Posts tagged - negotiation

Disagree and commit

Some of you may be aware of the letter to shareholders by Jeff Bezos of Amazon where he explains his process and the benefit of disagreeing and committing. A co-worker just told me about the phrase “disagree and commit” and it spoke to me. Whether you like Bezos or not, he clearly is a successful business person and his ideas are an example of why.

He encourages his employees to “disagree and commit” and does so himself. I found this to be great advice because most of us work in teams, which can consist of employees, owners or a combination of the two. In these work environments, it is disingenuous to think that every big decision will have 100% support.

Bezos explains that his teams don’t have to fully convince him on a particular project or idea. Instead they have to convince him just enough that he is willing to let them move forward. But once he agrees they can move forward, even if he doesn’t support their vision, he is willing to commit to their vision because to do otherwise would sabotage the team, wasting time and money.

The same should hold true for your business or team. If three out of five of you vote to go a certain direction, those who were against it need to work with the others to be cheerleaders for the plan. If not, the implications for your team or business are not good. If that team is five owners, what is the message being sent to employees if two are publicly not supporting the decision? Of course, the answer is “nothing good” – the team will have greater challenges than already exist to reach the approved goals and it will harm the culture of the business, which likely isn’t too good in the first place. This would be a company most of us never would want to work for.

So the next time you are outvoted on an important strategic decision, agree to disagree and commit to implementing the approved plan or strategy. Your team and business will be better for it.

 

 

 

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How to have difficult conversations

Things that are hard to say usually are the most important. Because of this many people avoid the difficult conversations in business and their personal lives. To effectively manage people in business or personal relationships you need to be able to speak about important matters. Letting import matters go unspoken is problematic for numerous reasons.

The problems include the potential for people you manage to continue to take actions or work in ways you think need to be tweaked or changed. If you don’t have these conversations timely, they only can result in continuing issues in the future, making for even harder conversations and a lot of wasted time. It also includes the likelihood of a wedge being driven between you and whoever the other person is because, even though unspoken, these issues usually are apparent from body language and other indirect feedback. This can result in strained relations and passive aggressive behavior related to all things unsaid.

If you are uncomfortable having difficult conversations, there are ways to try and ease your discomfort. You can outline the points you want to get across and practice your side of the conversation. This can include what you want to say depending on the response your receive. As with preparation for a presentation, knowing your talking points will help. I usually am not a fan of spending time on a “hypothetical conversation,” but with difficult conversations, preparation can help. Plus, what occurs in most situations is that even though the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is not as bad as you anticipated.

Another idea is to work on your talking points and the conversation by practicing with someone else you trust. This can help to hone your points or how you will respond to various responses, questions or defensiveness during the real conversation.

The point is to prepare then take hard conversations head on. If honest, most people will tell you they really want to know where they stand and what others are thinking, whether it is with a peer, a superior or a significant other. So don’t let the import subjects that need to be discussed fester and turn into a real negative by having difficult conversation timely and in a manner to allow them to be as non-adversarial and productive as possible. For instance, if you have feedback on this or any of my blog posts, whether positive or negative – read: constructive criticism – I always am open to hear it.

I hope you will take the next difficult conversation you need to have head on and figure out what works best for you to prepare and participate in these types of conversations.

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Turn you New Year’s resolution into a SMART goal for a better chance to be successful

It is the first week of January. We all are back at work trying to recover from the holidays as the new year kicks into high gear out of the gate. Many of you likely made New Year’s resolutions. It could be one of the standards such as losing a certain amount of weight, starting an exercise program, drinking less soda, eating less candy, etc. Maybe it is something different and more personal to you. Or maybe it is work related such as meeting new professional contacts, listening better to others, or having more balance in your life.

The problem is resolutions are hard to keep. How many times have you had a resolution and it last for a week? Or maybe it lasted a month? Odds are you were not keeping the resolution by the end of that year (assuming it was something that would take a year to accomplish or was a permanent change you were trying to make to a behavior or habit).

If you made a New Year’s resolution, I propose you try something new. Have an action plan on how to stay on task to meet your resolution. To do so, make your resolution a SMART goal. I know many of you have heard this acronym before, and maybe even have set SMART goals in the past.

For those that haven’t, it stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

Resolutions generally fail because trying to do something or stop doing something by sheer force of will is a recipe to fail. If your resolution doesn’t fit within the SMART goal parameters, revise it so that it does – you will have a much better chance of success.

