+Scott Watson

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Top Ten Tips for Honest Influencing and Negotiating

When I ask groups, 'How often do you negotiate?', they generally respond with answers like 'occasionally' or 'not very often'. But the accurate answer is we are always negotiating. We can't not negotiate. Whether it is asking for additional resources, revised deadlines or even whose turn it is to make the team coffees - life is one big negotiation.

But if we are to become effective negotiators, it really helps if we are already good at influencing other people. I'm sure you know of someone who is a 'good' influencer but leaves a trail of destruction and broken relationships in their wake. That isn't what this post or my approach is about. My approach is strictly honest and absolutely win-win or no deal.

So, here are some tips for you to consider and apply in your workplace. Remember that it wouldn't be a great strategy to simply take the words I write and use them as such. These are just my words and my preferred approaches. I invite you to think of some of your own. And remember, high trust relationships have a massive influence on whether another human being is both open and willing to be influenced by you.

1. If/Then can be effectively used to agree a reciprocal trade-off. In plain English this means that when someone is seeking to impose (not agree-impose) an instruction or deadline on you, your immediate attention should be to obtain something back in return, and quickly. For example 'I understand that you want this report completing by Monday 12pm and you realise how packed my schedule is with other high priority commitments. So, IF I were to agree to complete the report and achieve this very challenging deadline THEN would you be prepared to (x,y or z) for me in return?'

2. Help your boss realise the implications of their/your action or inaction. For example, your boss demands that yet another report or project needs to be got underway, and it's you who will be doing it. It is dangerous and perhaps a little foolish for someone to take on yet another commitment they really deep down know just can't be hit without sacrificing quality or other project outputs. For example to your manager, 'I am committed to doing my best to achieve all of the outputs you have set me and require of me. As you are aware, there are many tight timescales on many projects to achieve. Just so I can understand which takes top priority, please will you share with me which of the other projects you wish to set aside until this new project is completed?' Bear in mind that bosses are perhaps not open to setting something aside - they just want it doing! This is rarely because they are not very nice people, they just have pressures at a higher level to deal with, so this is where your integrity and assertiveness need to shine through. 'If I do spend the time required on completing this new project, THE IMPLICATIONS for (a) project is....THE KNOCK ON EFFECT for (b) project will be ......and THE IMPLICATIONS FOR (c) project will likely be......

3. Help them understand what it means - All too often the willingness to comply with a request or demand kicks in. In some situations it is a very good thing to comply, while in others, all it does is cause stress, anxiety and frustration. And we can't perform anywhere near our best when we are experiencing these kinds of emotions. Help the other party/parties truly understand the impact and potential consequences of their decision/s, actions/inactions so that the dialogue can progress positively. When people genuinely understand, they are far more likely to be open to your honest and professional dialogue. Think of the medical doctor example to his heavy smoking patient. 'You need to stop smoking' versus 'You need to stop smoking because if you choose to continue this means you will not be around to walk your beautiful daughter down the aisle when she marries.' Notice the very different understanding.

4. Use softeners to help higher value dialogue - In a spirited discussion, or even a stand-off, the question 'AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?' has a very different impact to 'Please will you help me understand exactly what is meant by that?' The very tone associated with the first question can put your colleague/client on the back foot in a heartbeat. It can also make influencing and negotiating so much harder as they can feel bullied or stone-walled. Good softeners include 'Just so I can be clear....May I just ask you a question about...If you could help me understand (a,b or c) in more detail, I would be grateful/I'd really appreciate it...Bearing in mind/remembering our agreement about (a), what are your thoughts on how it can be achieved?...Do we all agree that.....? Softeners are like a medical doctor having a wonderful bedside manner. Consider your bedside manner carefully - or there could be severe implications!

5. Keep your commitments - If you say you will do something, just do it. If you say you won't do something, don't do it. Simple as a standard and it has the added benefit of building trust. People trust people who make good things happen. And as well as keeping commitments to other people, remember that self-trust is where it all starts from. Trust your self to speak up when you need to. Trust your self to allow other people the space to think and the right to have their own ideas and opinions.

6. The power of WE - Often, but not always, two or more heads are better than one. If you have a colleague who is refusing to change their idea, first of all work on understanding how and why they have reached their decision. Then you can smoothly move on to understanding why they are not open to changing their decision. Often it is either because they don't particularly care for the person/people inviting them to change their mind (as it can be perceived as one-up manship), they have a very personal, personal value on a subject that has driven their decision, they may not have access to the data that you have access to - and that's why sharing is a good thing, or it may be that they have advised their boss of their decision and the boss agreed with them, or their boss has told them what decision to make. Now, remember that people generally comply with an authority figure, whether or not they agree with them. If you have a colleague or two who have challenged your thinking and they genuinely agree with your research and facts, you can return to your manager and state something like 'Name, name and name have reviewed my data independently and they all believe that the decision/recommendation is the most appropriate for this matter. Remember to stay away from 'They all agreed with me so I'm right and you're clearly wrong'. This isn't helpful to anyone. Honestly applying the power of WE may help your colleague to be a little more open to a different way of thinking or at the very least, positioned with integrity, your polite persistance may reflect that you are a committed and helpful worker.

I can't believe we're only on number 7. I've been writing for ages!

7. Separate Facts from Opinions - Dialogue can become fraught with anger, frustration and disappointment when we have what seems to be a great idea only for it to be rejected by a boss or a peer group. Be aware that opinions are just that. They are simply beliefs that an individual or a group believe about something. A fact though has indisputable evidence to support it. Always, always, always ask a question to clarify whether a statement is a fact or opinion.

