Using Time in Negotiations

November 22, 2014

Geeky hipster falling asleep on hand on white backgroundThe use of time in negotiations is a well known ploy that is more effective than meets the eye.

When you come into a car dealer for the third time to look at the same car, that dealer has a significant advantage. He or she knows you have invested significant time into this deal and will be willing to compromise a lot on price.

There are many examples of using time and personal energy as a tactic in negotiations, I will share a couple examples from my own history to illustrate how this works and how you can thwart others who would use time trying to get advantage over you. These ideas were also presented in my book, “Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.”

I recall one situation where a CEO was contemplating the purchase of a diversified company with offices all over the world. The selling CEO wanted to impress the buying CEO with how things work in the fast lane, so he arranged a trip around the world to visit every site as part of the due diligence.

The idea was to exhaust the buying CEO so that he would cave in during the negotiation. The seller even took along two assistants so they could relieve each other and have an unfair advantage. The ploy totally backfired.

I was present when the selling CEO came back from the week-long journey. He looked completely exhausted. His comment was, “Where did they get that guy? He ran rings around us and always came up smiling. We were absolutely dead on our feet.” So, what was intended as a ploy to gain the advantage turned into a liability for the seller.

The secret was that the buying CEO was a master at sleeping on airplanes and in taxis. He could get good quality sleep on every leg of the trip, while all three of the opponents could only sleep a little and did not get much rest for the entire week.

I recall another situation where one party tried to gain leverage using time, and that also backfired. This was a negotiation for a product line made in Japan. The principal, I’ll call him Don, flew over from the United States to negotiate a deal and was scheduled to stay for a week. He was outnumbered, of course, and was a guest on their home turf.

That was a big advantage for the Japanese, who decided to put time pressure on Don. They dragged their feet and brought up all kinds of small issues to avoid the financial negotiations until the final day.

The Japanese host said they found out which flight my friend was going to take so they could get him to the Narita Airport on time, but they actually they got the flight information to know when Don would be getting anxious to close the deal and head home.

At around 10 a.m., the Japanese host asked for a major price concession and stated, “We have been talking now for five days, and it is time for you to show some flexibility. Besides, we have to get going within an hour to get you to Narita on time.”

Don did a masterful reversal when he said,

“Oh, let’s not rush this deal. It is too important; I’m prepared to stay for another week, if necessary, so we can get this right.”

All of a sudden the time pressure was on the other side.

The Japanese host had been entertaining Don every night, and it would take him almost two hours to get home after he dropped Don off at his hotel. He was exhausted and wanted my friend out of his hair, yet Don claimed he was willing to stay for an additional week. The Japanese host quickly made a huge concession, and Don still stayed the extra week to hammer out the details.

The use of time in the negotiation process is always important, and good negotiators find ways to leverage this important consideration. Here are five tips that will help you improve your negotiating effectiveness regarding the use of time.

1. Be more aware of how time is working for or against you during the entire process, not just at the negotiating table.

2. Consider the element of time as a competitive weapon to use strategically and carefully to improve your changes for an excellent result.

3. If your counterpart is trying to use time against you, work to reverse the logic and have it work against the other party. It is fun to see the look on their face when they realize the dynamic has been overturned.

4. Do not telegraph your own anxiety relative to time. Make gestures like you have all the time in the world.

5. When you sense anxiety in the other party, slow down the process to gain leverage.

At the end of the day, the negotiation rests on human beings who have physical and mental limitations. Use the strategies above to enhance your negotiating success, and also use them to be alert to the tactics that others may be using on you.


Silence Your Worst Critic

November 15, 2014

headphonesIn my leadership classes I always ask the group, “Who is your worst critic”? It is no surprise that nearly 100% of the people say, “Myself.”

Only once did I find someone with a large enough disconnect to blurt out immediately, “My Wife!” Even he had to agree that he is also pretty hard on himself.

When we engage in negative self talk, even at the unconscious level, it often undermines our self esteem and can lead to physical and mental ailments. We degrade our self trust, which is a real problem.

It is good to be realistic about our shortcomings so we can improve performance as we learn and grow. There is an important distinction here. When you have done something wrong, you need to own up to it and make corrections in the future. Take responsibility for your failures.

The technique below is for the numerous times you inappropriately beat on yourself thinking you are not as perfect as you could or should be.