Know that your SMART goal/resolution may be achievable in less than year – remember one element is the time you think it will take to reach your goal. If you meet your resolution, come up with a new SMART goal. It doesn’t matter if it is January 1 or May 22. You should constantly look to improve yourself, your business, your life – well, you get the idea. Try it and see what happens.

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Try to be different not better

I know you may be thinking I want to be seen as different by my peers. But showing people you’re different will go a long way to proving you are better. For instance, I’ve written about my firm’s intentional culture known as the JW Way because it makes us different than most other law firms.

What I’ve found is that most potential clients and referral sources are attracted to the JW Way and what it says about my firm. We understand that the JW Way may not be for every client, but that just means they should be working with another firm or a different attorney.

So think about differentiates you from your competitors; it’s also likely to be what makes you better. Letting people know why you’re different is more intriguing than telling someone you are better. The former is interesting and the latter is cocky. How do you want to come across? And it goes without saying that speaking about your company’s values will come off better than slagging your competitors.

 

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Helping others succeed is in your own best interest

Successful people want others to succeed while unsuccessful people secretly hope others fail. I read something like this a while back and it stuck with me. The point is we are all in it together. Rarely does someone succeed alone and even when it appears they did, they probably had someone (or a number of people) helping them along the way.

Athletes have coaches. And so do many business people and professionals. Musicians rarely are self-taught. The same is true for business people and professionals. Most of us were students who had teachers, whether in school, an apprenticeship, etc. You get the idea; it is rough going on your own and makes it much more likely you will make serious mistakes teachers and mentors can help you avoid.

I have been lucky enough to have formal and informal mentors along my road. Without them it would have taken me much longer to achieve many things I have personally and professionally. Or maybe I would have missed opportunities because I didn’t even know they were there, or not made it as far as I have.

So leave your ego at the door and help people in your life succeed. Not only will it probably end up benefiting you at some point (but you can’t count on that and it’s not the reason to do it), but it will make you feel good helping others. Plus, success really is contagious. Try it and see.

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Answer the Question

Listen to what people ask you and answer their questions directly. Too many people either do not listen fully to the person they are speaking with or ignore what is being asked. In almost all situations, conversations will go better, and definitely take less time, if the person answering answers the questions instead of going off based on their own agenda.

I know many of you are thinking “this does not apply to all circumstances.” True. But it applies to most. When people sidestep a question and start rambling on it usually looks like the person is being defensive, has something to hide or both. And I admit that some questions are confusing, but if you do not understand the question, you should say so and ask the person to ask again until you do.

In my world, this comes up in court. Judges ask questions and attorneys usually respond in whatever way they believe will help their client and case. Sometimes they remember to come back at the end and address the actual question, but many times they do not. Speak with any judge and you will learn one of their biggest pet peeves is attorneys not just answering what the judge has asked. As with other situations, it makes judges question that attorney’s position because they can’t or won’t answer the question directly, instead addressing their own agenda, i.e. it is looked at as being defensive and coming from a point of weakness.

So how do you want to be perceived by those you deal with professionally and personally? I am sure you want to be believed and not thought of as defensive or hiding the ball. If so, remember that part of listening fully is to directly answer questions you are asked.

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Organization is important

  • Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. ~ A.A. Milne

 

Yes, I just quoted the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. And he is right, which is both obvious and apparent, especially to those of us trying to stay organized. Let’s be honest, it is a constant struggle. You have your business life and your personal life. Some people keep separate calendars for each. Others are like me and keep one calendar for everything lest they miss anything.

And what works for me to stay organized and focused may not work for you, and vice versa. At home, I am having this challenge with my perpetually disorganized twelve year old daughter. At this point in time she fits the old saying “she would lose her head if it wasn’t attached.” In trying to advise her on organization, I have been speaking with her about what I do, and what others have told me they do, because I do not know what will work for her.

So, if you are not naturally organized, do you have a system? For instance, I use calendar reminders that are synced across my work and personal computers and devices, as well as using hand-written “to do” lists or lists I email to myself. What about you? Do you use a different method or combination of methods? Maybe certain software or an app?

