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WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE RIGHT!

“In spinning a robe of your own righteousness, before the sun goes down you will find it all unraveled.” – Curtis Hutson

You know you are right….and yet they ignore you, ridicule you, argue nonsense to you or even try to sabotage you.

Of course, they can’t be “right” too.

John was one of the top engineers on the project.  After doing a bunch of independent research, he came to the conclusion the team was going in the wrong direction.  He had been hinting at his concerns, but it seemed everyone was too overwhelmed with their tasks to listen.

Every Wednesday at 8 AM, the team had an all-hands meeting.  John would be prepared.  He would show them why the current approach was doomed for failure.  It was all he could think about, all night long. He was fitful and had a terrible night’s sleep.

The next morning, John was exhausted but ready to go.  He steeled himself when it came his time to report.  He let it all out.  He was nervous, and his energy was strong. He told the team if they didn’t listen to his concerns, they would regret it later.

John did not get the response he hoped for.  At first, there was dead silence.  Then the questions, disagreements and attacks began.  Many on the team felt as if they were under attack from John, and sought not to listen or understand John, but to defend themselves.

It was a disaster.  The team lead ended the meeting and told John he’d like to meet with him that afternoon.

After the meeting, John was anxious and confused. He couldn’t understand why they didn’t jump on board with his recommendations. Thoughts kept repeating in his head about how he was right.  They must be blind, fools or even worse, reckless.

So where did being “right” get John?

Where does the push to be “right” ever get any of us? On any stage?

As the saying goes, “Are you always the smartest person in the room?”

I know my energy can rise when there is even a potential for conflict… and I know I’m right.

When we are “right” and don’t instantly get our way, it feels unfair.  When something feels unfair, the drama begins.  We can go from feeling like a victim one minute and acting like a villain in the next.

So, what approach do you take when you know you are right, and resistance is sure to follow?  What insights should John’s team leader share with him in their meeting? Let me share a few insights I’ve learned from trial work, sales, and the study of emotions.

  1. Begin by asking yourself the questions that are sure to come your way.  What are the possible objections to your argument?  What fears or concerns of others will you have to overcome? A good salesperson considers possible objections that may be confronted in a sales meeting and practices responses to them.  Even better, take away their potential victimology by addressing their fears and concerns… before they do.
  2. Have a confidant give you honest feedback.  Invite them to cross-examine you. When I was a trial lawyer, we would sometimes pay for a “mock jury” to test out our arguments.  Maybe a mentor,  coach, or old professor can be a good sounding board for you.  Having that sounding board is one reason every executive should have a coach!
  3. Hone your presentation.  Practice, practice, practice. Never wing it.  If it is important, it is important enough to do it with excellence.  Tell a great story, beginning to end.  Identify how everyone benefits from your approach.
  4. R-e-l-a-x.  Go into the meeting, presentation, etc. like the Dalai Lama would, focusing on liking the people you will be with, before you are even with them.  They are dealing with as much, and sometimes more, than you are.  So chill out and be a good human, no matter how excited you are about being right.
  5. I try to keep in mind the quote from David Bohm that “the truth doesn’t emerge from an opinion; it emerges from a dialogue.”  So, don’t be a know it all. Invite feedback.  Engage in a dialogue. Ask what they agree with or not, and why.  Try to learn something from them. That’s good sales.  Then identify what you agree about and narrow down the disagreements. Listen. Without interruption.   Step into their shoes.  Feel where they are coming from.  Even if you face disagreement, you can do so as good people.  Reasonable people can agree to disagree.
  6. Consider how you can mitigate their concerns.  Perhaps adjust your approach.   Be creative. Be flexible, like Gumby.  He…or she… with the most options wins.
  7. If you hit a stalemate, consider a third party to facilitate finding a middle ground.  A mediation if you will. Or call a timeout and agree to reconvene after everyone has had time to sort things out.
  8. If after all of that you still find yourself stuck in what you believe is a disaster waiting to happen, then either let go or get out.  Fighting reality is a game for the insane…or soon to be insane.  You don’t want to “lose it” because you are right. When that happens, everyone loses.

I think most people would say they are more “right” about things than other people.  Odds are, across your life, you are probably little better than 50/50 at being “right.”

Now that’s reality!

