4 Things to Do Today to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

We can all use a little ongoing development.  There are certain skills that few people can master and never think about improving.  One of those skills is the art of negotiation.  I admit, there are people who seem to ooze confidence when it comes to wheeling-and-dealing to achieve the result they want.  However, for the majority, being able to negotiate a quality resolution is sporadic at best.

When thinking about negotiating, you could be facing a multi-million dollar deal on the table, a choice between vendors on a specific service or type of software, buying a home, or something as simple as managing your workload.  Negotiation, like any skill, is something you can improve over time as you continue to practice.  And, it’s not about winning or getting everything you want and ensuring the other person does not.  When done well, it’s about skillfully and creatively arriving at a solution that both parties can walk away from with dignity and a level of satisfaction.

According to an article in Psychology Today, by a factor of 2.5, more women than men feel a “great deal of apprehension” about negotiating, reports economist Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon. Women go to great lengths to avoid the bargaining process—paying almost $1,400 more to avoid negotiating the price of a car. (That may explain why 63 percent of those who buy cars made by Saturn, a company that promises a no-haggle price, are women.) But “failing to negotiate her salary just once will cost a woman $500,000 over the course of her career,” she says.  Statistics like those are reason enough to prove that by being a strong, confident negotiator, you can receive more value over time in your interactions.

There are 4 ways to improve your negotiation skills:

  1. Know What You Want vs What You Need- One mistake we make is to believe that what we want is what we are negotiating for.  This should not be the case.  In order to be most successful, you need to focus time on determining exactly what you need.  For example, I recently participated in a negotiation exercise where another person and I had to negotiate for an orange.  We could not share with each other why we wanted the orange.  In my case, I needed the orange zest for something.  The other person needed the orange juice.  But, without proper negotiation, we fell into the ease that most people would of just dividing the orange in half.  That solution did not really give us what we needed.  We both wanted the whole orange.  We each needed only a part.  Dividing it in half was not the most successful outcome.  Had we been allowed to communicate our needs, we could have arrived at the solution that I would take the rind and she would take the inside of the orange.  Then, each person would have had exactly what we needed.
  2. Arm Yourself With Information- Taking time to research that company you want to work for, the interest rates and terms of a mortgage option or the goals of the department head that you are fighting with over resources will be time well spent.  The more you can learn about the needs of the other side, the better off you will be at creatively arriving at the best solution.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Honest-   A good example of honesty paying off comes when negotiating workload.  Many employees today get their work from multiple sources; a supervisor, other colleagues, company leaders, clients, vendors, volunteers…the list goes on and on.  After sifting through what needs to be done, being able to approach certain people and squarely addressing and negotiating different deadlines and deliverables will be key to better managing your work.  Be honest about the various pulls on your time and ask them what aspects of the request are flexible.  Start negotiating there.
  4. Build Relationships- In the end, being able to negotiate a situation with someone will ideally build a stronger relationship with that person.  By showing respect and understanding for the other person’s needs, that person will likely want to keep the relationship going.

Those are a few ways I have been able to have more successful negotiations.  What am I missing?  What techniques do you use?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

HR Happy Hour #204: Customer Success and Advocacy

HR Happy Hour 204- Customer Success and Advocacy

Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

Guest: Howard Tarnoff

Listen to the show HERE

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and I were joined by Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President for Ceridian HCM, and the person responsible for launching and overseeing the Ceridian’s award winning Customer Success Program “XOXO”.

On the show, Howard shared some of the pretty unique approaches to Customer Success and Advocacy that Ceridian has put in place – creating ways for customers to connect and share information and best practices, highlighting success stories for both organizations and individuals, and engaging customer advocates at numerous points along the HR buying journey.

Everything has changed about how organizations and individuals conduct product and market research, how they find and engage with trusted advisors and colleagues, and how they expect the relationship between solution provider and customer to evolve. Innovative approaches like Ceridian’s “XOXO” customer success program represent how modern, empowered, and mutually beneficial provider/customer relationships have adapted to meet these changes.

We also lamented (yes, again), about the terrible winter weather, Steve pitched his idea for a ‘Snow Day’ on May 22, we previewed some upcoming events on our calendars, and dropped the first hint about an exciting HR Happy Hour announcement that is coming soon.

You can listen to the show here, or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through, or go to the show direct link)

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlaneon BlogTalkRadio

As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to add the show to your subscriptions.

