Archive for the ‘Negotiation Skills’ Category

Want to make a change? Focus on the small ones

Monday, January 13th, 2014

How’s your success with those New Year resolutions?  It’s depressing isn’t it!  At the very moment we are resolving, in our hearts we know we won’t follow through.  One possible reason for this lack of will is that we set our sights too high. 

One of my coaching clients last year developed a smaller scale approach that she called ‘tweaking’. She figured that if she made a  small constructive change in her communication, but did it consistently, she should get some big results. It worked for her. Her particular tweak was that when team members were discussing work challenges, she would just pause quite a while before she spoke. She realised that often she was sapping team confidence by providing all the answers to challenges they faced. The vow of  silence forced her to wait rather than to leap in and often as not, the team found their own perfectly good answers to the problems.

Many highly productive tweaks are tiny.  As the article: How small changes make a big difference shows. Teams who use constructive touch such as high fives, tend to win more than those that don’t.

In communication, I’d expect the two most common valuable very simple tweaks would be:

1.  Planning conversations and meetings – even if only briefly. The success of this comes from the plan making us mindful of the purpose of the conversation.  Once we know why we’re having the conversation, the brain will focus. Without the awareness, the brain can be hi-jacked by the moment.

2. Listening more – to everyone, including ourselves! We already know what we know, listening can at least add to the information we have.

I wonder what simple tweak would alter your life?

Use stories to engage your audience

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Today a client and I were discussing technical and strategic presentations. She had recently heard a very good presentation at a conference in Australia.  Afterwards she found herself working out what made the communication so good, because the presenter wasn’t charismatic and she wasn’t particularly funny.  Although the presenter did have excellent visuals, it sounded like her very human story was what made it special.  One important aspect of the story was that the woman told  about her failures and moments when she felt daunted,  as well as talking about her successes with the project.

Audiences desire to   connect with a speaker, and sharing our weaknesses as well as our strengths can build a very human connection.

Don’t think that your story has to be very dramatic and set on an Mount Everest type of scale.  Sometimes the very ordinary human tales can be powerful for a group. I was practising story telling with a group of young military people a while ago. Some of their stories were set in exotic locations, others were tales of human courage, but the most effective story was a very simple one about the young recruit going home after her first three months of army training and realising she had outgrown her no-hoper mates.

Write your stories down, you never know when they will be useful. There’s a delightful post about the value of working on the wording of your stories at: iggypintardo’s posterous

You can help your story-telling ability by collecting four different types:

  1. Successes: We all like to be associated with success
  2. Failures: This creates real human sharing and can lead to what you learnt
  3. Funny stories: When an audience laughs they build a sense of belonging in that group
  4. Legends: These provide a very attractive shortcut to meaning.  legends can be true legends, urban legends or stories about famous people that have become apocryphal.

Good luck with using your own life to source transformational stories.


How to ask for a pay rise and do you deserve one?!

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Recently I have noticed a few friends complaining about a lack of money and that they would love a pay rise to help pay for school fees, holidays and so on.  This got me thinking about writing a post about the dreaded task of asking for a pay rise.  Surely this must be one of the most daunting conversations you can have with an employer.

In order to achieve a positive outcome, I have gathered some tips for you.  But firstly, be aware that your employer isn’t interested in funding your lifestyle so do some research so that you have some good convincing material to get you the increase you want.

As with any difficult conversation, you need to plan your approach first.  If you are not prepared and do not come across well, you may have blown your chance, which could mean waiting another six months or more to bring up this issue again.

Firstly, ask yourself : Do I deserve a pay rise?

Have you recently taken on more responsibility? Do you frequently work longer hours?  Is your job now quite different from the job description when you first started?

How much of an increase do you want?  Do some research into this. Don’t expect to be paid well over the market rate. Be realistic. Have a look at the  salary guide in the jobs section on TradeMe

By being well prepared you may find that the dreaded conversation works surprisingly well!  Go into the meeting confident of the work you do and what you achieve.

Explain why you are asking for a raise.

Tell your employer what pay rise you are looking at getting and have with you the research documentation that backs this figure.

Be prepared to negotiate. One of the best books on negotiation is also the simplest:

Timing is also important.  Obviously you shouldn’t request a meeting when you can see your employer is dealing with a big workload.  Perhaps try timing a meeting on or before your anniversary of employment or at the end of the financial year.

Here’s hoping you get what you want!  Good luck!

The key to understanding social interaction?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

When we were kids, my uncle used to play a trick on us while we sat at a meal: He would start scratching his nose, gradually we kids would start scratching too. Suddenly he would shout: ‘Caught you!’ We’d look up and burst into giggles, realising we were all doing the same thing.

That was back a few years….well, a lot of years. It turns out that such imitation is the very essence of what makes us human. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, neurophysiologists found what could be a major way that the human brain creates this unconscious mimicry and called it the ‘mirror neuron’. If they are right, our rapidly expanding knowledge of mirror neurons has very wide implications for understanding how social interaction happens – how we develop into socialised humans, how we can improve our communication, even possibly an understanding of the basis of civilisation itself. So expect to hear the term used frequently in many fields.

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I am a little bit skeptical. In recent years, I’ve watched, at very close quarters, a relative make an exceptional recovery from a serious brain injury. A sample of one, I know, but it has left me in awe at the complexity, multi-layeredness and sheer unexpectedness of the connections in the human brain. The mirror neuron theory sounds almost too handy to be true – a bit similar to the gross over- simplification of the right brain/left brain dichotomy.

Still, who am I to know? Some scientists are expressing wariness. Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology at University of California, Berkley is one. She wrote the wonderful book, ‘The Philosophical Baby’, so she knows a lot about human social learning. On the other hand, the great V.S Ramachandran is a fan, so it can’t all be bad! The Integral Options Cafe has a good brief summary of some of the debate. Anyone have any thoughts on it?

