When Agreement is Disagreeable: 4 Keys to Leading Your Team

This is a guest post by Julie Williamson, PhDChief Growth Enabler with Karrikins Group where she leads strategy and research. She is the coauthor of Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice.

 

4 Keys to Leading Your Team

Recently I sat in a meeting with the CEO of a $1B+ company, together with all of his senior leaders, a team of around 12 people. The CEO, Kevin (I’ve changed his name for the sake of confidentiality), was frustrated beyond belief with his team because he wasn’t seeing the behaviors he wanted from them, especially when it came to reporting on their respective businesses.

Kevin sat at the head of the table and gave very specific and detailed instructions about what he wanted to see every month. Then he looked around the table and asked, “Have I made myself perfectly clear?”

Heads nodded slowly in agreement.  Yes, he had made himself perfectly clear.  It was also perfectly clear to me, based on the body language I was seeing around the room, that while he had been understood, that’s as far as it went. He had not achieved anyone’s agreement that the requirements were something they were willing to do, alignment from the team members that they would shift their behaviors to meet those requirements, or a belief that his demand was something that would be useful or meaningful to them. Clear as he was, he was not going to see the results he wanted.

If you feel like you are being clear, but you aren’t seeing results from your team, there are four areas to consider as continuums:

 

Clarity is useful and important: You need to set clear expectations to successfully lead people. But keep in mind that it’s not enough. Stopping at clarity can prevent you from seeing better ways of doing things, especially if you don’t actively create conversation about the outcomes you want. In my follow-up conversation with Kevin, his first reaction was essentially, “I’m the CEO, so I get to set the standards, and they need to meet them.”  That approach was working horribly for Kevin — which he was brave enough to acknowledge.  By stopping at clarity, Kevin had set up a situation where his people were spending time and energy on tasks that they felt distracted them from growing the business, and which they only did half-heartedly if at all. They were doing their worst work on the things Kevin felt were most important to run the business.

 

“Clarity comes from action, not thought.” –Marie Forleo

 

Agreement is equally important, but perhaps not in the way you would expect.  People don’t actually need to agree with you to get on board, as Jeff Bezos from Amazon has famously demonstrated with his ‘disagree and commit’ value (see his 2017 letter to shareholders). What’s important is that people are intentional about whether they agree or disagree — and make a choice to then align or not align their behaviors.

Phrases to Defuse Difficult Workplace Situations

Defuse conflict

Are you ever at a loss for words?

Do you approach a potentially volatile situation with trepidation because you don’t know what to say?

The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book by Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem is for you.

It’s a handbook of sorts, a reference book, filled with clever phrases and questions all designed to help you in conflict situations.

After reading it, I decided to put it to use immediately. I read a few of the phrases before attending most of my meetings. What I found was that I was asking better questions and was a more focused listener.

I recently asked Barbara more about her work.

 

“Knowing when to fight is just as important as how.” –Terry Goodkind

 

Build Your Conflict Muscle

How do you best build the conflict muscle so that you don’t shy away from it?

Practice, practice, practice!  Many of us are uncomfortable with conflict to the point where we not just shy away from it—we run from it and give in rather than dealing with it. It takes courage and practice to have conflict muscle, but we also want people to know that not all conflict is “bad.”  Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships.

 

Talk about the power of listening.

Most of us think we’re really good listeners, but what we really do is, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when they stop speaking.  That’s not listening.  Listening is putting your own thoughts aside to focus on the words being said but also observing body language and facial expressions to really get what the person is saying.  Our ever-increasing virtual world makes listening even more difficult, so whenever possible, have difficult conversations face to face. But if you can’t be in the same place, use Facetime or Skype so least you can see each other. A good listener uses techniques like paraphrasing back what they heard to ensure both people are on the same wave length. Listening takes practice—just like any other communication form. We spend a lot time learning how to speak to be understood or how to write well but not much time learning how to listen.

 

“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.” –Thomas Edison

 

Ask for Clarity

How Leaders Create A Compelling Vision to Engage & Inspire

company vision

Lead With Vision

Leaders create a vision and engage a community to achieve it.

What does it mean to lead with vision?

It’s a question that authors Bonnie Hagemann, Simon Vetter, and John Maketa researched extensively, surveying over 400 companies in search of the answer.

I recently spoke with the authors about their new book, LEADING WITH VISION: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce.

 

Would you share the story about “going up the stairs two steps at a time” and how it impacted your view of leadership and culture?