This was a great show, and many thanks to Howard and everyone at Ceridian for being a part of the fun.

Stop! 3 Things Leaders Should Not Do on March 6th

I have to admit up front that I am not a fan of made up, fake holidays.  I always figured if anyone in my life needed to use a made-up reason to say they love me (Valentines Day) or appreciate me (Mother’s Day), then they really don’t know me at all.  I would much rather have someone tell me they love or appreciate me on a random Tuesday then sending me a dozen roses that cost $150 on one of those days.  As an aside, this cynicism likely comes from working at a florist in my teenage years and seeing men forget their loved one until the last minute, then rush in to buy said $150 roses just to stay out of trouble.

candy_jar_tootsieWell, we are on the eve of yet another made up holiday…..Employee Appreciation Day.  It’s coming to an office near you on March 6th.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a BIG supporter of telling your team and all your employees how much you appreciate them.  I am a fan of hand written notes, emails, phone calls, taking them out to lunch and more.  What I am not a fan of is the leader who never tells their employee how much they appreciate them, then only does on March 6th as a way to think it’s “all good” for the year.

There are already articles and letters floating around from various organizations telling leaders how they can recognize their employees easily and with almost no thought at all.  It is unreal.  I’m here to say right now that if you are a leader, it is supposed to be hard, not easy.  It is supposed to take time, you are supposed to give feedback and you should put thought into it.  Here are 3 things you SHOULD do on March 6th, Employee Appreciation Day to turn the tides on the “easy” approaches that are not meaningful:

  1. Form Letters-  First, do NOT send the form letters full of jargon and business-speak.  At least, do not send them in the spirit intended.  Instead, print out the letter with all the (insert employee name here, insert project here, etc.) left in.  Then, hand write a note at the bottom sincerely telling the employee how much you appreciate them and that you’d never send them a form letter like the one the note is written on.  It will be quirky and unique.  Another option is to call the team together and start reading the form letter mentioned above to them.  As they look at you completely perplexed, stop reading and tell them they mean more to you than a form letter could ever say.  Go around the room, in front of their peers, thanking them and giving examples of what each person does to bring value to the team.
  2. Donuts-  I know, you’re probably thinking that Krispy Kreme or Duncan Donuts is RIGHT on your way to work and you can grab a couple dozen from the drive-thru.  Don’t do it!  Instead, do some reconnaissance today and find out what kind of candy, gum, or healthy snack each team member loves.  Go to the store and buy each employee’s favorite thing.  It will take more effort, that much is true.  The cost will not be more though and I guarantee that a sincere thank you as you hand the person their favorite snack will be well worth the effort.  I once had a boss bring me a huge canister of Tootsie Rolls “just because” I was working hard.  Since that’s one of my favorite candies, it was a wonderful surprise and I knew she valued me.
  3. Gift Cards- We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy you love.  The same holds true with  a thank you.  Sure, a $5 gift card for coffee is nice, but it’s the easy way out.  Instead, do a more personal act of service.  Something like asking each staff member if they would like something to drink, then going to your company kitchen or the local store, or even coffee shop, and picking it up or making it for them.  It becomes an act of service and for a boss to do something nice that makes them go out of their way is much more meaningful to the employee.

So, there you have it.  Three ways you can make a more meaningful impact in the way you thank your staff.  Oh, and by the way….thank YOU for wanting to do more to recognize them.  It takes a great leader to want to go the extra mile!

Draw Your Troubles Away: Creativity and Feelings

crayons_title*Sharing from the dusty archives…I thought it went well with the theme of yesterday’s post about the blank page and how we can be creative.

I came across a documentary called Crayons and Paper about children who reveal their experiences of the devastation of war through their crayon drawings.  Pediatrician Dr. Jerry Ehrlich began making trips to war-torn nations in 1991.  He took his medical expertise and a pocket full of crayons.  As he treated children and experienced the depredation of their world, he reached across any language or cultural barrier by offering a crayon and paper.  The children used the tools to create their vision of their world.  Not only were the drawings profoundly impactful because they were drawn by children living in the epicenter of a war, it was like a jolt remembering something very basic and important that I had long since forgotten.

Drawing is a therapeutic way to express our feelings.