If you are 48 years old, you have likely spent 48 years forming a habit of negative self talk that limits your performance and may even shorten your life. The good news is that we humans have a remarkable ability to retrain the brain in a short period of time to form new habits.

Research has shown it takes less than a month of conscious effort to permanently change a lifelong habit. Here is a simple three step process that can quickly change the quality of your life if you give it an honest try.

Step 1 – Catch it

My mental image here is that we all have a kind of beehive of thoughts about ourselves in our subconscious mind. Most of these thoughts are negative. This mass of energy is whizzing around all the time, and we are not even aware of it.

Every once in a while, often for no reason we can identify, one of these negative thoughts about us jumps up into out conscious mind. We are aware of our inadequacy and thinking about it.

For most of our lives these thoughts have made us feel kind of sick as we muse on why we are not more perfect. Finally the thought is supplanted by some other thought or a phone call or something, and the episode is over.

But what if we decided to be proactive and actually catch the thought when we are first aware of it?

My mental image here is one of reaching up with a catcher’s mitt and catching the thought – plop – there it is. We have it firmly in hand now. Step one is completed.

The fascinating part of step one is that by simply reading this piece, you will have increased your ability to catch the thought while you are having it (that is the key) .

In essence, this article is giving you that catcher’s mitt. As of now, if you start a stopwatch it will be less than one hour until you have caught your first negative thought using this procedure.

By the time you go to bed today you will have caught from 3 to 12 of these in your mitt. Wow, that is 3 to 12 opportunities to go on to step 2!

Step 2 – Reject it

Here I use the mental image of hitting the thought with a tennis racket back into my subconscious mind. I reject the thought just like a tennis player serves the ball over the net.

As many tennis players do, I often grunt while doing this using the words “No! I am not doing that any more!” Of course I only utter the words verbally when I am alone, like in the car or out mowing the lawn.

If I am with people, I utter the words silently, but I actually use the words just the same. This has a profound effect because I am training my mind to form a different thought pattern.

Step 3 – Reward yourself

This is the most important part of the approach because this one gives you the impetus to do more of it in the future. Think to yourself, “Hey, that was a good thing. I am actually growing here in my capacity to think more positively. That feels great!”

That is all there is to this simple method of self improvement. Now you just wait for the next negative thought to come along and repeat the process.

The impact of doing this

At first, this will feel awkward or hokey. Do it anyway because you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If you can do it for one day, that will give you enough momentum to do it on day 2. Similarly, by the end of day 2 you will feel some exhilaration as you praise yourself and continue through day three.

By day 4 it will be pretty easy to keep doing it. If you persist using this method for 28 days, you will have permanently changed your thought pattern about yourself. You will use this method instinctively for the rest of your life.

Here is my guarantee to you. If you can do this for 28 days, sometime during that process someone you love or work with will say something like this, “You have changed. I can’t put my finger on what is different, but you really are a changed individual and you wear it well.” If you are like me, several people in your life will notice a difference.

Of course the most important person to notice a difference in you is yourself. You feel better because you really are better.

You have beaten a life long habit of thinking negative thoughts about yourself. Yet you still maintain the ability to see your true flaws accurately and learn from your mistakes.

It is just that you have stopped punishing yourself over and over for not being good enough. What a burden lifted.

I urge you to try this simple three step approach. Look at it this way, it takes almost no time to do this, it is uplifting and fun, it improves the quality of your life, it is easy to do, and you can do it privately so nobody else has to know.

So, for no expenditure of cash or even effort, you will be shaping yourself into a new person. Once you see the benefits of this method, don’t hoard it for yourself. Teach others the wonderful relief of this technique, for as you help others you also help yourself.


Preventing Scope Creep

November 8, 2014

Handyman dog with a hammerOne of the most insidious problems in any kind of project work is scope creep. The impact of scope creep is often a dissatisfied customer or a loss of profit for the vendor or both.

Either way, the situation has caused the result to be less satisfying than what was envisioned.

It is very easy to understand how scope creep happens. No complex project can be fully described in every minute detail before doing the work.

There are always going to be surprises that come up along the way in terms of unexpected delays, schemes that did not work as expected, resources being unavailable, new features requested by the customer, and a host of other changes in the description of the project.

