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Negotiation Strategies

Every day we are negotiating. Whether on a sales call, seeking a raise or dealing with our kids. I recently read James Altucher’s book Reinvent Yourself and he shared what he learned about negotiating from his interview with Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI. Chris wrote a book about negotiation called Never Split The Difference. Here are negotiation strategies gathered from James’ interview with Chris. Many of the same points I learned negotiating as an attorney.

  1. The most important question is to ask somebody “How?” For example “How am I supposed to get a million dollars by tomorrow?” Open ended questions such as “How” or “What” get people to keep talking.
  2. Everybody tries to get a “Yes” first. Chris says get them to say “No” first. For example “No, I don’t want this project to fail.”
  3. List the negatives on your side. It shows you can empathize with them. In my trial lawyer days, I always brought out the opponent’s arguments before they got a chance to do so. It built credibility with the jury along the way.
  4. Try to show they may be powerless – If the negotiation is not going your way you can say “Sounds like there’s nothing you can do.” People resist the idea of being powerless.
  5. Use silence- people can’t stand silence. As the saying goes “let the silence do the heavy lifting”. Be quiet long enough and they will come up with something to say.
  6. When it comes to numbers in a deal Chris recommends letting them come up with the numbers first and stresses the importance of using very specific numbers.
  7. He also encourages us to make our list bigger than theirs. Say you are going into a negotiation with your CEO for your dept. agenda; if you go in with one option and then they say “no” where does that leave you? If however you go in with five and they say “no” to 3 you are way ahead of the game.
  8. Figure out your terms and conditions in advance. Don’t wing it.
  9. Chris also talks about mirroring, the power of information and using the deepest voice you can when negotiating.
  10. I can add to this list the importance of being able to walk away from the table. You must go into a negotiation with a Plan B. If you are stuck with only one option you have the weaker position. Knowing your “outs” is an important part of being a good negotiator.

There you have it, wisdom for your next negotiation!

All the best, Don

PS Has the person at your company that handles HR signed up for my Great HR program yet? www.greathr.com

Do You Have Your Hiring Act Together?

“The number one secret to having a great company is to make sure your managers hire great employees.” – Jim Collins

How good are you at hiring? Better than the competition? Most important how good do you want to be? Top 25%?  Top10%?

Everyone tells me about how hard it is to find talent today. The mistake with that thought is the part about “finding” employees as opposed to “attracting” them.

When we find our self in desperate hiring situations we can make big mistakes. We will hire somebody we like just so we can get it over with…and go back to our more important jobs. We can forget hiring is the most important job a manager will ever do. (See Collins above.)

Just one bad hire can set a company backwards. When I ask the CEO’s I speak to “how much did our last bad hire cost you?” They start at $50,000.  They have often said more than a million dollars!

That’s just one bad hire.

Here’s a short checklist of things you should be considering if you want to hire great employees.

    1. Get super clear about who you want to hire. Is that desire in writing and driven to a checklist? Then test and assess towards those criteria. Bottom line is if you want an experienced 3rd baseman, with a .300 plus batting average, who is good in the locker room too…you must hire for that!
    2. Do what you can on your social media sites, web page, etc. to brand a great employment experience story. Like they do at Zappos or Southwest Airlines or In-N-Out Hamburger.
    3. Take a checklist approach to hiring. Checklist are one of the best ways to avoid system variances. And bad hires. You can see my hiring checklist template here.
    4. Create a great hiring experience. From the moment an applicant looks at your website until the moment they are hired.
    5. Make sure your managers know how to treat and interview job applicants. Do they know how to prepare for interviews? Do they have the skills required to do them? Do they know what compliance questions to avoid? Do they know how to rank and rate job applicants?
    6. Last, have a good follow up process with job candidates so they know where they stand. Nothing is more frustrating than putting in a resume and not hearing back within a few days. How’s about they hear back within 24 hours! Don’t lose a great candidate due to indifference.

None of this is rocket science… yet half the companies hire better than the other half. Then there’s those rare companies who hire in the top 10%… and build great companies in the process.

