22 months younger than I am, you can work to keep in shape and dress more up to date. This was always a challenge for someone like me, because my wardrobe has come mostly from places like Goodwill for years. I recently told my brother I had picked up a couple of sweater vests there. “Hang on to them,” he said, “They may come back in!” I tend to be the non-conformist in the family, wearing what I like, but it hasn’t always helped my career or my ability to project influence.

Religion: You can, of course, change your religion. But if you did so to exert influence, or do better in your career, I think you’d get the same results as the faux Irish candidate I mentioned. And I’m not sure God would approve. Still, religion is a tribe thing too. People are more like to trust “one of our own,” than “one of them.” And in many places, they are still killing “them.” But there is a reason that so many of Bernie Madoff’s victims were coreligionists. As with ethnic heritage, working to rise against your biases in this area (including those who have a secular bias against the religious) is not only the right thing to do, but will pay dividends in a better life, more success and expanded influence. Still, if you want to loath Jihadist extremists who murder gays, young girls and their coreligionists who hold slightly divergent doctrines, or to despise members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who spew vileness at soldiers’ funerals, who am I to gainsay you?

Gender and Sexual Orientation: Without repeating much of what is covered above, people have preprogrammed biases in these areas, for or against. Remember that individuals matter, not group membership. (I follow a couple of gay, conservative Republicans on Twitter.) Serving in the Marines and the Senate, I absorbed the lesson that there are good, honest, decent people in every ethnic, gender, age, political orientation and religious category. And there are bums in every category. Judge individuals by their character and abilities. Otherwise, you cut yourself off from many interesting, talented and good people, a loss to your life.

Factors you can develop

Since I’m taking the time to write this, the least you can do is become highly proficient in each of these areas in, say, the next month. I haven’t over almost 68 years, of course, but my failings are no excuse for you. The fact is that no one is close to perfect in any of these areas, and no one is likely to be above the 50th percentile in a majority of them. Perfect is impossible to achieve or even define. But constant improvement is in the reach of every person and every organization.

In most of these areas you wouldn’t make the effort to improve just to become more influential. But all of them will pay dividends in your career, family and social life—while increasing your ability to be a positive influence on others.

The Marines’ “Traits of a Leader”

The stronger you are in each of these areas, the more other people will respect and admire you, increasing both your success and your influence. Keep in mind that they will have to be applied differently in different situations and for different people. One size does not fit all. Perhaps the three people who have influenced me the most in my life are my Marine Drill Instructors from Platoon 273 at Parris Island in 1964, Sergeants William H. Harris, Michael P. Martin and the late Ezekiel Owens, Jr., who I was distressed to learn had been transferred to Marine Security Guard, Heaven on December 16, 2013.  The self-discipline they gave me has been the source of my success in life, and they have been with me every day for 50 years. But “tack,” from the list below, didn’t seem to have a high priority with them that I can recall.

And, of course, there are others who have had a great influence on my life, using different approaches and traits: my parents and other relatives, teachers like Ben Mark, my high school economics teacher, John McLaughlin , a college history and government professor, colleagues in government and association management, Marine officers, two former pastors, Alison Bucklin, DMinn and Rev. John Zingaro and my current one, Rev. Jeff Vanden Heuvel, fiction writers like Robert Heinlein and Tom Kratman, and writers like the brilliant economics professors Dr. Thomas Sowell and Dr. Walter Williams. (Note that Rev. Jeff influences me for in religion, not so much in politics, where we hold divergent world views and values. The lesson is that different folks are influences in different areas.)

All these people influenced me in positive ways, in different ways and using different factors. And of course, I learned a lot about leadership and exerting influence from bad examples like the NCOs I mentioned above or political or management colleagues who lacked ethics, tack and lots else. When I have a dilemma, I often ask myself, “What would Sergeant R. do?” Then I know what not to do.

People who have these traits have influence over others. So, here we go.

Justice: If you fail to treat people unfairly, or differently due to the biases already discussed, the folks discriminated against will lose respect for you, diminishing your influence. Oddly, so will many of the folks discriminated in favor of, because you will have revealed your character. The same will apply if you have “teacher’s pets” in a classroom or at work who get special treatment based on their likeability, attractiveness or what they can do for you. Being "just" pays dividends for you, for other folks and for the organization—which doesn’t mean it’s easy, just right.

Judgment: They say good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. Wise people learn from their mistakes, but the really wise learn from observing the mistakes of others, and avoiding making them in their own lives. If you know someone does drugs, steals, loses jobs by inappropriate behavior, smokes, drives recklessly or makes frequent bad, even if small decisions, will they have much influence over you in other areas?