8. Use effective tag questions - A tag question is a bundle of words at the end of a sentence that is leading the other party to respond. Tag questions can be highly effective when used sparingly in a negotiation or meeting. Examples of tag questions are...Do we both agree? I have understood correctly, haven't I? We agree, do we not? I'm correct in remember we did agree the deadline, aren't I? That is your understanding too, is it not? This is my understanding of the problem, is this correct? Don't use too many in quick succession as the other party may feel like they are being interrogated. Remember that tag questions along with every other technique I share with you must be applied with a genuine win-win outcome in mind.

9. Say NO and stick to it - This may at first sound like a tough position to stick with, especially when you are negotiating or having a dialogue with your boss or a high income value client. But, my position here is to stick to your NO position UNTIL both parties agree to collaborate openly and honestly to explore and hopefully reach an agreement that works for both parties, plus, as a bonus, for any third party too. Saying NO is not digging your heels in, being obstructive or childish. It is a starting point on which to start negotiating. After all, would you like me to make a commitment to you and then not keep my commitment? What about if I knew all along I either couldn't or wouldn't keep it and I never told you? With this approach you can move forward to 'Because of the negative implications (for both you and I) we spoke about earlier, I do need to say NO to your request as a whole. BUT, perhaps what we can agree to work on is a,b and c as they are most important to you and your stakeholder. Perhaps we can get these pieces completed fully and to the required standard before starting on d,e,f,....z. Do we agree this is a good step forward?'

10. Clarify, Clarify, Clarify - When our schedule is packed full with meetings and telephone calls it is easy to forget things. Our brain is the most powerful computer known to mankind - but sometimes the programming gets a little messed up. Our memory is not the most accurate tool to rely on to remember important facts, figures and commitments. Always clarify your understanding, always clarify your perceived agreements on the spot when any misunderstandings can be resolved, not later when your head is elsewhere. When you have clarified all that is required, only then should you move forward. Only when you have complete agreement on understanding should you then move on to the next steps.

11. More tips will follow next week. In the meantime, please honestly and ethically apply these tips and let me know how you get along.

Best wishes


Friday, 15 May 2009

A Quick Lesson in Developing Trust

In 2005, the Italia Masters Tennis Championship brought together Fernando Verdasco of Spain and Andy Roddick of the USA. The battle had reached match point in favour of Roddick and Verdasco was to serve. Verdasco did serve, it was judged as a fault. He served for a second time - and once again, the umpire called Verdasco's serve as a fault. Match Roddick!

Well, it didn't quite work out that way. Roddick had just been awarded the match and by default, the cheers of the crowd. As Verdasco started the traditional walk to the net to shake hands with his opponent, Roddick remained still. Why would the victor remain still? Was he injured, shocked or was something else happening? It was indeed something very special and deeply human happening. Roddick was about to challenge the umpire's decision. A decision that was not only in his own favour, but one which had awarded him the match and safe passage to the next round.

Roddick politely and assertively stated his view that the ball was actually 'in' and not 'out'. He stated that the proof of his own call was that a slight indentation had formed on the clay court where Verdasco's second serve had impacted. As the ball had landed on the line and not outside the line, the match umpire allowed Roddick to overrule him.

As history shows, Verdasco went on to win the match and progress to the next round. But while Roddick may have lost the match, he won in so many other ways. He demonstrated strength of character, deeply held personal values relating to trust, honour and integrity, and if you were umpiring his next match and Roddick challenged your decision, might you just be a little more open to listening and understanding his viewpoint than you would of other sports men and women who moan, groan, complain and downright cheat to get their own way?

As my wonderful mother used to say to me 'Scott, always be honest. It's really easy to remember.'

Spying or Simply Positive Performance Management?

Airbus are in the news due to a supposed 'spying scandal' . A previous management board allegedly spied on staff between 2005 and 2007 in what was deemed to be a positive step to identify and deal with instances of corruption amongst its ranks. The BBC reported that the checks were to see if any employees bank accounts had any links to those of the company's suppliers.

But is this a bad thing or a good thing? Corporate surveillance can be perceived as a distinct absence of trust for employees but on the other side of the coin, isn't it also a very positive step the company's former bosses took to ensure that their company's business was being run honestly and transparently? Not that it is an act of transparency to secretly 'spy' on staff - but I suppose that informing everyone in advance of such a project would defeat the whole object of the exercise!

In the instances of the Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat scandals, if the cameras have been focused firmly on the leaders of the organisations the fall-out would have been reduced significantly. But, as it is on most occasions the leader/s who authorise such a practice, they are unlikely to promote such a practice for themselves.

A certain Mr Madoff is also in the news. His alleged multi-million dollar fraud could have and some commentators say, should have been avoided if his company's accounts had been audited by a genuinely independent accountancy practice.

We may have to accept that in some situations, actively observing and indeed investigating employee behaviour (from the very top downwards) is a very good thing. Moving away from the old adage 'if you've nothing to hide, there's nothing to be concerned about' to 'it's in everyone's best interests that we all demonstrate transparency'. Remember in the UK in the 1970's where a car manufacturer British Leyland identified that some of its assembly line workers were stealing car parts from their employer - not to sell or indeed use the parts individually. At the expense of British Leyland, they were building their own cars at home!

Is there a difference between 'spying' and 'managing quality'? Is it the intention on which the action is based? If you don't trust your boss, isn't it likely we will view it as spying or micro management, whereas if we do trust our boss, we are more likely to view it as a genuine corporate requirement?

How do you perform when you feel you aren't being trusted? How would you respond if your employer was found to have been watching your every move?


Showing Two Fingers To Bad Behaviour - Football's Shameful Leaders

Many companies have a clause in their employment contracts which states something along the lines of 'the employee agrees to behave themselves, not be stupid, silly or get into trouble with the police - basically...BEHAVE YOURSELF'. Is it fair for a company to impose such a stipulation on its employees when they are outside of the workplace and outside their working hours? There is after all this growing awareness of human rights - we should be free to do as we please when away from work. Well, such a general statement could cause chaos in a world where social ills such as violence, illegal drug use and booze culture are growing fast.