When was the last time you drew something?  I honestly can’t recall.  I color pictures with my children, but those are usually part of a color book or something that comes pre-printed in an art kit.  Drawing can be an effective way to relieve stress according to the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association and I see the effects on my own children’s behavior and stress level when they take time to sit quietly and draw or color.  Why aren’t more adults using this technique to express our feelings or reduce our stress?

As we look at the various stressors in our work day, my challenge to us is to take time today to shut the office door or sneak off to a quiet place at work and draw. Even if it’s a pen and the back of a printed copy of the latest report from finance, just draw.  Let your mind wander and see what you come up with.  Feel free to share your experience in the comments or tell me why this isn’t helpful for adults.

Creativity: The Importance of the Blank Page

Hegarty-on-Creativity-ReasonWhy.es_One of my favorite books is a little treasure I found while rummaging through an off-the-beaten-path bookstore in London. Hegarty On Creativity is a book of musings by award-winning ad man John Hegarty.  Right from the start it drew me in because he discusses the idea of the importance of the blank page. As long as I can remember, I have been a journal fanatic, so Hegarty’s thoughts and experiences speak to me as a writer.

Not until Hegarty pointed out that, “the blank page is one of the greatest challenges faced by the creative person”, did I think of it that way.  I always look at a blank page as limitless opportunity. To me, a blank canvas is like an unspoken promise.

I can do anything.
I can write anything.
I can create everything.

So, how is it that the greatest opportunity can also be one of the greatest challenges?  Well, it just makes sense.  When opportunity is put before you, or if you’re creating your own opportunity, there is also great risk.  There is the expected risk of failure, but there is more than that.  There is the risk of success~ of succeeding too fast.  There is also the risk of alienating those who are close to you, and that’s ok.

The key is embracing the risk so that you can get to the reward.  How can you do that with the blank page?  Here are 3 key ways:
  1. Consider the blank page your permission slip- Much like when we were kids and needed a permission slip to do things, many adults fall into the pattern of not moving forward with something as if they don’t have permission.  Consider a blank page as your personal invitation to do something new, to disrupt the status quo.
  2. Make the blank page an outlet to give yourself freedom to create-  Sometimes we live or work in a culture where we feel oppressed.  Consider the blank page your ticket to freedom.  You can rework any process, program or old solution.  You can create a completely new business.  You can inspire a person, a generation or an industry.
  3. Use the blank page as a place where you list all your barriers, be it things or people, and strategically work to eliminate all barriers to your goal-  We all have barriers.   What I’ve learned is that those barriers only have power as long as we let them.  Write down all the things in your life that are limiting your capabilities to be the very best you and get rid of them.  It will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
 If you’re in search of inspiration, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Hegarty on Creativity.  His view of the world is one full of honesty, partnership and eliminating barriers.  Well worth the time to read.  Enjoy!

Top 2 Ways To Communicate…. with Me

twitter_birdHow do you like people to communicate with you?  Do you let them know?

I have talked to so many people over the years that complain about the way that they are “forced” to communicate.  Email seems to be the most disliked, if I’m using my totally unscientific research methods of word-of-mouth to compute.  I could write a whole post on email etiquette that would make it better, but suffice to say that there are only two rules to follow:

  1. Only include the people truly necessary
  2. If you are cc’d on an email message, DO NOT REPLY.  It is meant as an “FYI”, not as needing a response.  Nothing irks me more than an whole chain of email replies from people who were just cc’d.

As for other types of communications, I’ve learned that everyone has their top one or two ways to connect them for the fastest replies.  For me, everyone who knows me realizes that Twitter DM is the fastest way to reach me.  Text is second.  I try to make it known to anyone close to me that those are the best ways to reach me.

Do you do the same?

You may be thinking it’s presumptuous to ask other people to reach you in a certain way.  It’s not.  It is helpful.  You not only save them time, you save yourself frustration.  When I was a HR leader I would tell vendors that if they emailed me, they may not hear back for weeks because I received over 200 email each day.  I would tell them Twitter DM works best.  It was amazing how many used that contact method and it kept their ask or pitch concise.  I loved it.

I recently came across a post by my HR Happy Hour co-host, Steve Boese, in which he publicized how to reach him.  It’s also funny, so give it a read.  While written tongue-in-cheek, I think it’s a good example of how to tell people the best way to contact you without being offensive.