Walking the Training Talk

I just finished reading my bi-monthly issue of Training Magazine. It highlighted the top 125 company training programs in the country. Some insights I gathered:

  1. 1. Most employees want at least two hours of training per month. If the employee desire is roughly 24 hours of training per year and they earn $50,000 then you have to deliver that training, including their cost of attendance at roughly $50 per hour, or $1200 year or 2.4% of payroll…and as you will see, that’s on the lower end of the budget for great companies.
  2. Unfortunately, less than 80% of employees get two hours of training per month. Is it the time? The money? A philosophy that training is not needed to perform at peak levels? If you are super concerned about time or money then make sure the training produces results.
  3. Employees want training to learn new skills, grow in their career, and be more productive. Don’t you want that too? Everyone wins when you train well. I just read an interesting survey on Lifetime Learning done by Pew.The info from that could be yet an additional article.
  4. Employees continue to acknowledge feedback as the greatest engagement factor. Meaning training alone, without feedback, is wasted time and money.
  5. While employees have shorter and shorter attention spans and prefer shorter training sessions, studies show that training is more effective when longer in duration. I say make the training fit the need. Sometimes micro-learning is perfect. Others times a deep dive is required.
  6. The average training spend has increased by at least 10% per year over the last five years. Have you kept pace? As George Gilder reminds us, we are in a knowledge economy, no matter what job we do.
  7. Most award winning companies say their training budget as a percentage of payroll is between 2% and 4%. There are outlier companies such as Quicken Loans which devote 8.3% of its payroll budget to training. What percentage of payroll do you devote to training?
  8. The vast majority have tuition reimbursement plans.
  9. Great training is a mix. Some online, some just-in-time, mentoring, Kaizen groups, presenters, trainers, TED talks, etc. Training is only limited by a company’s creativity.

There’s the general landscape. No doubt half of all companies train better than the other half, 10% do a great job of it and 1% do a world class job. Where do you stand?

If you walk the training talk then brand that fact on your about page, your hiring page, during your interview process and then execute it on or during orientation and throughout their career. This will improve your ability to hire and retain productive employees.

Leadership and Self-Deception

The book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute was a wake-up call for me. The deception is this: because my self-talk is I care my actions show I care.

Not so fast.

When giving presentations I challenge leaders to give me an example of how they showed someone they cared about them…and no, a paycheck doesn’t count. Usually a great deal of silence follows as they explore their memories for such an example. Some will talk about how they showed up for employees facing medical or family situations. For the rest, like it was for me, it is a wake-up call. We get our deception.

Unfortunately, when we run 75 miles an hour, it’s hard to show people we care for them because heck, we don’t even show ourselves we care for ourselves. We become numb and we engage in ongoing criticism as supposed to anything positive.

Check your head: when is the last time you showed somebody at work you care about them?

Go into your day intending to show people you care about them. How can you do that? Some ideas:

  1. Check in with any family concerns.
  2. Check in with how they are doing at work.
  3. Tell them something you admire about them.
  4. Listen to them with full presence.
  5. Go to lunch or take a walk with them.
  6. Write a personal note.

How will you show somebody you care about them today? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Ten Commandments for Inspiring Super-Forecasters

It’s easy to get lost trying to figure out what’s coming next. I listened to an interesting TED Podcast about risk and forecasting and then visited Phillip Telock’s Ten Commandments. I encourage you to do the same https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/1390/research

Here’s my summary of the commandments:

  1. Triage – ask the critical questions at the right time.
  2. Break the problem down into manageable pieces.
  3. Balance the inside and outside views.
  4. Balance underacting and over reacting.
  5. Look for the clashing casual forces affecting each problem.
  6. Try to distinguish the many degrees of doubt as a problem permits.
  7. Strike the balance between under and over confidence and prudence and decisiveness.
  8. Look for the errors behind the mistakes but know of rear-view mirror hindsight bias.
  9. Bring out the best in others and allow them to bring out the best in you.
  10. Master the error – riding a bicycle. Learning requires doing and feedback.

There is wisdom in each one of these suggestions that applies to everything from searching for opportunities to managing risk. It’s a great formula for tackling many problems.

Side note: If you’re interested in a free PDF copy of the book I wrote Stop Making Mitsakes, please email to don@donphin.com.

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