leadership incorporated blog

March 12, 2012

How Not to Negotiate: 7 Essential To-Don’ts and To-Dos

Meet Julie, the leading biz dev rep in a privately held med tech company.

Julie had been underpaid in a biz dev support role for 6 years and pressing for more opportunity. In late ‘09, a regional rep quit abruptly and the company offered her the position with a small increase and the promise of a more substantial raise at her review.

After 2 years, Julie had brought in new business that exceeded $1.8 million. In January 2012, the company expanded Julie’s territory. Their proposed new comp package increased her pay by 25%. They seemed to think she would be thrilled.

Julie knew she should be grateful, but she was disappointed and felt undervalued. Because her salary was low to begin with, a 25% increase just didn’t amount to that much. She knew the company had experienced some significant losses in the economic downturn. She didn’t expect to be paid as much as the other top biz dev people in the company, but she did feel she deserved more.

She scheduled a conversation with the CFO and head of HR. She took in a prepared presentation focused on her tenure, her recent success, and what was fair given the increase in responsibility with an additional region to support.

They listened sympathetically but stood their ground: the company had just given her the largest percentage increase they’d ever offered and the budget wouldn’t allow them to do more at this time. Further, they said, the president was concerned that her current region might be depleted and she should be grateful for the additional territory. They would review it again in 12 months.

Julie left the meeting deflated and overwhelmed by her new workload, even as she questioned her own right to feel badly.

Recently, I’ve heard from people, at all levels of other organizations, who are being asked to do more than ever for less than they know they deserve, but who, like Julie, find themselves unable to negotiate a better deal.

Most of them make the same critical mistakes and miss the same powerful opportunities as Julie

7 Essential To-Don’ts and To-Do’s:

  1. Don’t make it about you. Instead, make a business case. Your needs, wants and what’s fair are irrelevant. A business has a fiduciary obligation to make decisions based on what’s best for the business. Figure out how what’s best for you is also best for the business and you’ll be in much better shape.
  2. Don’t negotiate with the wrong people. Get in front of the right decision makers. When you negotiate with people who are responsible only for the budget the conversation can only go so far. You want to talk to people who are responsible for the future.
  3. Don’t let them keep the focus of the conversation on budget and tradition. Control the direction of the conversation. Do this by asking questions that focus on the future, the value of the services you provide and the cost of missed opportunities, i.e., losing you.
  4. Don’t buy into their story of comparison to others or current limits. Have your own story. And make sure it is all about what you can create, the value you plan to bring, and the potential that can be achieved.
  5. Don’t make a one-way presentation. Make it an interactive conversation. Get them talking about what they want, need, fear and hope for. Listen deeply and respond thoughtfully with ways you can create their wants and hopes and reduce their needs and fears.
  6. Don’t focus on the past. Focus on the future from the perspective of the higher level that you want to attain. The past is done and paid for. The way to get more (often unlimited) money is to demonstrate who you can be for them in the future.
  7. Don’t be ignorant about your own value. Do your homework and know and quantify the value you provide. Make sure that the value you provide significantly exceeds the package you want. Get your employer to quantify it for themselves. If you can get them to do the math and see they come out ahead, it’s usually a no-brainer.

The key to effective negotiation is co-creation. Be creative. And, remember, salary isn’t the only negotiable. By the way, all of this applies whether you are negotiating for your career with your employer, for your company with a client or for yourself with your spouse or kids.

Good luck. I’d love to hear about it when you score that big win.

February 21, 2012

Too Much Talk, Too Little Action?

Frank is a member of a cross-functional team in a Midwest manufacturing plant that’s been assigned to work together to improve utilization of resources. The team has been meeting weekly for the past several months. Each week the discussion is vibrant and energized, yet they have little to show for it. Each discussion moves the conversation to new territory that surfaces new challenges and opportunities that are valid, but that keep the team from focusing on the original task or landing on specific actions.

Does this sound familiar?

Are there individuals or groups in your business that tend to have big ideas but little follow through?

Do you suffer from “mission creep” where as you talk and explore challenges without even noticing you’ve moved on to other challenges and lost sight of your original objectives?

Who do you know who tends to jump in enthusiastically, skipping over analysis of details and potential obstacles, and then stalls out when details and obstacles become reality?

Could you use a tool for getting and keeping things moving?