How do you know if training produces results?

W. Edwards Deming was once quoted as saying “Don’t ask me the ROI on training, you either believe that education has the greatest form of leverage or you do not.” His point is this: when you are in a knowledge economy the most learned win.

But that’s only one part of the equation…isn’t it? It’s also about taking action on that knowledge. The implementation and production of results matters too. As I like to say …from abstraction to action!

Here are questions to consider when trying to answer the results question.

  • Do you give employees a way to rank or rate the value of the training?
  • Do you follow up with them a month later to find out their execution on the knowledge gained?
  • Is the training offered in alignment with the strategic objectives of the company? The closer you are to the core strategic outcome desired the more effective your training will be.
  • Has it helped people to become more productive? What did they stop and what did they start? How do you measure that?
  • Does it fill a skills gap?

What other ancillary benefits can the training provide?

  • It emphasizes a dedication to continuous improvement.
  • An increase in creativity, innovation and suggestions.
  • Becoming a more attractive employer (…so long as you market your great training programs in the hiring process).
  • Lower turnover rates.
  • Decrease in complaints and lawsuits.
  • An improvement in communication and employee relations.
  • Often, we can grow our organizations through internal talent by using training rather than bringing in lateral hires and having to engage in cultural unlearning with them.

Whether you are trying to implement a new project management software program or reduce bias claims you want your training to be effective…meaning it helps to produce results. You also want it to be something that employees look forward to because it is insightful and engaging.

And talk about great training…have you signed up for the Great HR program yet? If not, what are you waiting for? It’s awesome! And, if you are not in HR have your HR person register. You will be glad they did! www.greathr.com

10 Ideas for Hiring Great Employees

We had such a good response to my post on 10 HR Ideas that I decided to shoot a quick video sharing 10 ideas for hiring great employees.

What would you add to the list? Which idea will you try?

Thanks for your patience. I appreciate those of you who let me know I needed to do some editing…and fast!

Here’s 10 Great HR Ideas You Can Use Today

I love creativity. Disruption. Differentiation. In fact, I’m going to be the MC for the next DisruptHR meeting in San Diego.

HR has a great opportunity to break past the status quo and to test new theories, strategies and tools. Here’s 10 ideas I came up with. What would you add to the list? Do tell!

1. Request every job application to submit a joke with their resume. I am serious about this. If they don’t do so they can’t follow instructions and you don’t hire them.  Then there are those who will provide jokes that put them on the do not hire pile immediately. For most everyone else, you at least have a laugh while going through that stack of resumes and you will learn a little bit more about the candidate.

2. Create an employee referral system that works. Most employee referral systems don’t work for two good reasons: there’s not enough “juice” in them and it comes with little support. You have to make it easy for employees to refer candidates with a one page document they can hand them or a link they can drive them to. Then put some financial “juice” in the system that gets them past the fear of referring someone. I would consider as much as 10% of that employers first year salary, which is far less than you would pay a recruiter or temp firm. Parcel the payments out quarterly over the year if the employee remains on board.

3. Do group interviews with final candidates. I like seeing how people work in a team dynamic.  Have three potential coworkers interview the final three candidates… all at once. Each employee will ask each candidate three questions. You are not just focusing on the answers but how the candidates treat each other while going through that process. Will they through somebody under the bus? Will they raise their voice and disagree? The best thing you can do is have fun sitting back and watching it unfold. It will tell you how they will treat future co-workers. As with any of these ideas just test it once. See how it works. Then improve it from there.

4. Ask my favorite interview question – what felt unfair to you at your last job? And then drill into the answers. How they respond will indicate how they will deal with something that feels unfair working for you. Which is guaranteed to happen. I will go through a candidate’s entire history with that question. Doing so has eliminated many a candidate. And… don’t forget to ask what they were most excited about in previous jobs.

5. Create a social media committee. Millennial’s will be great in this role. Provide them with some simple rules to follow and then let them do their thing. They can help your employer brand on Glassdoor, Indeed, your hiring page, Facebook page and more!