But what about when a professional sportsperson/footballer (or two of them in this case) choose to break the rules set by their national team manager by allegedly going on a heavy drinking session when they should have been tucked up in bed in preparation for representing their county 24 hours later? Some people may challenge 'Well, as long as they perform on the pitch, why is it a problem?' while others may claim 'They get paid enough to behave themselves, how stupid can they be?'.

But while national team manager George Burley and Walter Smith, Rangers' Manager thought they had effectively resolved the matter of 'drinking on duty', what made matters worse, much worse in fact was the two players' two finger hand gestures to the television cameras during the Scotland v Iceland match when they were both on the bench and not selected to play due to their manager suspending them.

Whichever way we look at the situation that Barry Ferguson and Allan MacGregor currently find themselves in, the facts of the matter are:

  1. The Scottish Football Association has decided that both players cannot represent their country again.
  2. Both players have been suspended by their club for 2 weeks and have been fined 2 weeks' wages. Perhaps this isn't a big deal in itself as Ferguson reportedly earns £25,000 per week and MacGregor £15,000.
  3. Barry Ferguson has been stripped of his club captaincy role and both players transfer listed by Rangers. They are unlikely to play for their club again, even though the Scottish league championship is rather tight this year and Rangers would benefit from having their best players available.

So what does this mean in a corporate sense?

How do you tackle those team members who choose to flout the rules and standards that your organisation set and you are paid to implement? Do you turn a blind eye if the rules are being broken by a high performing team member because you can't afford to upset them in case their performance drops?

How about, if as in Rangers case, you have a good chance of 'winning the championship' and you feel you can't afford to take your best player/s out of the team? Either way, whether they remain in the team or are suspended/fired, what messages do you send to other team members who behave impeccably well on a consistent basis?

If a member of your team behaves in such a manner that s/he is ultimately removed from your organisation, would you still provide a job reference saying they were a model employee/committed/dedicated, not mentioning the reason they left your organisation - even if the prospective employer asked you?

How many times do you give a team member 'another chance' to behave within the boundaries set by your organisation? When is enough, really enough?

What situations have you faced, or are facing where someone's behaviour is being tolerated even though it is destructive?

When have you procrastinated on taking action on a poor performer and it has got worse?

Have you had a time when you procrastinated on taking action on a performance/behaviour issue and the matter seemed to resolve itself?

Why do some people choose to let their ego get in the way of doing what they are paid (and hopefully, trusted) to do?

There is a big difference between 'making an example' of someone and leading by example. In my view, Walter Smith has set a standard which as well has having potential serious repercussions for both players future career prospects, sends a clear message to his current and future players - behave, or else. Perhaps Mr Smith is leading by example as football is supposed to be a family game and he may not want to promote the possibility of young, impressionable children accepting the behaviour of their role model/s as the norm.



Personal Impact - Getting Below The Surface to Shared Understanding

We all have an impact. Whether we know it or not, whether we care or not, we all impact other human beings with our gestures, communication and even our personal values. Have a think, if you and I work together and in the early stages of the relationship, we both agree that 'honesty' is of great importance to us, should this agreement and shared value make working together less stressful, more enjoyable and even more fulfilling? Nope, not at all! Unless that is we both understand what exactly 'honesty' means to each of us. For example, many moons ago, I was invited to facilitate an open and honest discussion between a senior manager and a subordinate. They had completed such a discussion at interview stage and the senior manager (also the recruiter) stated that one of the main reasons he selected the applicant for the job was that he 'felt on the same page'. Very dangerous - especially when just 3 months into the working relationship, their relationship had become toxic, information that should have been shared wasn't being shared and both individuals had founded their own little 'gang' to bad mouth their colleague and reinforce the supposed 'fact' that they were right and the other person was wrong. Gangs can be very powerful in helping our ego be stroked, they won't though dig us out of the very deep hole we will eventually find ourselves in when gang members leave, change allegiance or simply get fed up of listening to us bad mouth someone or persistently moan on.

How could this happen after such a positive and enjoyable selection interview? Quite easily actually! Following discussions with both parties I established that the word 'honesty' had a very different meaning for each person. For the new staff member, honesty meant that there was open, honest dialogue and information was shared in a timely manner with everyone's best interests at heart. There was to be no personal or hidden agenda overriding the needs of the team or business. To do such things would amount to 'being dishonest'. On the other hand, the manager stated that for him 'honesty' meant 'telling people how it is', 'letting people know where they stand' and also included ' and 'giving feedback that makes people listen'.

Let's bear in mind that in the real world (not our own little world) in the absence of indisputable facts we can only tell people how we see it, not how it actually is. We can only provide our opinion about a subject or situation. While it may not be what we can accurately call 'the truth', it is nonetheless 'our truth'. Letting people know where they stand can be extremely useful if it is designed to agree roles, responsibilities and boundaries within which someone is to operate. This clear context can stop individuals and teams going off track and missing deadlines and quality standards. When it is used though to set a command and control, ego based relationship, it can serve to destroy trust, loyalty and employee engagement. And why wouldn't we want to provide feedback that makes people listen? The word 'makes' in this instance reflected a 'I'm right so don't dare to speak back to me' approach rather than 'helping' someone want to listen - and really appreciate the feedback being provided. Indeed, helping someone want to listen is more focused on win-win, collaboration, supportive and even motivational, simply because it is said with a positive intention that will probably help the relationship grow and prosper rather than fall apart and cause toxicity.

As it turned out, when both parties shared their definition of 'honesty' and what it meant to them, the relationship got on to an even keel. Both parties gave each other permission to provide candid feedback but only if it was with an intention of improving a situation - backstabbing was no longer to be the order of the day. A wonderful demonstration of integrity - which is another personal value that they shared. I only hope they got some shared clarity on what this actually meant to each other as this too could cause problems that wouldn't be spoken about for many months, just like honesty.