As with most things, you should take time every so often to assess your state of organization….or lack thereof. Maybe you are reading this and realizing that your system or methods are failing you and you really are not as organized as you thought. If that is the case, you need to take action because disorganization leads to wasted time and lost money or opportunity. It could be forgetting to connect with the great lead you met last night at an event. Or it could be it causes you to have less time to spend with your family. Whatever it is in your life, disorganization is equivalent to loss.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take time to assess your level of organization. It might be working fine, or maybe it needs a tweak. Or maybe it needs an overhaul. If so, do it sooner than later because it will save you time and lead to time better spent personally and professionally.

And if you think you have a great system or method, please share it with me.

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Blameless Problem Solving and Self-Accountability

No one likes to cause an issue, be wrong, be behind on a project or deal with the fallout. But part of blameless problem solving is self-accountability.

Self-accountability is the ability to be honest with yourself, as well as being answerable and responsible for what you say and do. To do so, when something goes wrong, you need to step out of the moment and consider consequences of how you respond. It means that after making an assessment of the situation, you are honest with yourself, honest with others and take responsibility for any part you played in causing or creating the situation.

Self-accountability comes into play in all situations, not just when problems arise. If someone who gave you a project to complete asks how it’s coming, you need to be honest even if it is not quite where it should be. Because of our culture, you should have the courage to tell the truth even when it is not what the other person wants or hopes to hear.

That is because inherent in blameless problem solving is trust. We all want our co-workers to trust us and vice versa. The expectation we all will have candor with each other rests on knowing that even the honest response someone doesn’t want to hear will be dealt with respectfully.

This doesn’t mean you don’t get to explain yourself. But leading with why something negative happened or a project isn’t complete will sound like an excuse and come off being defensive. Lead of with the issue, the status, whatever you need to communicate, honestly. There will be time to explain if necessary and appropriate.

I leave you with a quote on self-accountability I found that I like:

“The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”

― Steve Maraboli

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The older you get, the less you know

What? Really. What I mean is that as you gain experience you realize how much you don’t know and become (hopefully) more comfortable admitting it. We all experience conversations where the other person tells you they know about something or someone, but is or becomes clear they don’t. You see this more in younger or less experienced people, but anyone can do it.

Most times it comes from inexperience and insecurity. We are not supposed to know everything and everyone. We can be in a position at any age, where we are learning something new. Ask the extra question. How else can you learn? If you act like you know it all, you never will, and it will catch up to you. You want to be an expert, but Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule is real in that if you don’t put in the time you never will really be the expert you want to be.

You may be thinking it is okay to “fake it ’til you make it.” But this is a cliché, and needs to be taken with a dose of reality. If you want to become an expert in anything, especially professionally, you need to spend time and invest in yourself, i.e. the 10,000 Hour Rule. Faking it only can take you a short distance whereas investing in yourself and being a lifetime learner will continue to move the needle in the direction you want.

So be honest when you don’t know something and see what you learn.

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Focus on doing good work, not money

You are saying “What? But I want to work to make money.” We all work to be able to support ourselves. What I mean is if you focus on doing the best you can, the money likely will follow. If you only focus on money you will try to close deals that shouldn’t close or sell something to someone that they don’t need. If you are okay with that and the bad karma you deserve, you should take a look in the mirror and see if you honestly  like what you see.

The point is we generally all are selling something, whether to consumers, other businesses or internally, such as at a large company. If you only are about the sale, you will lose in the long run and may never know. Sell someone something they don’t need or have them pay too much and it will come back to haunt you. As they say, do a good job and the person will tell a few people, but do a poor job and they will tell a lot of people. Reputation is everything and you should care what people are saying about you.

A smart person I know, who is in sales, told me long ago that by focusing on the deal being win-win, as opposed to forcing a deal that shouldn’t close, success has followed with exponential referrals over the years. And then the money follows with happy clients or customers who tell others and will come back to you in the future.

If you work the scorched earth policy of doing as much business as possible instead of doing good business well, you will lose both opportunities you will learn you lost and opportunities you will never know you lost.

If you do this the right way it will allow you to escalate the level and type of work and deals you work on. This will give you more choice in who you are dealing with and what you are working on. If you work in a larger company it will allow you to move up the food chain to greater options and opportunities.

Of course, with all of this should be more money. Remember that work is about fulfillment more than money. I know what some of you are thinking, that in your business there is no unseen financial upside to working better or harder. You may be right for your given situation, but if you are not into or passionate about your work, you will be empty and unsatisfied. In that case, find something else to do or your risk having a mediocre job and a unfulfilled, and possibly mediocre, life. But if you like what you do, there is no harm to focusing on doing your best and what is right. Try it and see what happens.

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