6. Ask your managers to take on a very simple challenge: for the next 20 workdays, beginning on a Monday, they are required to show at least one employee they manage that they care about them. You can discuss their family, upcoming vacation, or job concerns. Provide the manager a simple form where they can write down each day who they spoke to and what they did to show they care. Then he asked them to turn it in after 20 days and have a discussion with them about what they learned in the process. What great ideas can be shared with other managers? Make sure you commit to the exercise as well. Perhaps have fun prizes along the way.

7. Create an art wall. You can decorate it with pictures and paintings from local artists, your employees, and their kids. It will breathe creativity into the environment. Besides, you can’t be funked out very long looking at kids art.

8. Have a Red Nose Day. While the official date is May 25, the better one is any day you choose. Red noses are cheap on Amazon and it will generate many laughs. Give the employees a few to take home too. I find it’s very difficult to take yourself or anyone else seriously while wearing a red nose. Make sure to gets lots of selfies to post!

9. Create a quiet hour. Preferably early in the morning when people are at the sharpest so they can focus on the most important tasks. Prohibit “stopping by”, emailing or otherwise interrupting the quiet unless it is an urgent and important matter.

10. Make fun T-shirts for your employees. Let them get involved in the design. Have a contest. Employees will design a shirt they want to wear outside of the workplace. This is a low-cost way of engaging and branding your workforce.

Those are just 10 of my Great HR ideas. What are a few of yours? What have you done that is cool, disruptive or different?

Please share and I will accumulate the responses. Once I have received 100 combined I will send that document to all contributors. You want to be on that list.

PS this list is derived from the Great HR program. Plenty of more where they came from…and now we will generate even more.

When Suicide Hits Close to Home

I sense there is a lot of fear and depression going on. And…it can’t be ignored.

While I have never entertained the thought of suicide, that’s not been the case for so many others. And… it’s been hitting close to home the last few years.

A 13-year old boy, who was the younger brother of my son’s friend, committed suicide last month because he got himself in trouble and feared the judgement that would come with it. This was a sweet boy who had many a sleep over at our house.

Four years ago, my dear cousin committed suicide leaving his wife and two lovely daughters behind. Last year, two of my oldest son’s best friends committed suicide, one of whom also left two children behind.

Where I live in Coronado we have a bridge that is famous for its suicides. It is second in the country behind the Golden State Bridge for suicide attempts. You can’t be in Coronado and not be aware of the problem. 18 people have jumped since January. A few days ago my wife told me the mother of a 16-year-old award winning student we know jumped off the bridge.

I live in a military town and know many soldiers, including many SEALS. Their rate of suicide is well known but seldom publicized. Many of them are struggling with PTSD problems. My friend Dr. Bart Billings has been working with many of these young men and women, trying to get them off of killer medications.

Recently one company I know, under significant financial pressures,  had two employees commit suicide within a few months. You can’t ignore that.

I recently spoke to a group Chief Financial Officers for construction firms and they have a program going on to address the suicide problem in the construction industry. http://www.cfma.org/news/content.cfm?ItemNumber=4570

My son told me the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why which has caused a great deal of buzz on campus. It’s about a girl who commits suicide and gets back at other people by telling them how they contributed to her death. Based on the book
http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

Recently the media focused on a 20 year old woman convicted for bullying her boyfriend to kill himself. The messages she sent him were chilling. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2017/06/16/shes-accused-of-pushing-him-to-suicide-now-a-judge-has-decided-her-fate/?utm_term=.5288fb6ec40c

What do we do with all of this? How do we make sense of it? I know I can’t ignore it when it strikes so close to home. I have to talk to my wife and son about how they are going this experience. HR and other executives may want to recognize its impact at work.

I did some digging. Starting with the data about suicide and then looking for resources for families and companies to help to deal with it.
According to DoSomething.org:

  • Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds.
  • On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
  • Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people.
  • About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number 1 cause of suicide.
  • There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempted suicides.
  • Males make up 79% of all suicides, while women are more prone to having suicidal thoughts.
  • Over 50% of all suicides are completed with a firearm.