Dependability: If you don’t show up when you are supposed to, don’t keep your word or honor your promises, don’t complete tasks you accept, and let people down, you will not have credibility or influence with them. Everyone drops the ball sometimes, but some people couldn’t hold the ball if it was made of glue.

Initiative: Who will have the most influence at work—the person who does just enough to get by and does only what he is told, or the person who seeks out new ways to do things better, takes on new responsibilities without being ordered to, and finds ways to help colleagues and the team without being asked? And who will have a better job in five years?

Decisiveness: Not making a decision is a decision—usually the worst one. And if you wait until you have every bit of information to make a perfect decision, it’s very likely too late. Yes, hasty decisions can be disastrous, but no decision can be worse, and will destroy your credibility and influence in the bargain. The trick is balance. See judgment, above.

Tact: Compare this approach: You say to your wife, “Sea World called—they want you for the whale act,” or to your husband, “We got a notice from the Post Office—they’ve assigned your beer gut with its own Zip Code.” With this one, “Honey, I’m getting a little concerned that our diets may be having a negative impact on our health. I’d like to keep you around for a while and me with you. What say we look into eating healthier?” Which would be most likely to influence your snuggle bunny and have positive benefits? Unfortunately, many folks can’t see how tactless they are, or don’t care. The funny thing is, they are often the same people who make a hobby out of being perpetually offended by small, perceived slights.

Integrity: Few things will destroy your standing in the eyes of others, and thus your credibility and ability to influence them like having folks discover that you play the edges. I once took over an association, with hidden financial problems, where the executive before me used to take one of the two or three favored staff members (out of 14—see “justice,” above) out to lunch at a very expensive restaurant about twice a week, on the association’s dime. The deficit didn’t stop him from treating himself royally in other ways, too. It was a “turn-around” situation, which I had not detected, because the board didn’t know and the books had been at least warmed over. Imagine the influence he had with the staff who knew what was going on, but had to keep their heads down with the boss and board. Not the least of the problems was the chaos and infighting created through such policies. It was a difficult fix, but they survived. I’ve never been able to spend other people’s money lavishly, on myself or fancy items that were not mission-critical. My frugality has been a running joke in some of the associations I managed, but my ability to influence the boards on fiscal policy was always high.

Enthusiasm: Compare, “I don’t know if this is going to fly—we’ll do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may,” with, “We are so going to nail this—I’m just delighted to be working with this team because this project is going to have a huge impact on our organization!” Who will have the most career success, the most influence on coworkers and be the happiest at work? This applies, again, to the other parts of your life as well.

Bearing: “Bearing” is how you carry and present yourself, and it seems to come naturally to some folks. The rest of us have to work on it, but people with bearing exude confidence, and thus have more influence on others. When I was in the Marine Reserves, I was at an Army base and a guy asked me, “Where’d you get that tee shirt, Marine?” I told him, then, since it wasn’t a USMC shirt, I asked how he knew I was a Marine. “By your bearing,” he said. I walked around for the rest of the training period like someone gave me a medal. So he surely had an influence on me—that was in 1979!

Unselfishness: Self-centered people have little influence and suffer for it, because other folks don’t care that much about them in return. Other-centered folks have great influence on others because they care. (See doctors, nurses and health techs, Madison VA hospital, for excellent examples.) Put the needs of your family, friends, coworkers and especially subordinates first, and your needs will be taken care of. Share the credit for success and take more of the blame for failure yourself. Suppose I asked the board of my association for a 10% raise and for a 3% raise for the rest of the staff? Do you think they would not know? Or that they would work extra hard to make me look good and to make the organization thrive, to my career benefit more than theirs? Would I be able to influence their performance? The big hog at the trough is seldom respected by the piglets.

Courage: We think of physical courage, which in mostly-safe America we are seldom called on for. We have police, firefighters, EMTs and troops on the parapets of freedom for that. (​Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share. --Captain J.E. "Ned" Dolan.) But moral courage is always needed and too often in short supply. If you pass the blame for your mistakes and duck challenging the boss on a hot issue, coworkers will not respect you—and your influence will decline. If you stand up, you might lose your job, of course, especially if the boss hasn’t read this, but you’ll retain your self-respect—and your influence with others.

Knowledge: My surgeon, Dr. Jim Maloney, is highly respected, has a great success rate and presents and trains new doctors. He told me he was undecided on a certain procedure, and I said, “Doc, if you added all I know about lungs to what you know, we wouldn’t know any more. I have unlimited faith in you. You look at it and use your best judgment—I’m fine with that.” Sure, there may be problems beyond anyone’s control, which is why the five-year survival rate on lungs is 50%. But his reputation, skill and knowledge gives him great influence with me. And not only in his field, but because of his intellect, I’d listen carefully to his opinions on other areas. Of course, you have to be careful of “bright guy” disease, as I called it in an article, where the successful person in one field comes to think he knows more than professionals in other fields. That diminishes his influence. There’s a difference between knowledge and narcissism.