This phenomenon should be understood by both parties ahead of time and not come as a surprise.

There is no 100% guarantee that any project is going to be completed without some change in scope. The trick to manage scope creep effectively is to recognize when a change is being suggested.

It is very easy to accommodate small or subtle changes in the specification for the project, and yet the sum of many small changes can mean a huge difference in the success of the project.

Make sure all changes to the specification are openly discussed. That will protect you at least partially, because it will notify the customer that a change from the original design has been requested.

You can then renegotiate the price or the delivery time in order to accommodate the change in scope.

If you are the customer, recognize that the vendor was not able to envision 100% of the things that needed to be done to deliver your project. In reality, changes in scope will be happening for both the vendor and the customer on every project.

Life happens, and both parties are going to have to roll with the vicissitudes that are being faced on a daily basis.

Here are 12 tips that can help reduce the stress of scope creep:

1. Ensure there is enough communication with the customer when creating the specifications.

2. Do not go into the project with preconceived notions of what the customer really wants.

3. Make sure specifications are detailed and specific, because any vague deliverables are going to be areas of contention down the road.

4. Factor in the potential for scope creep by building contingencies or safety factors into the bidding process.

5. Keep a ledger of requested changes on both sides. It is not necessary to renegotiate the entire deal for each change, but it is important to have all changes documented.

6. Plan the job in phases with sign off gates at specific milestones. If there is a scope change it can be confined to one phase of the project and not infect the entire effort.

7. Look for win-win solutions to problems. Often a creative solution is available that will delight both the vendor and the customer.

8. Avoid rigidity about the job. Make sure the entire project is constantly moving in the direction of a successful conclusion. If things get significantly off the track, call for a meeting to clarify the issues and brainstorm solutions together.

9. Keep the customer well informed about progress of the project.

10. Express gratitude when the other party is willing to make a concession. Good will is important in every project because life is a series of projects, and a poor reputation can severely hamper future income.

11. Have a formal closing to the project where each party expresses gratitude for a job well done. If there were any specific lessons learned during this job, make sure they are documented so both parties can benefit by them in the future.

12. Plan an appropriate celebration at the end of a challenging project to let people feel good about what they have done and reduce the pressure.

The best defense for stress caused by scope creep is to bring all changes out in the open. Changes can occur on either side of the equation, but they need to be made visible and the impact on the total delivery whether it be the specification or the time or cost to make it happen need to be understood along the way.

The key objective is to avoid disappointing surprises that result from lack of communication between various stakeholders throughout the process.


Adopt Problem People

October 31, 2014

Business coachingManaging people is an art that can be very complicated and frustrating. Most managers soon realize that they are spending an inordinate amount of time with a few problem employees.

The Pareto principle applies in this instance: usually 20% of the people will require 80% of your attention.

When you have problem people on the team it is a great distraction because it prevents you from spending time on the strategy or on reinforcing people who are doing good work.

I found a technique that helped me convert some of the more difficult workers into superstars.

The idea is to select one or two of the most difficult cases and “adopt” them. Don’t tell them you are doing this; just start operating in a different way.

The first thing to do is decide which of the problem people are worth saving. You will not be successful at saving them all, but by using this technique somewhere around 50% of the difficult cases can be converted. That can be a huge benefit to your effectiveness.

Real example:

Janice was a caustic employee in one of the departments reporting to me. She once told her manager that he was “lucky to be in business.” Janice was an informal leader of the people on her shift because she was witty and quick. People listened to her, which was bad news for the manager because she was spreading negativity.

I saw great potential in Janice if she could change her attitude. I genuinely liked her despite the rough exterior and acid tongue. She had strength but rough edges.

I started getting to know Janice a lot better. I found out her unique set of needs and opinions. After a while I started to understand what made her tick. I made it a point to drop into the break room almost daily before the start of the shift and sit with her group to just listen. At first it was awkward, but they tolerated me and soon they actually welcomed me to their table.

I started improving the relationship with Janice by asking her opinion. I encouraged her manager to listen openly to her ideas for the insight they might provide instead of rejecting anything that came out of her mouth.

Soon Janice started to turn and soften the rhetoric because she felt more respected.

We were now in a position to go the next step where we asked Janice to head up a planning group for the layout of a new packaging line. Her natural leadership showed in this effort as she was able to quickly get the cooperation of a core group of operators and maintenance people.