Hundreds of people decide to commit suicide at work every year. An example from OSHA:

  • Employee Is Killed After Jumping From Roof
  • Worker Drives Off Bridge And Drowns
  • Commits Suicide Soon After Arriving At Work.
  • Employees Are Killed In A Murder Suicide
  • Dies From A Self-Inflicted Gun Shot.
  • Employee Commits Suicide In Hospital Restroom
  • Worker Commits Suicide Using Sodium Azide
  • Water Treatment Worker Commits Suicide
  • Employee Commits Suicide By Jumping Off Parking Structure
  • Employee Shoots And Kills Self In Shed
  • Jumps From Elevated Platform And Is Killed
  • Employee Commits Suicide At Work By Hanging

What I’ve learned is that while there are commonalities, the stories behind suicide are as unique as life itself. Sometimes it is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain caused naturally or due to prescription medications or drug abuse. It could be due to a fatal diagnosis or intolerable pain. Other times it is a traumatic event and other times it’s fear, hopelessness and failed expectations.

In all circumstances… they saw no way out. They saw no path to peace other than to end their lives.

There are a ton of emotions triggered by a suicide including shock, anger, grief, despair, confusion, rejection, the need to understand “why”, physical collapse or even the thought of suicide itself.

Acknowledge these feelings, don’t pretend they don’t exist. It is OK to question them, examine them and discuss them. And it is OK to ask for help. You are not alone.

Here are some excellent resources:

Managing the Good Performer Gone Bad

Employees are wonderful… until they are not. Often, employees become derailed because of personal challenges or changes in their work environment or roles. When looking at poor performance check your head by asking these questions.

  1. Is it the fault of the system? – As Deming said, “the system is the problem!”. Is this person mismatched? Round peg in a square whole? Has their job “moved past them”? Are they getting the support they used to get or need?
  2. Is there a skills gap that can be cured by training?
  3. Are they being managed any differently? Perhaps a new boss, or new team members are involved?
  4. What would a third party like me say looking at the situation? That third party might be HR or another manager in a different department. Or me :)
  5. Is the employee aware of their poor performance? Have they been getting regular feedback? Has that feedback been documented? Have you considered putting them on a 30 day performance improvement plan?
  6. Have they somehow been “demotivated” and become disengaged? For example, did they try to push forward a project only to have it squashed and now they’ve lost their mojo?
  7. Do they have a mental disability? It could be depression or drug addiction or alcoholism. While you don’t have to ask them if there is such a problem you can remind them of the resources available, like an EAP program should they have any limitations on the ability to do their work.
  8. If it’s not the system and the issue lies with the employee then have them own it. Ask me for a copy of the Employee Correction Form I designed. This allows poor performance to “own” their performance and what happens to them when they do not pick their game up.
  9. What does your gut tell you about this person? Fact is, most poor performers don’t turn around and improve their performance. Things only tend to get worse over time. If this is the track you’re on then do yourself and them a favor and let them go so you can quit torturing each other. If they are a good person, and they did not engage in any outrageous conduct, then do what you can to help them get a job where they can fit in.
  10. Remember this- you can unconditionally care about a person but that does not mean you have to have an unconditional employment relationship with them. Don’t confuse the two.

A final note. I find I tend to torture myself…and others… when people don’t match my expectations of who they “ought to be”. True at work and at home. I also realize I am far more effective when I deal with people “as they are”. It is what it is. There is no benefit to gain by adding the emotional override of “shoulding” on the situation.

Take a deep breath, follow these recommendations and you’ll do just fine!

Managing the Emotions of Change

Months ago I had the opportunity to present at DisruptHR on managing the emotions of change. You get 20 slides and 5 minutes to do it! Remember the magic words- coax, encourage and inspire!