One powerful lesson I learned from my mother was 'Always be honest with me, it's a high standard to hold, and it's far easier to remember'. If only business leaders would demonstrate such a standard wouldn't our world be a little bit more enjoyable?

The Lewis Hamilton/McLaren Approach to Winning - Is It Worth It?

Today, Formula One's governing body, the FIA have announced a suspended 3 race ban for McLaren race team and their reigning world formula one champion Lewis Hamilton. Good news or bad news?

A quick review tells us that during the Australian Grand Prix, both McLaren and Hamilton collaborated to withhold information from race officials when Hailton finished the race in fourth position behind Toyota's Jarno Trulli. The incident which caused the McLaren team to appeal against Trulli's 3rd placing was that he had illegally overtaken Hamilton while the race was under the control of the track safety car. This means that no overtaking is allowed until the safety car has left the track and normal competition recommences. McLaren stated that they had not intentionally allowed Trulli to overtake Hamilton, but (and this is the really clever bit), Hamilton's communication with his team officials was recorded. And when the recording was played back, it contradicted what the team had told race officials, perhaps to elevate their team and driver to a place on the podium. More can be read about the details of this incident at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8024661.stm

Transferring this sporting situation to the business arena, have a think about the following:

Hamilton is currently world champion and has become something of a hero for being a 'good guy' who persevered through personal challenges during his childhood years to pursue his passion and has developed a very powerful reputation for youngsters and adults alike. He seems a quite likeable chap.

Did Hamilton choose to be misleading/dishonest and willingly collaborated with his team-mates to mislead officials in order to gain a better placing in the race? Hamilton stated that his boss, Dave Ryan had instructed him to 'withhold information'. Doesn't this reflect Dr Robert Cialdini's point that subordinates often feel compelled to comply with an authority figure, even if they don't agree with the boss's decision? This principle, in another way, helps Hamilton to abdicate any personal responsibility for his (choosing) to comply and (choosing) to be allegedly misleading/dishonest. Relate this back to the workplace and this is where a junior employee will say 'I was just following the boss's orders' when a problem appears or quality has suffered. For schoolchildren when caught stealing or mis-behaving it's something like 'Johnny MADE ME do it.'

When officials heard the radio communication between Hamilton and his team-mates (the game was now over), Hamilton quickly made an emotional, and possibly, genuine apology for his part in the scandal. Is this because he had been found out, because his personal brand, and potentially the brand of each of his sponsors would be damaged to some degree? Just thank of how his sponsorship negotiation power has diminished for his next renewal discussion! I invite you to learn more about 'guilt by association' in the corporate arena. Perhaps Hamilton has learned that honesty is the best policy - as it's really easy to remember, and hopefully, that 'doing the right thing' is just as important as 'doing things right' in a high-speed motor vehicle.

It's true that we can learn from mistakes - at least if we choose to. But what do you think the initial response of Formula One's governing body, the FIA might be if McLaren/Hamilton complain or appeal a decision mid-race in the future? Might they be more interested in ensuring they aren't being duped than ensuring that they are applying the rules and regulations of the race itself? Will an element of suspicion, unfounded or otherwise exist towards McLaren, even though the team now has a new boss who has implemented 'a complete culture change'? WOW, he's managed to achieve this in just a few weeks? Management Consultant's appear to take years, if not decades to achieve this in the corporate arena!

The decision by the FIA to impose a 3 race ban which will only be imposed if 'further facts emerge' about the incident or if there are 'further breaches of the rules'. Prior to the FIA hearing, news media were reporting that McLaren could be suspended, if not thrown out of Formula One forever. Perhaps a little sensationalist? Well, when in the grasp of a global recession, team sponsors such as Royal Bank of Scotland amongst others not being in a position to continue with multi-million pound sponsorship deals and F1 enthusiasts perhaps watching their pennies a little more - the last thing the FIA would do was to ban a team. It wouldn't be good for the F1 brand or keep money in the sport.

In terms of Hamilton's previously unblemished record in terms of appearing to be a decent bloke, remember, we human beings keep score. We tend to remember when someone has deceived us, and trust, while it can be restored, it can take a long time to forgive - not so much forget.

The danger with blaming. An important point to bear in mind for the viewing public and Hamilton and F1 enthusiasts is this. When we label another human being, we don't define them - we define ourselves.

I hope that you win each and every day, but please don't allow it to be at the expense of your character and integrity.

Thoughts? Please do share.

Is Customer Service Only for Existing Customers?

The email below demonstrates how even when times are tough, some companies just don't appear to appreciate that keeping commitments is so vital to them attracting and also potentially retaining customers (income).

Lots has been written about customer care and much of it is really good stuff. Really simple stuff - perhaps too simple for some people within companies to comprehend. The context is this. My friend visited a car showroom to explore a 3 year rental on a new vehicle (rrp £22,500). A commitment was made by the sales executive regarding producing and submitting monthly rental costs, but they never appeared. What impact does this have on the potential customer? I can't or won't trust you. They have told me of course, and now I'm sharing it with you. Good news travels fast - bad news, even faster!

In the UK several car manufacturers have either reduced car production, and one or two have stopped altogether for at least 2 months. There is a stockpile of vehicles waiting to be sold, possibly at knock-down prices because of the economic climate, and on this occasion, perhaps the sales executive didn't want to sell/lease a vehicle for reasons best known to herself.

If you are the chief executive of a company with 100 employees, whether it is in sales, production, quality control, customer care or health and safety and just 10% of these employees demonstrates such a blase approach to their work, what do you think the impacts could be for you and the future of your company?

