Posts tagged - negotiation

You get back what you put out to the world

I heard someone say this recently and it struck me because it is so true. If you put out positive energy you are more likely to receive the same in return from those you deal with. If you put out negative energy, you can’t be surprised when you have negative and adversarial dealings with others.

All you have to think of is how your mood or initial interaction with someone colors the rest of your conversation. If you smile and greet someone with pleasantries, you will get a different reaction than if you are negative and seemingly indifferent to seeing the person. I know sometimes you have just come from or are dealing with something negative professionally or personally, but you have the choice whether to bring your feelings and attitude into your next interaction or conversation, or not. If you can’t control your feelings it may be better to delay or not have an interaction until you can move past what you are dealing with. Calls and meeting can be rescheduled. I compare it to the response you draft right away to a nasty email and then, hopefully, save or delete so you can later respond when you aren’t upset and “in the moment.”

Some people equate kindness with weakness, which I don’t agree with. As an attorney who deals with attorneys representing parties adverse to my clients, I am in an adversarial position with many people I deal with every business day. I do not expect to become best friends with my opposing counsel, but I do expect (or many times can only hope) to have professional dealings with them, which also is better for our respective clients. In dealing with people in this manner, I remain assertive and looking to move my  and my client’s agenda forward, but I can do so while being kind and professional.

Sometimes I am disappointed and am dealing with negative attorneys who can be anything from argumentative to insulting to me or my clients. In those situations I am able to choose how to react in response, which can escalate or diffuse the negative nature of the conversation. If what I am doing doesn’t work, I have the choice to stay on the phone or end the call. It also provides me with choices in the future on how to deal with these types of individuals, i.e. trying to communicate mostly in writing by letter or email, or whether and when to be on the phone with them in the future. One particularly annoying part of dealing with people like this is that most of them are nothing but nice, personable and professional in person.

I have found approaching people I deal with in a positive manner makes my professional life much more to my liking. When dealing with other attorneys, our clients may have issues with each other, but it isn’t personal to us. I recently dealt with an opposing attorney who spoke and acted as if the bad actions he accused my client of had been taken against him, not his client. It made our dealings unpleasant. I was glad when the matter was completed and hope not to deal with him again in the future. Not only was he unpleasant to deal with, he made our dealings take longer and cost my client more in the situations in which I had to deal with him. In that case it didn’t matter how I responded to his attacks because he never changed his attitude or tack.

More importantly, I gain nothing  by making the interactions with opposing counsel negative without good reason. It doesn’t advance my client’s interest or help resolve the real issues. Instead, it only wastes my time and brings negative energy into my day.

We all have people we deal with where the easier road is to allow yourself to be sucked down into the negative vacuum they are stuck in. The next time this happens to you, make the choice to not let yourself get sucked in by trying to turn the conversation productive or choosing to exit the conversation. And if you are the negative or angry person coming into a conversation or meeting, only you can choose to step back and decide to approach it in a more positive manner, whether now or later.

 

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Tell the truth

This is simple and there are no exceptions. Tell a lie once and all of your truths become questionable. Early in my career I heard a very experienced attorney say “a half-truth equals a whole lie.”  He was correct because anything not 100% true is a lie. Another benefit of telling the truth was summed up to me long ago by a friend who once said he never lies because it’s far easier to remember the truth than a lie.

I know some of you are thinking of situations where you may soften the truth to try not to hurt someone’s feelings. You are right that some situations are more nuanced than others, making a one-size fits all rule difficult. I am not speaking to those type of outlier situations, but to general day-to-day life in which your reputation is at stake.

Your honesty is part of your reputation. You may not be called out or caught every time you aren’t honest, but it will catch up with you. You may lose relationships or opportunities that you know you lost or that just don’t come your way because of your reputation.

Trust is important, and like your reputation, it’s earned. The difference is people will assume you are honest unless or until they believe you aren’t or hear you aren’t from people they trust.

Once trust is lost it will either take a long time to earn back or it can’t be earned back. Once that happens it negatively affects and taints relationships. People may still deal with you (mainly if they have to, i.e. family or in the workplace), but it won’t be the same. Even if it feels like it, a lack of trust permeates a relationship for into the future.

This goes back to “think before you speak.” Lying is a choice. You can call it embellishment or whatever you want, but if others think you stretch the truth, know you have just made your road forward harder.

 

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To get the story you have to ask questions

We are all good at telling a story, especially our own story. We are not as good at actively listening to others tell a story. This is true even when we are being paid to listen.

This is why it is important to remember how important it is to listen, which also means asking questions, especially asking the right questions. What the right questions are will depend on the situation.

If it is in a personal setting, you should view the person across from you as wearing a hat that says “make me interesting.” If it is in a business setting, you need to look at the person across from you and visualize them wearing a hat that says “I have an important story to tell you.”

For instance, as an attorney, the story and facts I am learning from a client, especially a new client, are integral to my ability to be able to properly advise and represent their interests. If I don’t ask the right questions or actively listen, I will miss important facts I need to do my job, and to do the best job for the client. These types of issues exist no matter what your line of work or profession is.

The next time you are dealing with someone new, whether a client, a sales opportunity, interviewing a new hire, or meeting someone personally, make sure you ask more questions than they do, and let them talk more than you do. Make sure you actively listen so that you can ask necessary follow-up questions and see where it gets you. My guess is it will lead to better business and personal relationships, and, in business, it will help you make sure you have the information you need to do your job.

 

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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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