Everything you need to know about Managing Employees on an Index Card

I must admit – I got the idea for this index card after listening to a podcast with Howard Pollack, a professor from University of Chicago, who said that everything you needed to know about building your financial wealth can be written on an index card. The card went viral and he followed up with a book to explain it.

So, I challenged myself to figure out what I would put on an index card for managing employees after 30 years being in the field. Here’s my index card.

If you can’t read the index card it says:

10 Rules for Managing Employees

  1. Spend the effort required to hire winners.
  2. Have a great onboarding process.
  3. Have clarity about performance results.
  4. Make sure your systems support performance.
  5. Let go of poor performers.
  6. Give people permission to think.
  7. Train more than the competition.
  8. Create an engaging work environment.
  9. Reward great work!
  10. Get your compliance act together.

Now let me try to briefly explain each one. I dig in further on the video here.

  1. Spend the effort required to hire winners- Unfortunately most managers few hiring as something to get over with. Make sure your managers understand hiring great employees is the most important thing they will ever do.
  2. Have a great onboarding process- I’m amazed by how poorly some employees begin their work experience. Great employers have a well-oiled onboarding process which gets newbies producing asap. Their first day, week and month should be carefully planned. Don’t wing it when it comes to onboarding.
  3. Have clarity about performance results- Perhaps the greatest problem with performance management is the lack of clarity about what it means to perform. There’s a simple question you can ask an employee: how would you know if you’re doing your job well without having to ask me, or without me having to tell you? If their answer is not spot on you’ve done a poor job of managing their performance.
  4. Make sure your systems support performance- It’s not just about performance clarity, it’s also about supporting performance. Dr. W. Edwards Deming opined that 9 out of 10 employees want to do a good job every day. It’s the system that allows them to do so. This system starts in the hiring process by making sure you don’t hire misfits. Often the “system” is that person’s immediate manager. Half of all managers manage better than the other half. What training are your managers getting?
  5. Let go of poor performers… and managers- Here’s a question for you – do you have anybody working for you that if they quit you would be more relieved than upset? If so, why are they still there? Is it the bosses kid? Do they have photos? What is it? Keeping poor performers sends a message to everyone else that mediocrity… or even worse… is acceptable. Managers are often the source of employee performance problems. Sometimes it’s time to let them go too.
  6. Give people permission to think- None of us is as smart as all of us. The whole idea of controlling a business from the top down is out of step with today’s reality. When you give people permission to think you allow them to focus on work they know best, provide suggestions, and look for new business opportunities. I encourage employers to have mandatory suggestion meetings to drive past the fear involved of people actually thinking!
  7. Train more than the competition- George Gilder reminds us we are in a knowledge economy. In a knowledge economy, it is education that offers the greatest leverage for both employee and company. Not surprisingly, the most successful companies out train their competition. Given all of today’s online offerings, the out of pocket cost of training is minimal compared to the employee’s time involved in it. If you want to obtain a return on investment with training examine how it has actually improved performance.
  8. Create an engaging work environment- Your work environment is always communicating. It is never not communicating. What story does your environment communicate? Ask yourself whether the work environment is engaging or not? I encourage employers to fill their walls with vision statements, success stories, employee inspired artwork, powerful quotes and more. Allow your employees permission to decorate their work areas as the result fits within reasonable guidelines.
  9. Reward great work- As stated in Barber’s Book of 1000 Proverbs, “The greatest benefit is the one last remembered.” In my experience when we run 75 mph we focus on those aspects of an employee’s performance that drive us nuts and ignore their great work …because that’s what we expect from them. This is a big mistake and one of the main reasons employees leave companies. While I’m not a big fan of rewarding people simply for showing up, I am big fan of rewarding great work as soon as possible!
  10. Get your compliance act together- Last, employee lawsuits are ridiculously expensive but most employers don’t appreciate the risk until they have suffered it. Do yourself a big favor and if don’t already have access to ThinkHR from your broker or payroll company then get it from me! I’ll offer you a deal that simply too good to refuse.

There are my 10 rules. What would add or take away from your 10 Rules for Managing Employees index card list?