How can managers put a positive stop on such behaviours/attitudes? How do you hold each employee personally responsible for their actions or inactions? When does poor performance become a formal disciplinary matter? How do you actually know when a company actually truly cares about you, your well-being, your results and value for money?

Email is below.

Dear Mr ......

I wanted to share some feedback with you regarding the experience my fiancée and I had recently at your showroom.

We enquired about a new VW Tiguan and were advised that we would receive quotes by email within 48 hours. This is now 2 ½ weeks ago and despite my partner and I phoning your sales rep on 4 separate occasions and leaving messages for her, we have received no response. While we initially asked for a 3 year lease, we have now agreed to actually purchase the vehicle outright from another dealer. This dealer kept their commitment and offered a deal which is good for us and they say it is good for them too.

While I feel it is reasonable to receive a high quality of service at any time, at a time when the economy is on a slippery slope, I’d expect a car dealership to do its best to make the most of turning prospects into customers. As we have now agreed to purchase the vehicle, I'm sure you can figure out how much income your outlet could have attracted, and how much it has now lost. Here’s to hoping that our experience was an isolated incident.


Don't Get Too Excited Too Soon - You Could Lose Out

Negotiation is a wonderful thing. When two or more human beings agree to speak openly, honestly and with everyone's best interests in mind, it can lead to an abundance of authentic, collaborative problem-solving and genuinely win-win relationships can be developed.

Using a car purchase as an analogy, have a think about the following scenario:

Car dealers are having a really tough time and you decide that it's time to make the purchase for your new vehicle. But, as you already know that the car sales industry is on it's last legs, at least for the forseeable future, you decide that you are in a very powerful negotiating position. You think, 'He will want to sell me the car more than I want to buy it'. A rather innocent, yet possibly misguided view perhaps?

The brand new, shiny, sexy looking car will bring you adulation, a few 'wows' from colleagues and friends the first time they see you in it. But remember, you only ever get one 'wow' from anyone - and the cars value has already lost a few thousand pounds within seconds - not minutes of your purchase. Watch out, there are more shocks to come!

The car is priced at £20,000. It's the very car you had set your heart on. But you already know, the dealer doesn't really expect you to pay £20,000. They've gone up in order to come down in price. This is the negotiation about to commence.

But, with your insider knowledge of the car market, you decide to be really cheeky, even a little mischievous and offer over the telephone a paltry £14,000 or it's no deal. Your expectation is that the dealer will return with a counter offer which will reach somewhere in the region of splitting the deal 50/50. You expect it, the phone rings and it's the dealer.

As you are the lucky customer this week and they appreciate your business, they have decided to accept your offer of £14,000 for the car (which retails at £20,000 remember). Tell me, what are your first thoughts about their acceptance - without a fight?

  1. I could have done better.
  2. I should have started with a lower offer.
  3. What's wrong with the car because they gave in too quickly/easily?
  4. Ouch - how do I get a lower price without appearing too greedy?
  5. Something else???

What you didn't know, and the dealer wasn't about to tell you was this. Their profit doesn't only come from the profit made on each car, it is also generated from the volume of cars sold each month. They don't even have to sell all of their stock at a profit, they can sell one or two at a loss or break-even. And because you didn't know this, your initial negotiating power has all but disappeared.

When there is a high level of trust in a relationship, both parties are often willing to negotiating a genuinely win-win deal. A deal where the seller can still make a profit and where the buyer can know or at least expect that their needs and wants will be taken care of as agreed. When there is low trust, it's everyone for themselves - self-serving, self-defeating attitudes, behaviour and communication. See my previous article about buying a car and relating the tactics back to the workplace.

The moral of this story for the workplace? Don't get excited too soon, remain calm and seek to understand as much of the detail as possible. Always keep a win-win mentality very much in mind, help set a context so that all parties can negotiate openly and honestly to achieve what needs to be achieved and to deliver what needs to be delivered - to the standards required. Get the best deal you can, but not at the expense of losing trust and causing toxic relationships.

The long-term challenges faced by nationals of Northern Ireland were eventually progressed because the concept of win-win, letting go of the past upset/anger and resentment and focusing on how to negotiate for the future benefit of its people won over blaming each other and living in the past. Remember, the good thing about the past is, it's over. The bad thing about the future is, many people just expect it to be something other than brilliant. It's that very thought that stops it from being as wonderful as it can be.

How are the levels of collaboration and trust in your team? What steps can you take to improve relationships so that when you do need to negotiate, the relationship is solid and based on mutual respect and integrity? Do share.

Top Ten Ways to Make Your Management Training Really Work For You

When the economic outlook was bright, choosing an external training partner was a pretty tough task. But now, with the economic outlook being rather bleak, my company has noticed a significant increase in the number of enquiries for associate relationships. How can a corporate buyer be certain, or at least, very confident that they are making a good decision when appointing an external partner? Here are my top 10 tips to make your management training programme work really well. Apply these tips and you will not only minimise the possibilities of things going wrong, you will proactively be ensuring that your management training programme delivers excellent quality and (with your involvement) the results you want most too.