The job turned out to be a big success, and we brought in top management and let Janice tell the story of how the job got done early and under budget. Top managers were impressed and said so.

Having a success to build on, we took a further risk and appointed Janice to a supervisory position. We also sent her for some excellent leadership training. She was excited to see these moves because there was real upward momentum in her career: something she never dreamed would happen.

She was making more money and having greater influence in the business. At the same time the negativity was melting away. Gone was the caustic sarcasm that was her trademark for years before. She was a strong advocate for the management side of the actions that were contemplated.

Janice ended up retiring as a very successful supervisor. If she had stayed on, I was considering making her a department manager, she was that strong and effective.

The best part is that she felt better about herself and what she had accomplished in her career.

Recognize that you cannot save all individuals who are problem employees. You can however, change some of them to go from a drain or negative influence on the environment to a very positive, even stellar, performer for the organization. Imagine the power of taking people who are a drag on performance and making them into your superstars.


Leading People Older Than You

October 25, 2014

Middle-aged womanRegardless of how you got to your management position, eventually you will find yourself managing people older than you.

I met one manager last week who is the youngest person in her department. That situation is pretty common these days, and it is a scary one for many leaders, especially those who are not well seasoned.

Here are ten tips that will help you be successful at gaining the necessary respect to lead more senior people effectively.

1. The first few days matter most

Actually, the first few hours or minutes are incredibly important because that is when you plant the seeds of confidence or doubt in your abilities.

Be authentic and do not play head games with people. Show immediate interest in and respect for the people who will be working for you.

Get to know them personally as quickly as you can. Every small gesture of interest in them and their thoughts will transform into credibility for you.

2. Be observant before you try to transform

Many leaders, especially those with little experience, figure they need to impress people with their power or brilliance to get respect. That approach usually backfires.

Before you seek to influence how things should be done in the future, you must first understand and appreciate how things have been done in the past. Do not spout out theories you learned in school in an attempt to snow people into respecting your knowledge.

3. Ask lots of questions

Many new leaders make a lot of statements and expect the workers to listen or take notes.

Instead, ask a lot of questions. The best approach is not knowing the right answers; it is knowing the right questions and using them wisely.

4. Put the age issue out to pasture quickly

People really do not care if their leader is older or younger than them. What they want is competence, compassion, and integrity. When you show those three things and respect people for their knowledge, then they will quickly forget that you are 20-30 years younger than they are.

5. Be genuine

Head games are for losers. Be genuine and real.

Try to figure out what matters and pay attention to those things.

Do not make the mistake of trying to be popular all the time, but also don’t be a jerk.

Think about the behaviors that you respect in a leader and emulate those. Respect people older than you for the experiences they have lived through, and listen to their stories with interest. Avoid doing a “one-up” on an experience that one of your reports conveys to you.

6. Begin to work on the culture

It is the culture of the work group that governs the quality of work life most of all. Work to figure out what is already working well and support that.

Where things need improvement, ask for advice about what people think would work. You do not need to do everything suggested, but you need to let people have a voice.

Work to build higher trust by making it safe for people to tell you what they really feel. In most areas that have morale problems, it is because people are afraid or feel disrespected.

Be approachable and be willing to listen deeply to the opinions of others. Make up your own mind what to do, but only after you have internalized and considered the ideas of others.

7. Be sincere, but not overly lavish, with your praise

People can smell a phony a mile away, and they will have no respect if you just try to butter them up in an effort to gain control.

Make sure that 100% of your reinforcement comes from your heart. People will know by the look in your eyes if you mean it or if you are just saying it. Mean it!

8. Create a positive culture

Motivation comes from within a person. If you try to manipulate the situation by providing perks in order to motivate the workers, you will fall flat on your face.

“Motivate” is not something you can do to another person; rather it is something a person does alone. Work to create the kind of environment where the workers decide this is a better place to work than before. They will motivate themselves in short order.

9. Be humble

People do not warm up to a braggart. Trying to impress them with your Harvard MBA will set you back several years in terms of ability to lead.

People relate to someone who is genuine and willing to learn from them. That attitude is far more effective than trying to win them over with your own prestigious background.