No real difference between male and female brains for communication

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I’ve always enjoyed reading Headlines – the national newsletter of the Neurological Foundation.  If you are interested in the brain, its worth donating to the Foundation  even just to get that newsletter. The latest issue has an very interesting article titled ‘The Brain – 10 Top Myths.  The myth  that relates most to communication is #10 Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. 

The author, Laura Helmuth, states categorically that there is very little difference between male and female brains, the few differences are minor and do not affect any ability. In fact she describes the ‘Men are from Mars’ view as: “Some of the sloppiest, shoddiest, most biased, least reproducible, worst designed and most over-interpreted research in the history of science…”  Now that’s telling us!

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And she’s no slouch – senior editor for the Smithsonian Magazine with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA, Berkley.

Helmuth says that the research about gender differences of the ‘Men are from Mars’ variety are strongly influenced by the beliefs of the test subjects. So all that handy stuff around spatial ability, empathy, who talks most and  judging people’s emotions , does not relate to gender. Presumably socialisation has a big impact, but any gender differences are not due to the brain’s make-up.

When we are thinking about a communication challenge, don’t make excuses for the brain!  Here’s a link if you want to think about this similarity in the context of your love life. You can expect yourself to be able to  pick up on emotions plus shut up and listen – regardless of your gender.  Now where’s something else to blame?

The other nine myths?

  • We only use 10% of our brain:  WRONG
  • Snapshot memories are accurate: WRONG
  • Its all downhill as we age: WRONG
  • We have five senses: WRONG ( she mentions two other senses)
  • The brain is hard wired and can’t be altered: WRONG
  • A blow to the head can cause amnesia:WRONG
  • We know what will make us happy: WRONG
  • We see the world accurately:WRONG

Tips for training with a Webinar

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

In my last blog I was facing the challenge of training by the webinar. I have survived and now I’m up to number 3.

Well actually it’s number 4 as I had to repeat the 2nd one due to ‘technical’ hitches. Only half of the participants were able to hear me which sort of defeats the purpose

So now I am feeling like I can pass on some of my tips and findings. I realise that 3 doesn’t make me an expert  however there has been some problems which we have overcome…and I’m sure you will find your own.

Tip number 1: Get organised well before you start. You need your water as you will get dry and if possible a ‘helper’ to pass the messages to you as they can come in thick and fast

Tip number 2:Rehearse out loud preferably with someone else.  They can do the timing  and give you feedback on whether you are getting your message across or not

Tip number 3:Be careful with colloquialisms. It’s quite difficult to explain when you have a short time to get through the material and you may be holding up the other participants.

Tip number4: Sound enthusiastic.It’s quite a challenge being excited in front of your laptop but it does sound a whole lot better that reading drone like from a script.

I think I’ve passed the first hurdles and can now discard my ‘training’ wheels and start to enjoy this new way (to me) of working with participants throughout the country

Stepping outside your comfort zone

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Gosh things have changed when it comes to giving people information.

Years ago when we started Communicate Consultants we made sure our workshops were interactive with the learning taking place through discussion ,experiential exercises , practical work and not much lecture.

The key was face to face communication over a period of time usually one day. And it still is today.

However I am now embarking on an entirely new (to me ) way of running workshops. Webinars.

Talk about stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging your assumptions on how people can take in information.

Instead of reacting to the participants body language and facial expressions and adjusting the programme accordingly by stopping,asking questions and getting group involvement I am chatting to my laptop.

As much as I like my laptop it isn’t the most responsive of media and doesn’t get my jokes.

So I have had to adjust how I get the message across to the people on ‘the other side’.

It’s a bit like using your voice on the phone to sound excited,enthusiastic and engaging whilst seeing yourself on the camera (like Skype) and looking quite peculiar.

Questions pop up randomly which need answering but I can’t check they have understood or I’ve answered the question correctly.its a case of fingers crossed.

Tomorrow is my second webinar this time on Negotiations to IPENZ The Institute of Professional Engineers

So why do them?

The answer is its an efficient way to get a message across to people scattered over a large geographical area

Its quick -one hour to stimulate your participants to understand some principles and learn some new stuff

And for me it’s the chance to step outside my comfort zone and tackle a new skills-that’s got to be fun!

The key to presence is being present

Friday, September 10th, 2010

A common issue for our coaching clients in the past year has been the challenge of increasing the impact of their personal presence. Their  questions are often: ‘What is this ‘presence’  thing and how do I get more of it?’

While everyone needs to be aware of their personal presence, as we take on more influential leadership roles, we  need to be even  more conscious of establishing our presence.

 The key to it is simple…..or is it?

Seek first to understand

The message isn’t new:  Great personal presence requires us first to simply be present to others – by listening to them very carefully. Steven Covey sums it up well with his quote: ‘Seek first to understand before being understood.’

This seems very straightforward, but most of us tend to go into conversations focused much more on our own point of view – what we find interesting, what we want to talk about and so on.  This approach certainly establishes presence, but of the wrong sort!  To develop a strong positive presence, we need to focus first on understanding where the other person is coming from in the conversation.  

 Active listening is the key communication tool for keeping ourselves present.  There’s a challenge though, because while listening appears to be simple, it isn’t often easy.  The process requires commitment and real discipline of our conscious thought. Sometimes we have to keep repeating to ourselves: ‘I really want to listen to this person.’  When we manage to focus in this way, we are truly present. There is a very powerful story that captures the magic of this combination in The Power of Presence and Listening: A Fellow’s Narrative by Musharraf Navaid MD, in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.