  1. Do your homework - Be clear on why you want/need the training now. What organisational pressures or goals are driving this training programme and what contribution are you expecting from your training partner?
  2. What is the rationale for outsourcing your management training programme? Make sure your organisation is clear about WHY you are looking to outsource. Do you need external expertise and skills? Is it a project deadline you can't achieve on your own? Or is there another reason? Either way, clarity really helps.
  3. What is the level of risk involved? The consequence of a poorly chosen PC repair service provider (if you catch the damage early enough) might only cost you a couple of PC's and a few annoyed colleagues. But outsourcing your whole custoemr service support to the wrong provider could cost you a great deal in sales. Be very careful outsourcing your recruitment and development of managers who can't demonstrate a consistent level of competence and client satisfaction. Clarity on how performance will be measured is a real key point here.
  4. Think past the consultants sales pitch. Word of mouth referrals are almost always the safest way to select a management training partner. A recommendation from a trusted colleague, acquaintance or advisor is far safer than simply seeing who is listed on the internet or Yellow Pages. And then you have to ensure that the provider has credentials that meet your requirements. Some points to pay attention to: Establish early on exactly who will be allocated to your training and development programme.Ask about this person's expertise, track record, qualifications and level of authority within their company.Don't take a cv or personal profile as a statement of fact. Dig deep and check client testimonials.
  5. How consistent is the expertise level? Bait and switch is one of the most annoying practices employed in the outsourcing sector. Providers show up to the sales meetings with senior personnel but when the contract has been secured, you rarely if ever see them again - unless there is something they can sell to you. Agree who will be involved in the day to day work before signing a contract.
  6. Are reliable client testimonials available? A client list is one thing, and they can look impressive. But to maximise the possibility of your potential partner actually delivering their commitments, look for client testimonials. Real feedback from real people in a similar situation to you. Having to choose an external training partner. If verifiable testimonials aren't available, perhaps you would be best not making such an appointment.
  7. Are the deliverables actually deliverable and realistic? Beware of providers who promise you the world. Their intention may be genuine and well-intended but even the most impressive sales pitch will end in frustration (and possibly litigation) if agreed deliverables aren't achieved. Remember to be reasonable with your requests, however important your project. Don't be so relaxed that any results, however small, appear like success. And don't be so difficult and expect so much that even very positive improvements/changes are deemed to be failure. This is a two-way relationship and win-win is vital.
  8. How will the provider will assist with in-sourcing. You don't want to be locked into a provider in such a way as to militate against switching providers or bringing the function in-house in the future. Answering this question will help you to identify potential partners whoc should be able to provide what you need. Once you have chosen the provider, include the transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise in your contract document. This will ensure that both parties are properly protected.
  9. Get the contract right. The contract is where all the assumptions about how the provider will work with you are made explicit. It is also the place where the provider's expectations of the client are also made explicit. Enter into negotiations with a genuine win-win relationship in mind. You want to achieve your outsourcing objective with your partner as smoothly and effectively as possible. The contract should allow the provider and yourself to be clear on your expectations of each other, an element of flexibility to change project timing, logistics and allow both parties to feel they are contributing and receiving value for money.
  10. Use honesty as your standard in all of your dealings. Appointing an external training partner can be like a boxing match on some occasions. You don't want to be hit with an incompetent provider so you are a little cagey to start with. The external training partner doesn't want you to 'steal' their intellectual property so they give it to you one small piece at a time. Start your initial discussion with a clear commitment to honest dialogue and transparency in every aspect.

This is an excerpt from Scott Watson's book 'Win Every Time - Essential lessons for existing and emerging leaders'


A Different Way to Negotiate with a Sales Rep - Apply this to Management

Whatever our position, job title or status within an organisation, one thing rings true throughout. We are ALWAYS negotiating. Whether it be about budgets, resources, deadlines or when attempting to find some common ground and shared understanding following a problem, the ability to negotiate effectively is a very hand tool to possess. The ability to negotiate effectively is a good starting point, but a bad ending point. The willingness to negotiate fairly ideally partners ability.

Consider the following negotiation when I was looking to lease my current car.

Do I call 6 or 7 local dealers and have them send me information so I can compare quotes on a like for like basis? What are some of the potential downsides to this approach? Well they may include the sales rep assertively insisting that I visit his showroom to inspect the car and to allow him to gather more information. Nothing he couldn't do over the telephone if he could be bothered. No, the sales rep wants me in his showroom so he can influence me face to face, ask searching questions, to keep me in his (not my) conversation, to hand me a document for contact details - name, address, telephone number etc, not to just keep in contact, but to subtly pressure me into completing what turns out to be an order form. How dishonest is that?

Do I email 6 or 7 local dealers, with the email showing each dealerships email address and ask for quotes to be submitted by email only within a 72 hour timescale so I can compare quotes on a like for like basis? Absolutely yes! Why? Well, by setting parameters for HOW someone can respond, you take control of the sales reps ability to influence you. If they choose not to comply with your genuinely reasonable request, they are out of the running to generate a sale. What does the publication of other dealers email addresses do to their brain? Possibly starts to fry their brain BECAUSE they are now under immense pressure to either comply with your reasonable request OR try and break the rules by telephoning you 'for more information' to persuade you to visit their showroom. Bearing in mind the brief and specifications in my email were precise, there was no need for anyone to call me. But 3 did and immediately lost the opportunity to quote, never mind make a sale.

Common tricks employed by car sales reps include:

Good cop - bad cop. This is where the sales rep is discussing a price with you in his office and continually returns to his boss's office allegedly 'doing his best' to get you the deal you want. He insists that he will keep going back to speak with his boss on your behalf (yeah right) and is really pulling out all the stops to look after you. Let's think about this for a moment. The sales rep is employed by the dealership in order to help it make a profit. Why the heck would he want to do what is best for you - against his employer? Absolutely no reason at all. So, how do you get past this trick quickly and effectively? Firstly, don't be fooled in to having a cup of coffee and a biscuit while you wait. Bearing in mind coffee is hot and there is an unwritten psychological obligation that you must reciprocate by waiting until the sales rep has done his bit, you can't really leave politely without first finishing your HOT drink. So there's at least 5 minutes they have to influence you - on their terms, not yours.

Whatever you do, don't take a hot drink. It could cost you thousands of pounds you didn't intend to spend.Why? Simply because it takes time for a hot drink to cool down to an acceptable drinking temperature. Also, they are virtually always served in thin plastic cups which are a sod to keep hold of for long - so you drink more slowly! Get the picture? There's also the social obligation of reciprocity which comes in to play. The sales rep was kind enough to offer you (talk you int having) a hot drink so it would be rude to leave without finishing it. And you thought they were just being nice.