Yes, of course.  Back in 2006 I had a meeting with Jim Bolt, the founder of Executive Development Associates (EDA), to discuss how I would run the company. Jim had been developing senior leaders since the early 1980s and was a renowned expert in the field. I knew I had much to learn from Jim and hoped we could work together. I didn’t know at the time that the very first piece of advice he would give me would shape and inform every leadership decision I have made since. Before I left that meeting, Jim handed me a book from his shelf called Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, a sports clothing company.

The book is the story of Patagonia with an emphasis, almost a plea, for sustainability.  Jim wanted me to start thinking about how we could help with this effort, I read the book but it was something else within that captured my attention. The CEO of Patagonia wanted to build an organization where employees were compelled to come to work. Yvon Chouinard wanted a company where employees were a part of their environmental mission.  He wanted employees to be wholly engaged and committed.  He said, “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time” (Chouinard 2005, 45).

That statement struck me as extremely important.  Imagine the creativity and courage and productivity that would come from a workforce like that.  The power of it is immeasurable.  That is what visionary leadership can do.  It can unleash the power of the workforce.

 

Visionary leaders create a clear picture of a positive future state.

 

The 4 C’s of a Visionary Leader

What’s your definition of a visionary leader?

A visionary leader is a person who steps out and creates a clear picture of a positive future state.  It takes a lot of courage because creating a vision for the future is basically imagining what could be and what should be.  That feels very risky for leaders.  It is stepping out of the norm.  There are certain things they will need to do.  In the book we explain further by putting it into 4 Cs.  They must:

  1. Embody courage,
  2. Forge clarity,
  3. Build connectedness, and
  4. Shape the culture.

 

What advice do you have for a leader struggling with creating a compelling vision? 

3 Keys to Negotiating Success

3 Keys to Negotiating Success

 

Do people take advantage of you?

Do you let your emotions get in the way of your negotiations?

Do you want to be a better negotiator?

 

Corey Kupfer has negotiated successful deals for over 30 years as an entrepreneur and lawyer, and is committed to inspiring authenticity in business. Kupfer runs his own firm, Kupfer & Associates, PLLC, and founded a speaking, training and consulting company called Authentic Enterprises, LLC. He’s the author of Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Keys to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them.

I recently spoke with him about the three keys to authentic negotiations.

 

“You do not get what you want. You get what you negotiate.” -Harvey Mackey

 

Authentic Negotiations

Your book title starts with the word authentic. That’s not usually a descriptor of negotiating styles. I’d love to know more about your approach and this uniqueness.

My teachings, based on over 30 years of day-in and day-out professional business negotiating, are mainly focused on the personal and deep internal work you need to do to become a great negotiator: Clarity, Detachment and Equilibrium (or CDE).  A lot of negotiating training is on the level of techniques, tactics and counter-tactics.  Some of those are very manipulative, lack integrity, and are ultimately ineffective – so they should never be used.  Some are okay, but they are not at the core of true negotiating success.  At best, they are good to know as additional tools beyond the deeper and more important work of authentic negotiating.  Without Clarity, Detachment and Equilibrium, tactics and counter-tactics will be of marginal impact at best.

Authentic negotiators get total clarity on what will work and won’t work for them on every significant term and what their true bottom line is – from a place of clarity, not ego. They then stay detached from the outcome. They have no hesitation to walk away from a negotiation – not from a place of anger or ego but, instead, from a place of clarity with no upset, judgement or hard feelings.  Finally, they maintain their equilibrium throughout the negotiating process and don’t let their emotions throw them off so that they are able to stay present to and maintain their clarity and detachment.  Although, of course, leverage matters, in over 30 years of professional negotiating, I found that the most impactful common controllable elements are those three things – not the negotiating tactics and counter-tactics that many of us have been taught.

I’ve actually created a quiz where people can learn if they are an authentic negotiator, which can be found at CoreyKupfer.com.

 

“Authentic negotiators determine their true bottom line from a place of clarity, not ego.” –Corey Kupfer

 

The Top 6 Reasons for Negotiation Fails

What are some of the most common errors people make negotiating?

The top six reasons negotiations fail are:

  1. Lack of preparation – external preparation and, the often overlooked, internal preparation which requires doing the deep inner work to get clear on your objectives and determine your true bottom line on every material deal point.
  2. Ego – including avoiding the pitfalls of pride, wanting to be liked, wanting to win and talking too much.
  3. Fear – including fear of losing, failure, success, the unknown and looking bad or letting someone down.
  4. Rigidity – including pre-conceived notions and the danger of inflexibility.
  5. Getting emotional/losing objectivity – which can kill a deal because you fall in love with a bad deal or it can push you in the wrong direction.
  6. Lack of integrity – with others and, less talked about but as important, with yourself.