Loyalty: If your wife finds out you have a girlfriend, your boss finds out you’ve been bad-mouthing the organization, your friend finds out your girlfriend is his wife and your coworker finds out you took credit for his work, you might have a funeral—but not much influence.

Endurance: Though partly the luck of the gene pool draw, everyone can build up their endurance, because as with most things, attitude and mental toughness in 80% of the battle. I had pulmonary fibrosis for six years. For the last three, I pulled an oxygen tank behind me to work—and everyplace else. It got especially challenging when my lungs took a big hit six months before I retired. But in the last ten years, though I was out for doctors’ appointments and tests, I didn’t miss a day because I felt too bad to work.  (Thank you, Sergeant Owens.) That I had the endurance to persevere gave me added respect and influence with colleagues and my bosses.

Other Influence-Enhancing Factors

Example: Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” I don’t agree it’s “the only thing,” but it may be the most important thing. Not to belabor the point, but see the numerous examples of the different impact created by the good and bad examples presented above. If you don't set the example, people are unlikely to be influenced by what you say.

Communication Skills: Having strong writing and verbal skills, thus being able to express yourself clearly (so the average person can understand)  and concisely (I know—my communication weakness!) is a priceless career advantage for most people. And it’s hard to have influence if folks don’t understand your points. Presentation can make all the difference. Going through the transplant process, we became close to a black couple from Louisiana, John and Donna Payne. John is a brother Marine who saw a lot more action in Vietnam than I wanted to see. His new lung came through five days before mine and he’s doing very well.

Donna retired as a CNA and CNA Supervisor, where she worked in a mental hospital. One of the patients was an old southerner who had slipped off the rails. His racism had intersected with his mental disability, and vile slime spewed from him—I won’t repeat what she told me. Donna was the only staff member willing to work with him. Finally she said to him, “You know the difference between you and me? I’ve got the keys. (Cue dangling keys.) I get to go home at night, while you have to stay here. And you will until your attitude changes.” And his attitude slowly changed. “By the time he left, we were the best of friends,” she said. She found a way to calmly influence him in a way that helped him and, one hopes, everyone he came into contact with. She’s a no-nonsense person, but she’s other-centered, cares about people, forgives the unforgivable, has courage and good judgment, and has great communication skills. This gives her lots of influence. Both John and Donna have influenced me to want to be more like them, because the of the example they set.

Stature and Status: People who have high status because of career, celebrity, money or family usually have more influence, though they often squander it by acting like jerks. I would not suggest that you try to increase your influence by becoming famous or prominent, but if your goal is high success, it might be an interesting byproduct. I come from a middleclass family of great lack-of-wealth. When I wanted to get into politics, folks thought I was aiming too high running for the state senate for my first campaign. On the other hand, Teddy Kennedy was elected to the US Senate never having held a job, but his family was in the wealthy one-percent folks now complain about—unless they agree with them politically. And it didn’t hurt that his brother was president.

When I became a candidate, people were more likely to listen to my opinions, and I influenced a slim majority to vote for me. (And some folks my opponent influenced to vote against him.) Once I was a senator, people sought out my opinions on government, politics and policy. Public office gave me influence.

The problem is that the public is often so over-awed that they are influenced by famous people with limited credentials, experience or knowledge on a variety of subjects outside their fields, who are often wrong but always convinced. I would likely be influenced by a pro football player’s views on going for it on fourth down, or if I cared about such things, a famous entertainer’s thoughts on pop music or current movies, but if I wanted foreign policy input, I’d go to Dr. Condi Rice, or if on economic policy to the nationally known economists Dr. Thomas Sowell or Dr. Walter Williams. But since famous, wealthy and high status folks often have undeserved influence in area where they have limited knowledge or credentials, we must be aware of the fact.

Hopefully, this essay has impressed you enough that it increased my influence with you. Maybe it decreased it. But influence is never static—it waxes and wanes daily. Like any asset, guard it carefully and spend it wisely.


Following college and service in the Marines, including Vietnam, Bob Hall was elected to the Massachusetts Senate five times. He retired (no pension!) undefeated in 1982 to become a successful association executive, retiring from that career in October of 2013 due to health. He has published hundreds of articles and columns, plus some short fiction and poetry. He has also published several books, with the royalties going to charity.