Don't go and wait in the sales reps office. The psychological pressure to stay put rather than get up and leave can become immense, especially when it has been preceded by an assertive, pushy or downright aggressive sales pitch. Stay in the showroom or potter about outside.

Don't get caught up with good cop -bad cop acting. If the sales rep says 'I'm going to see my boss to negotiate the best deal for you'. Politely insist that you accompany him to his boss's office so you can all have that dialogue. It scares the heck out of a sales rep when they notice that someone knows all about their tricks in advance. Give the sales rep a specific timescale to produce their best price. It could be 'I'm sure that in 15 minutes, you can agree with your boss what your best price would be for this vehicle. I'm prepared to allow you 15 minutes to agree your best price and when 16 minutes appears, I am leaving forever.' Sounds dramatic, but again, allows you to take control rather than being controlled. You may be surprised just how quickly the sales rep returns, firstly, to try and offer you another hot drink - but you now know why this is, and to again tell you that he is doing his best for you. He is doing so well for you that his shirts top button is now undone and his once straight (possibly designer) tie knot is now half way down his chest. Oh, how my heart bleeds!

Don't be drawn into 'Sign Today' deals. This is designed to pressure you into thinking that a 'special deal' or discount is being produced just for you. Believe me, it's not! It's being produced just for the dealership. The best decisions are usually not made on the spur of the moment, they are made following a period of reflection and consideration. Control your impulse to buy and you could enhance your negotiation capability. I once had a dealer say to me 'If you don't buy it today, the car will go'. My somewhat sarcastic response was 'Well, it should GO, it's got an engine hasn't it.' You guessed it, I didn't buy from this bloke - and he didn't keep in touch!

Don't answer the question 'Where do we need to be to sell you this car?' This is a sign of desperation on the sales reps part. If you answer with a specific number, firstly, you may be paying more for the car than their bottom price, secondly, in order to make the price of the car appear cheaper, they will want to extend the monthly payment period, perhaps by a few years. But if they tell you at all, 60 months for some reason sounds less than 5 YEARS. When they have presented their supposed 'best price' to you, all you need to do in response to their question is politely say 'Oh, come on, you'll have to do better than that'. Don't say by how little or how much, just stick with the phrase and invite them to reconsider.....and the clock is ticking and, no, you don't want another scorching cup of coffee. If the rep returns to you for a second or third occasion, each time dropping the price, what does that demonstrate to you? Yep, there's still further room for negotiation. If the rep has supposedly pulled out all the stops for you - and they rarely if ever have in my experience, politely thank them for their efforts, hand back the empty cups, stand up and walk away. They've been using this stuff on you, so why not use it WITH them? Again, you may be surprised at the efforts they will make to get you to stay.

Retain the willingness to walk away. If a sales rep repeatedly returns to you with supposed new and improved deals, ask him to confirm each in writing on a company headed compliment slip. You can ethically use the written information to negotiate with another dealer - and you can show the sales rep a little contrast in their own offering. 'Each time you come back with an alternative deal. I want your final offer of a deal on the next compliment slip please and then I'll decide whether to buy from you...OR FROM SOMEONE ELSE'.

Forget the add-ons. They are virtually worthless.

Car dealers may offer you incentives such as free mats (wow), half a tank of petrol (no lasting value), a bouquet of flowers (which you're paying for anyway), FREE roadside assistance (which you're paying for anyway), a multi cd changer (no thanks, I have an ipod), FREE extended warranty (why extended, isn't the car very reliable?). You want the alloys, but the dealer says 'Come on, you know they retail at £1000 for the set.' You're just about to concede the point and then ask 'But what price DO YOU the dealership get them for? I bet it's nowhere near the retail price. Show me your costs and we can go from there.'

Just so you are aware, I love to buy, but I don't enjoy being sold to. Without sales reps our economy would be in an even worse state than it currently is. We need good sales people, the one's who choose honesty and win-win over self-serving, ego based blagging - they are the ones to watch for.

How can you apply some of these principles at work? Who is using these tools, tricks and techniques on you? What impact is that creating? Does it help to develop trust or destroy it? Does it enhance collaboration and teamwork or damage it?

Just to be clear, while a link to a complaint forum relating to a car dealer is below, I have never had any dealings with the company mentioned. My comments in this blog feature does not relate to any specific dealer or showroom. The links are included just to share some relevant stories and news items.



Influencing - With a Tip!

My partner and I enjoyed a relaxing evening in Manchester this weekend. We stayed in a city centre hotel and not knowing the city's eateries, asked a member of the hotel staff for some recommendations. Almost immediately, he recommended a speciality steak house and asked us both 'what do you think?' After receiving a definite 'YES' from us both he asked our preferred time to eat (not past 9pm) and said he would call the restaurant but was pretty confident the place would not have any tables available...but he would do his best. NOW WATCH WHAT HAPPENED.

Upon returning to us 5 minutes later he coolly advised us that the restaurant was indeed 'packed to the rafters' and that their next available table would be 10.30pm (outside of our preferred time). Pausing for a few seconds he no doubt used our expressions of disappointment as leverage to then state 'BUT I've managed to get the receptionist to reserve a table for you both AT 8.30...as you wanted.

So what happened here? This chap identified parameters within which to work his influence. He applied the rule of information (I know the best place in town), scarcity (packed to the rafters), likeability (he was a decent enough chap who had served us politely at the bar) and finally the rule of reciprocity. How? Well, look what I have done for YOU. Now, it's time for YOU to do something for ME. Yes, he got a thank you and a fiver tip, which he duly accepted.