10. Care

There is an old saying that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It sounds trite to say it, but that is really the secret to effective leadership of people who are older than you in years and experience.

Once you have built confidence in you as a leader, the issue of age goes away quickly, and you have overcome a stumbling block that trips many bright young leaders.

I grant that it is possible to muscle in and force your way to compliance with an older population. The problem is that compliance is another word for mediocrity. What you need from people is brilliant engagement, and that is what you will get if you follow the ten tips above.


Please No Bologna

October 18, 2014

garlic bolognaI advocate that each group of managers and leaders establish a list of behaviors that they intend to follow as a group. Reason: when expected behaviors are vaporware or wishy-washy concepts that are not specific, it is impossible for the team to hold each other accountable for abiding by the rules.

It is a mistake to have a long shopping list of 20-30 rules because it becomes too complicated to remember them all or convey them to each other. I think 5-7 behavioral rules work well for a management team.

One rule I wish every group would adopt is the “No Bologna” rule.

This idea is that we are all on the same team here, and we are not here to play games with each other. Trying to impress the other team members by pulling rank or outsmarting or embarrassing each other are common tactics of low performing management groups. If someone on the team wants to be disruptive, then the opportunity is there to bring down the effectiveness of the entire group by orders of magnitude. I have seen it happen numerous times.

If a team adopts a “No Bologna” rule, then a good technique is to have some kind of signal that can be given when someone forgets to follow the rule. Perhaps it might be a raised index finger or some other recognizable sign, like a “time out” signal that the team has agreed to.

One important concept is that the team needs to agree there will be no negative repercussions for anyone giving the sign, even if it is the boss who is causing the problem.

Having a pre-selected, and safe, signal allows the whole team to police the behaviors, and that permission quickly extinguishes the wrong behavior.

I was once with a team that was world class at making jokes at the expense of each other. The jokes were digs or barbs that were intended to be in jest and always taken that way on the surface. Unfortunately there was damage being done under the surface when people picked on each other, even if it was supposed to be a joke.

I suggested that they invent a hand signal to use when someone made a joke at the expense of another individual in the group. Since this was the third item on their list of rules, they elected to use three fingers to indicate someone violated the rule.

The results were simply amazing. In less than an hour the behavior that had been so firmly engrained in the team’s make up was totally extinguished. It only took a couple times of one member giving the sign to another for people to catch on and stop doing it.

The results in this group were transformational. The little barbs stopped, and from that point on the tone of the group was much more supportive. They still had fun and made jokes; they just did not do it at the expense of others.

Take the time with your team to invent some behavioral rules, and also invent some kind of signal to give if the rule is broken. You will find that it can make a big difference in the culture of the entire team.


Operate Ahead of the Power Curve

October 11, 2014

MistakeI was blessed with a wonderful mentor for most of my career. He and I got along famously, and he taught me a number of leadership skills over the years.

He was not a perfect manager himself, as he had a tendency to micromanage people. I found that out early and worked hard to over communicate with him and anticipate what he would ask so I could usually say “I already did it.”

After a while he stopped micromanaging me and left me alone to do what I thought was right.

One critical skill he taught me was what he called “operating ahead of the power curve.”

It took me a while to figure out what that meant, but I eventually got the idea, and the concept has been incredibly important to my success in life.

The idea is to charge at the work to be done very early and do not wait until just before something is due to get it done. That takes some discipline to do, but it is a wonderful way to live.

Reason: you do things in rough draft form well before they are needed and then you can relax and hone them in due time. It works well.

For example, as I am writing this blog article, it is the fourth one I have written this hour. My pattern is to put out one article each week. I have a stock of numerous articles ahead of me so I don’t have to rush them out. I can think about them.

When the inventory gets low, like today when I just exhausted my last article, I bang out 4-6 more articles to get ahead of the power curve.

My wife helps me by proofreading the text and making suggestions for improved content. Then I rewrite the article and have it “on the shelf” ready for when it is needed.

That way, I am never rushed to get an article out and I can take my time working on the content of each one.

Try the technique of working “ahead of the power curve” in your life. The process works well for school papers, for budgets, for painting the house, for any activity that you might want to procrastinate on. Just grit your teeth and do the job early.,

You will find that the quality of your finished work is much higher and you are less stressed about getting it done. That is a wonderful benefit for anyone.


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