Here are some additional specific reasons that fall under the various larger categories above:

  • Talking too much which is most often triggered by either ego or fear.
  • Not listening.
  • Thinking of negotiation as a game.
  • Being focused on winning instead of achieving objectives.
  • Letting emotions get in the way of your clarity, detachment or equilibrium.
  • Not getting connected to a powerful context.
  • Not knowing your purpose for the negotiation.
  • Not determining the measurable results you want to achieve.
  • Not holding high expectations.
  • Having unreasonable expectations.
  • Not understanding the natural negotiating rhythm and moving either too fast or slow.
  • Not being aware and prepared for cultural differences.

 

“Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” – Sir David Frost

 

Do skilled negotiators often exploit these errors? If they know the issue is “getting emotional/losing objectivity” do they deliberately work to have one side off balance in this way?

Absolutely!  Manipulative negotiators are going to look to take advantage of every weakness they see in you and use it to their advantage.  They will leverage that emotional imbalance the most they can even though it would be shortsighted to do so, especially in one of the many negotiations that results in an ongoing relationship.  Authentic negotiators will use these errors to their benefit as well, though.  There is a way to do that which is authentic and not manipulative.  It is the difference between paying attention to the information and leveraging opportunities that emotion reveals to help attain your objectives vs. actively manipulating people’s emotions.  For example, if somebody is the type of person who emotionally needs to feel like they have won a negotiation, I will design my negotiating strategy with that in mind.  As long as I achieve my objectives, I am happy to have them feel like they have won.  The difference in the authentic approach is that my focus is achieving my objectives, not using their need to win to take advantage of them and manipulate that need to get as much as I can at the expense of the ongoing relationship or getting a reputation as a negotiator who takes advantage of others.

 

“Manipulative negotiators leverage emotional imbalance.” –Corey Kupfer

 

Use Context – Purpose – Results

How to Make Your Next Meeting the Most Effective Ever

Do I Have To Go?

In every corporation and social enterprise, we find ourselves in meetings.  We dread going to them.  We love to complain about them.  We poke ourselves to stay awake in them.

Have you ever thought about how important meetings really are?

Ever consider that how you behave in a meeting may have more of an impact on your career?

What if there was a way to turn meetings into “remarkable conversations”?

 

Paul Axtell’s new book,  Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, was a surprise.  Why a surprise?  Because I admit I have groaned about too many meetings, so the thought of reading a book about them was supposed to be my cure for insomnia.  Instead, I found myself reading and re-reading it.  If your calendar has you stuck in too many ineffective meetings, you will find numerous solutions to changing the game in Paul’s new book.

Paul Axtell has been a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer for 35 years.  All of that experience is put too good use in a book packed with advice to be more effective.  Note: this book goes far, far beyond the meeting.

 

“It took me fifteen years to make it look easy.” –Fred Astaire

 

Meetings Matter

Everyone loves to complain about meetings. Too many, too long, too boring. But your new book says meetings matter. Why are meetings such an easy target?

Meetings Matter CoverFirst, the complaints are usually justified.  Our time in ineffective meetings far outweighs our time in powerful meetings.  People are genuinely concerned about being more productive and taking less work home, so time not well spent is galling.  Finally, no one is standing up for the value and leverage that meetings can provide to a project or organization.  We’ve drifted into this place where we complain and don’t even hear ourselves complaining.  Poorly run meetings also start at the top, and from below it can seem like an impossible problem to confront. 

Paul, you raise the stakes to say, “Meetings are at the heart of an effective organization.”

Yes, if we include one-on-ones, meetings compromise most of a supervisor’s or manager’s day.  Meetings are a place and situation where clarity can be achieved, decisions made, alignment garnered and actions identified – all of which work to help forward the work of any organization.  Therefore, meeting skills are a core competency for employees.

 

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” –Seneca

 

Choose Your Perspective

Your new book outlines eight strategies for more effective meetings.  Let me ask about just a few.  Number one “Choose the perspective.”  It’s about being intentional, mindful, and catching yourself if you fall into negativity about a meeting.  Why is perspective the starting point?

I believe two things change behavior: perspective and awareness.  Perspective might be the more important of the two because with a disempowering perspective, strategies and tactics have less impact.  We’ve drifted into three perspectives that set us up for failure—meetings don’t matter, it’s not my meeting, and I don’t have to fully engage if I don’t want to.  Very difficult to run a good meeting when people walk in with these points of view.  Just imagine how it would be to lead a meeting where everyone walked in with an attitude that was shaped instead by these perspectives: meetings are leverage and I’m responsible for making this meeting turn out?

 

“It is indispensable to have a habit of observation and reflection.” –Abraham Lincoln

 

The 4 C’s of An Effective Conversation