Have a think for a few minutes. Who is influencing you? Are they doing it honestly and ethically? What are some of the influencing traps you just seem to fall in to without thinking? I highly recommend you explore Dr Robert Cialdini's work at www.InfluenceatWork.com This gentleman is a true expert in his field and shares his expertise in a wonderfully kind manner.

The Right Honourable? MP's Expenses and Trust

Print and broadcast media in the UK continue to focus on the MP expenses scandal. Even the use of the word 'scandal' impacts how we feel about or perceive a situation - even before we know the facts.

A growing number of MP's (people supposedly trusted...yeah right, to represent the residents of their constituency in an honest and fair manner) are being identified as having taken advantage of the rules governing the claiming of expenses, in addition to their salary, which for a non ministerial level MP is approximately £67,000 per annum. This salary equates to approximately £5,583 per month before taxes.

The BBC reported that former Minister Elliot Morley had been suspended from the Labour Party, the governing political party, for claiming £16,000 expenses relating to a mortgage which had actually already been repaid. The main opposition party, the Conservative party, reported that Douglas Hogg, was to repay £2,200 he claimed for the clearing of his moat (nice if you can afford it) at his home. An abundance of other questionable claims continue to surface, and perhaps this will continue during the coming weeks and months. But why is this proving to be such a popular and disappointing news story?

Remember the bankers?

UK bankers have in recent months been in the firing line of MP's for supposedly 'fat-cat' salary packages with significant bonuses for hitting short-term targets. Targets that appear to have contributed to causing the recession that the UK currently finds itself in. The 'looking after number one' mentality of senior bankers was heavily criticised by MP's, many of whom called for swift and decisive action to stop the banking fat-cats continuing to benefit from large pay-offs when being removed from office. What are the sayings about what goes around comes around and those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?

Who do you really vote for?

If you're approach to politics is anything like mine, you won't study every local and national policy of each political party vying for your vote. You'll either pick out a few policies that are most important to you at any given time - such as family welfare, taxes such as income or mortgage related taxes and a few more. Then it's about the candidate's personal impact. Does s/he look like a person who can be trusted? Do they create some kind of emotional connection with you? Do they strike a chord with you in terms of what they are passionately standing for - or even what they are standing against? Think of it this way. Do you vote for the candidate you TRUST THE MOST or the candidate you MISTRUST THE LEAST? There is a massive difference in the quality of any such relationship and as those MP's identified as being rather generous in their expenses claims will soon find out, they may lose not just the trust, but the votes the next time they choose to stand for re-election.

The danger of generalising

It's important to remember that not all MP's from all political parties have made excessive, or what could be viewed by some people as simply dishonest. Holding the opinion that 'All politicians are .................' may be factually inaccurate. And there is a difference between a fact and an opinion. A fact can be supported by indisputable evidence, whereas and opinion is simply a belief we hold about a person, group or situation. Even the reports that 'Trust in MP's is at an all time low' is factually inaccurate isn't it? Perhaps if the media added 'since our records began' would be more accurate. When we feel upset, disappointed, let down or even betrayed, we human beings tend to focus solely or largely on what's wrong rather than remembering what is good about a relationship or situation. And it's a good thing that we can feel these emotions. It would be a bad thing though if the people who actually voted for the MP's to get them their seat in our Parliament didn't use this as an important lesson in leading by example. Don't we have a habit of judging ourselves by our intentions and judging other people by their actions or behaviour?

Do the rules of the game need changing?

However ridiculous or annoying some of the expenses claims may first appear to us, many of them appear to have been made WITHIN THE RULES. OK, perhaps, it is now time to revisit the rules, develop more clarity and perhaps a nice bonus would be a level of transparency. When there is an absence of transparency, some people may steer their thinking towards suspecting there is a hidden or personal agenda rather than finding out the facts. This suspicion leads to trust falling apart - and it can happen very quickly as we are currently witnessing. Doesn't this bring to our attention another point worth considering? That even when acting within the rules and regulations, we can still break unwritten rules and expectations which relate to integrity, character, trust and transparency? MP's may wish to remember that during the war crime hearings following the second world war, many high-ranking German soldiers told the hearings that they were 'just following orders' - they complied with a higher authority who instructed them to behave in such a way, however inhumane or sickening the outcome of such behaviour/action.

To step down or to step up?

As all of the main political parties appear to have been implicated in the expenses scandal, how likely is it that Mr Cameron, Mr Brown or Mr Clegg will be insisting that their opposite number step down from office? Not likely at all I expect. When trust is lost, it can take what seems like forever to restore. It can be done though but it takes people og good character to step up, accept responsibility, speak authentically, apologise genuinely and set the example that the people who voted for them in the first place have a right to expect. Focus on character and not reputation. Our reputation is outside of ourselves and simply an opinion held by other people. It's outside of our control - however, when people say that we're wonderful, it can stroke out ego very nicely. But what happens to our reputation when those very same people change their mind? OUCH! Our character is ours, it is owned by us, is developed by us and is not in any way influenced or controlled by the good, or bad opinions of others. Character involves developing an abundance of trust - self-trust (trust for self) and even if nobody else knows that you have been dishonest or at the very least, economical with the truth - you know. Shouldn't that be lesson enough?

A comedian named Johnny Casson recently stated that 'Children's nappies and politicians should both be changed regularly. And for the very same reasons.' While Johnny's role is to entertain, wouldn't it be a good thing if the people we vote in to power to represent us chose to act in a way that reflects the trust placed in them? And perhaps it doesn't sound too authentic or accurate when the MP's involved in the current situation refer to each other 'As my honourable friend'. It just doesn't sound true anymore, at least for me.

Relate the current situation back to your workplace. Do you choose to focus on developing your reputation or developing your personal character?

Do you speak honestly and candidly about when you've messed up or made an error of judgment

Or do you keep quiet, hoping that nobody notices?

What do you feel it would be like to work for someone who wasn't transparent and who you knew was taking advantage of their position?