Even as we are all unique, we all also fit rather neatly into 8 basic styles of approach to work and life. We each tend to see the world and take action through our style, make decisions and choices that are consistent with our style, and are unaware of and/or put off by people with other styles.

By the way, each of these styles has important perspectives, skills and qualities to offer. And each has its own particular blind spots. We tend to gravitate toward others who share our style, and this can cause too much focus on our strengths and too little on the areas where we are least comfortable and then things can get a bit out of balance.

Most of the members on Frank’s team were of a similar style, best described as “Energizing.” Leaders and teams with this style bring essential passion and energy to projects. But they need balance from other styles in order to keep things moving forward, get the details right and follow through to completion.

When we gain understanding of our own style, the styles of others and the style of our teams and organizations, we can see clearly where style clashes or blind spots may be keeping us stuck and interfering with achieving our objectives.

Awareness of style allows us to define, articulate and address these challenges in new ways that can quickly and dramatically change the results we produce.

Once Frank made his team aware of how they were getting in their own way, they were able to change their pattern by making sure that each meeting ends with specific action steps and each subsequent meeting begins with a check in as to progress. They’re also establishing a “parking lot” for important ideas that surface in the discussion but that are off topic. This allows them to come back to the specific task while being able to decide based on priorities whether to address other issues in a different meeting immediately following or at a later date.

Where are you, your team or your organization stuck that understanding style might give you some tools to get moving in the right direction?

To learn more about leadership styles and how you might use this knowledge to turbocharge your results, contact me: sr@leadershipincorporated.com.

January 22, 2012

Leaders: Are you focused downstream or upstream?

A man walking along a river suddenly sees a local farmer being carried along in the current, struggling to keep his head above water. He heroically jumps in to the rescue. No sooner has he got the man to shore and caught his breath, but he sees another farmer bobbing up and down, screaming for help. Again he jumps in. But they just keep coming. He can’t pull them out fast enough. He starts to become angrier and angrier at these big, stupid farmers who kept falling in the river. He sees the Mayor walking by and calls out for help, but the Mayor runs away, making the man even more furious.

Does this sound like anything you are doing in your work?

Frank, the CEO of an ad agency,  is frustrated by the constant conflict between the creative and account teams, which results in a tremendous waste of time and money — not to mention the impact on client retention and company morale. The creative group complains that the account team doesn’t provide adequate input and sets unrealistic deadlines. The account team fires back that the creatives don’t address the input that’s given and over-create. Meanwhile, they continue to miss the target and have to do work over and over, job after job, month after month, year after year. What makes Frank the angriest is when the creative department starts demanding a presence in client meetings, not understanding how that undermines the account team or the cost of that duplication of effort to the company.

Jody, the head of a regional commercial bank, is trying to support Samantha, one of her VPs in solving a problem with team meetings. Team members aren’t engaged and when they aren’t specifically “on,” they are checking email and doing “who knows what else” on their smart phones. Important information needs to be repeated often. People who slipped out for calls need to be tracked down at critical moments. Meetings take at least twice as long as they should and waste company time and money. She has tried to outlaw smart phone use in meetings. She is outraged when team members have the nerve to complain about Samantha who is the one person Jody can count on to be focused and dealing with business issues.

Back to our man at the river.

Why were the man’s tireless efforts having no impact? It turns out that one mile upstream, on the path to the mill, there is a rickety wooden bridge with no guard rail. A section of supports are loose and as the farmers move across the bridge with their heavy loads, the slats dip and tip them right into the river.

And who discovered this? Why, the Mayor, who hadn’t been running away from the problem at all, but running upstream to find its cause.

If Frank were to look upstream, it would become obvious that his problem lay neither with the account execs nor the creatives but with agency protocol that has the account team as the sole point of client contact. From this perspective it might be easier to see that giving the creative team client contact is not duplicating effort, and is actually a solution to the problem.

Looking upstream, Jody might see that Samantha, her engaged team leader, was actually causing the problem, by using meetings to think out loud and presenting every bit of data before reaching her point or a conclusion. From here, it makes much more sense to solve the problem by coaching Samantha to prepare her thoughts in advance and communicate more succinctly.

When we’re in a downstream solution, it’s only natural to turn our anger on people looking upstream.

When looking downstream at a problem, it can feel quite compellingly that we stand to lose everything by shifting our attention away from the problem. But, that is often exactly what we must do. It’s all about perspective. And the cue to stop what we’re doing and look upstream is when we find ourselves continuing to pull metaphorical farmers out of the river — and becoming angry at the farmers for being there.