So, how do you like to be contacted?  Leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure to reach out to you in the future…

Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out

Whiplash-37013_5Feedback can hurt.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my career.  I’ve received the painful “gift” of feedback from well-intentioned but unduly harsh bosses.  I’ve watched as bright, creative souls were pounded day after day, year after year by tyrant supervisors.  It is appalling.  And if you’re in HR, it’s likely that you’ve given these types of leaders training at some point on how to give more constructive feedback.

You see, for some reason it seems that people either avoid giving feedback and tell other people when someone is doing poorly (in their opinion) or they fly off the handle and use hurtful, unconstructive words that are not meant to motivate, but to belittle and destroy.

Or are they?

I just watched the movie Whiplash and first, let me tell you, no~ EMPLORE you, to watch the movie if you haven’t.  As someone who tries to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Academy Awards, this particular film did not make it to a theater near me in time.  If it had, I would have been furious watching Birdman win for Best Picture knowing that the GEM that is Whiplash was overlooked.

Watch the movie.

Ok, back to the story.  As I watched the movie about an over zealous conductor and his harsh training and feedback for one of his studio drummers, I realized that sometimes, there is a reason feedback needs to hurt.  I started wondering if we’re getting too soft in this era of giving every child a trophy for participation and every employee the “warm fuzzy” feeling just because we think if we don’t, they will bash us on Glassdoor or on social media.  It’s like being led by fear.

The truth is that sometimes, people need harsh feedback.  Sometimes, for feedback to take hold and inspire the person to change, we need to make an impression.  It is a fine line to walk between being helpful and being too brutal.  So, what do you do if your boss is a tyrant when it comes to feedback?

  • Take a deep breath and determine the motive.  Some people are just mean for the sake of being mean.   If that’s the case, RUN.  If not, move on to the next step.
  • Is this out of character?  If your boss is usually constructive and sporadically gives harsh feedback that you can somehow determine is well intentioned, it could be for your own good.  Grit your teeth and bear it.  Try to look past the delivery and cling to the underlying message to understand what you can do to improve.
  • What’s the boss’ motive?  Is their boss riding their ass?  Are they taking the blame for something you did?  Try to figure out why the feedback is harsh.  You may need to take a break for the boss to calm down, then ask for a meeting another time to discuss specific ways you could have performed better.

 

Now, what if YOU are known as the tyrant?  

Well, first you need to decide if you just like being that way or if there is a real reason.  If you enjoy verbally torturing people, get used to the fact that you’ll likely always have high turnover because many people will not put up with your crap.  If you are only harsh situationally, you’re probably ok.  Make sure you’re not violating any workplace policies or breaking any laws (of course). As long as you’re not, then try to use harsher feedback only when absolutely necessary to make your point and to get the recipient to make a change.

Have you worked for a boss that gave feedback that was harsh?  Are you that boss?  Tell me about your experience in the comments. 

Simulated Work Experience for Leaders

agelab*Sharing from the archives.  Robotics and computer simulation continue to grow as a topic in the organizations of today.  What do you think? Will robotic capabilities help us as leaders as we sprint into the future?

I recently read a fascinating article about an experiment at MIT’s Agelab.  Agelab researchers have created technology in a suit that uses robotic technology to take able bodied individuals and put them into a simulated situation where they have limited mobility, limited eyesight, etc.  They are hoping that by having younger individuals wear the suit while trying to perform “normal” day-to-day activities, the individual will experience the challenges an older person does with completing physical tasks.

Seeing the capabilities of the suit made me wonder, could MIT’s Agelab help generation X or Y understand the aging work population and their work behaviors?  From a physical standpoint, I think it could.  Jobs that involve a great deal of physicality can certainly be simulated by technology like this.  What would be even more interesting to me would be a way to simulate the mental challenges a leader faces, and those people in leadership roles tend to have been in the workforce longer.

Much like a simulator for pilots, creating a simulated work experience for leadership roles could actually help train and prepare more junior staff for roles they are working toward.  For example, it would give the staff insight into areas they need to increase skill and knowledge like understanding financial statements, feeling the pressure of multiple high-level demands from the c-suite, negotiating contracts and making critical hiring and termination decisions.

If you could create an ideal simulator for a skill, ability or task that a leader faces, what would you add to the simulated experience that you wish you had known when you were more junior in your career?