Note I also did a video about this list you can watch here. If you like it please share with a friend or provide a comment. Thanks!

Getting the Blockages Out of the Way of Great HR

For years I have been preaching the opportunity in Great HR. When I do my CEO workshops, I show the financial logic behind the opportunity. I have business owners understand that every HR problem becomes a sales problem. And yet HR still has difficulty getting traction.

In this article, I will talk about where the real opportunity lies… and that is getting the blockages out of the way. I have heard executive after executive tell me how to have a difficulty finding talent, and then I go to their website, and there’s not a word about finding talent. When we talk about performance management many business owners will agree with me that the one to five rating approach doesn’t seem to improve performance and, yet they are unwilling to experiment to find a way that does. So, let’s talk about some blockages and slay those beasts so we can actualize the HR opportunity.

Overwhelm

It seems as if most every executive I speak to is on overwhelm. From the CEO on down. And that includes HR. This overwhelm is a symptom of poor time management. It’s a symptom of not defining and focusing on what is truly important. Here are a few ideas to battle the time/overwhelm obstacle:

  • Stop spending any time doing low-value work. This is true whether you are the CEO or the HR executive. Outsource it, delegate it or eliminate it.
  • Know where your time goes. Peter Drucker advised us in The Effective Executive to track your time and not assume where it goes. I find that once executives do they are amazed by how much of their time is spent on lower value work.
  • Draw a line for total hours worked and don’t work past it. As Parkinson’s Rule states “People get things done in a time allotted for it.” . Give yourself less time to get things done. You’ll work with greater urgency and focus as a result.
  • Stick it on a calendar. You must calendar working on strategic objectives. It is just as important to work on the business, as it is in the business.
  • Understand that overwhelm is neither healthy, productive, nor job security.

Money, money, money

Having spoken to more than 400 CEO groups, I have a good sense of how business owners think about money. Plus, I too ran a business. And the bottom line is this: CEO’s are up for spending money anytime it produces a return on investment. Here’s a link to my HR Cost Calculator. It helps to find the financial opportunity in Great HR. For example, if the company bemoans its ability to find talent and therefore rushes to hire,  how much did the last bad hire cost you? When we act out of desperation instead of out of a process, we produce very expensive variances. These variances are a negative ROI on our activities.

The fight between saving money and making money is very emotional. I encourage HR to connect the dots and help executives understand that all poor HR decisions eventually become a sales problem. That poor hire that might have cost $50,000 out of pocket is the equivalent of at least $250,000 in replacement revenue. I find that when executives connect the dots between costs and their revenue equivalents, they will spend time… and money trying to eliminate that waste.

Top Level Executives Who Could Care Less About HR

Vistage, the CEO organization that I speak for, has some 900 speakers in its system. The vast majority focus on marketing and sales- the number one concern of most CEOs. Every year or two they’ll have a speaker like me to come in and talk about HR practices. If you are at a company where leadership could care less about HR (and there are plenty of those companies out there), then find a company where leadership is open to the GreatHR opportunity….and get that blockage out of the way!

Bad HR

Last, it’s a fact that half of all HR executives are more motivated to make a difference at their companies than the other half. Unmotivated HR is Bad HR and has disastrous impacts on the bottom line. Bad HR focuses on excuses as opposed to execution.

  • Great HR takes the time to understand the company’s strategic initiatives. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR has a strategic plan. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR understands the math and data of their operations. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR coordinates with their fellow executives to understand how they better support their needs. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR stays on top of their game. They watch webinars, go to workshops and they network with other Great HR executives. Bad HR does not.
  • Bottom-line is Bad HR is disastrous for any organization.

Bad HR is a blockage to the Great HR opportunity. If your HR person doesn’t want to kick ass in HR…find someone who does!

Conclusion

HR continues to get a bad rap, although it professes a desire to be “strategic.” Yes, there are real blockages…and there are also far too many excuses which allow those blockages to hinder doing Great HR.

 

PS if you are in HR and have not watched my video The Truth About HR….and You, now would be a good time to do so!