So, how about you? Where would looking upstream give you a different perspective on the problem at hand? Where are you trying to solve a business or personal problem downstream when an upstream solution could be a game changer?

Wishing you the inspiration to see your challenges with new eyes over the next few weeks.

December 11, 2011

Go Like a Puppy

A high school freshman I know is failing two of his classes. The level of work that he used to get away with in middle school is no longer working. In the past, he could slide on the directions and still get a decent grade. That work is no longer acceptable at the high school level. 9th grade is a different animal than middle school. New skills and levels of detail are required — as are new levels of relationship and responsibility.

This student sees his new situation as a loss. He sees himself in a hostile environment, a no-win situation.

Sound familiar? For the last several years the business world has largely been in a mindset of loss. The rules have changed here, too. You might say that we’ve moved from a more forgiving “middle school experience” into a tougher “high school” environment. We’ve been plucked out of our safe spaces and thrust into unfamiliar territory in which we are no longer sure what’s expected. The stakes are higher, the consequences tougher. More is being asked.

And, like my student, many business leaders are still committed to seeing their situation from a perspective of loss: of clients, income, resources, people, security.

But what if we didn’t see it as a loss?

What if we saw this as an opportunity for personal and professional and organizational development? It’s more obvious in the student’s case, but in all situations, challenging change is an invitation. To be different. To expand. To see things from new perspectives. To ask more of ourselves. To grow. To seize different opportunities. To build new relationships. To drop outdated practices and replace them with new approaches that will support continued growth.

Of course, our losses are real and I don’t want to deny or diminish them. But, the loss is not the point. What we gained through the experience is the point. The point is where we are now and where we are going next.

What happens to us when we focus on the loss? We get stuck. Our attention remains backward-focused. We develop stories of ourselves and our environments that are no longer true. By focusing on what was, we miss what is.

And is it true that anything was actually lost? Could it be more true that whatever was, had its life and was only ever meant to last the time it did? What if what we see as lost was actually meant to give us the tools to face whatever is coming next?

Things come to go. Change is the way of life on planet earth. Resisting the change only gets in our way.

As my dear friend Lee said upon being diagnosed with one of the biggest challenging changes there is: terminal cancer, “I’m going into it like a puppy.”

By which she meant: with curiosity, openness and enthusiasm.

She was onto a profound truth that applies to every aspect of life, especially creating business. You can’t lose in moving forward if you follow these 5 simple steps:

1. Appreciate where you’ve been

2. Learn from it

3. Look for the opportunity ahead

4. Go like a puppy

5. Repeat

 

October 16, 2011

Want more downtime? You’ll have to make an appointment.

25 years ago, it wasn’t possible to work this hard.

Without fax, email, and Internet, you couldn’t connect to the information or people you needed “after hours.” Nothing left to do but go home and have a life.

All the blessings of technology have brought us the curse of the endless business day. We no longer have “normal business hours.” All hours are fair game. More and more business meetings happen at 7am and 11pm.

If we’re awake, we’re emailing.

I remember a client who used to say “if you don’t come in Saturday, don’t bother coming in Sunday.” At the time, it was funny and prideful to have these extreme work habits that separated them from the rest of their industry. Now we don’t even have to “come in” to work all weekend. We don’t even joke about it anymore. We barely even think it’s extreme.

And it keeps speeding up. The faster we can do things, the faster we demand things. The more time we can save, the less we have for ourselves.

We think we have so much on our plates that taking care of an email or a meeting in what used to be “our time” will mean we don’t have to take care of it during our already full day tomorrow. We think we have to get it “all” done.

We feel that this is temporary. Just for now. Just till business improves. Just till things calm down.

We believe that if we aren’t responsive around the clock, our clients or employers will replace us with someone who is.

So, how do we live with this? How do we “work to live” in this environment? How do we not work ourselves into heart attacks?

Here’s the deal: This is not temporary. It is not possible to get it all done. And we are not powerless.

We made an appointment to be here. And now we’re making an appointment for what our lives will be like half a year from now. Through our thoughts and actions we lay the groundwork for our future. Whatever we set up now, we’ll be doing harder and faster in 6 months. Whatever we’re doing now will continue to expand.

So if you want to work even longer and harder in 6 months, don’t set any boundaries and keep setting expectations (especially your own) that this is how you’ll continue to work.

The business world used to set our 9-5 appointment for work. The leadership opportunity here is to start making our own appointment for how we work in our future.

How do we do this? By being intentional. If you want more life in your life next year, if you want your work to grow in ways that are sustainable, take responsibility for setting that up now.

Schedule time. Workout time, family time, you time. Time to sleep. Time to work “on” and not just “in” your business.

And honor these appointments the same way you would your client meetings.Follow the same rules. Yes, there are times you’ll cancel with a client— and ways to do that. Follow these same rules for yourself. When you cancel on yourself, reschedule. It’s common courtesy, right?

If you want other people to value your time, you have to value it first.

Here’s the upside: If your best brain time is after dinner and you want to take afternoons off,  you may well be able to create that. You could work at the times that are best for you. And play at the times that are best for you. A blessing/curse of the 24/7 workday is flexibility. And that’s something else you couldn’t have done 25 years ago.

September 26, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: New Pecking Order

Simone L. just took over the leadership role in a mid-sized pharmaceutical contract manufacturing company. She had been with the organization for many years and was well-liked and respected by her peers. No one was surprised when she was chosen to succeed the retiring president.

Simone felt she had the support of her co-workers. So she was unprepared when those relationships changed as she assumed the presidency. All of a sudden people were talking behind her back. She got push back on changes that she thought everyone had wanted for some time. There was buzz that one of her co-workers was resentful, and thought he should have been selected for the position.

This isn’t unusual. Leadership both connects and separates you from those you lead. Change shifts the ground beneath your feet in relationships and increases uncertainty among those who used to be your peers. You may feel the same as ever, yet people see you as changed. Even as their respect may increase, so does the distance between you.

So what’s a new leader to do?

  1. Build confidence by having a clear vision and voicing that direction consistently so people know where the organization is heading.
  2. Build trust by always doing what you say you’ll do.
  3. Build certainty through structure. Structure is calming and safe.
  4. Build team by relying on people to do what they do best and making sure everyone understands their role in the big picture

Get used to being a little separated. Relationships will change. Expect it and stay calm and understanding. Above all, don’t take it personally. It goes with the territory.

September 12, 2011

Is an employee mindset getting in the way of leadership?

Meet Frank. He recently took on a leadership role in a small medical technology company and immediately became very frustrated. They were much more dysfunctional than he had expected. They are highly disorganized. Their processes are inefficient. Their goals are unrealistic. The personalities he has to deal with are beyond challenging. The obstacles are enormous.
So Frank has become discouraged and depressed. He is offended by their lack of professionalism. He sees them setting themselves up for big problems. He isn’t sure he wants to be associated with a company like this. And he is thinking of leaving.
Now Frank is certainly entitled to this analysis. He is well within his rights to decide that this position isn’t a fit.
However, Frank is coming from the mindset of an employee, not that of a leader. And if he doesn’t shift this, perhaps he should leave. Because what this organization needs is leadership.
What’s the difference? Well, Frank’s focus is on himself. His sensibilities. His happiness. His abilities. His comfort level. His reputation. He is measuring all of this against current conditions in the organization. He is experiencing himself as powerless and his focus is on the present.
Leadership perspective is a total paradigm shift.
Leadership sees the opportunity for change instead of buying into the present as permanent.
Leadership relishes the challenge.
Leadership is not about the leader but about the organization.
Leadership knows that its primary job is to provide a clear and focused picture of where the company can go and what it can become.
Leadership can’t afford to become discouraged or frustrated, knowing that others are looking to leaders for cues as to what to believe and how to behave.
Leadership is a creative process. It’s all about seeing what could be, speaking about it in increasing detail and providing the encouragement, direction, support, tools and coaching to get the team moving strongly in that direction.
And leadership doesn’t get too emotionally involved. It has to hold the dichotomy of complete commitment along with a good measure of detachment. As soon as a leader’s identity is too tied up with the success or failure of the business, it’s screwed. It is now making decisions from an emotional and fear-based place and this is the worst possible place from which to run an organization.
It takes strength of character to resist joining the frustrated crowd and to instead head down an uncharted path. It ain’t easy to be the single voice of hope taking on the cacophony of anger, disappointment, frustration, fear and resentment.
Tough times are the proving ground for and the opportunity to step into true leadership. It’s easy to lead in good times. Hard times and challenges are the true test.

August 14, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: Leading superstars (and others) behaving like idiots.

Ridiculously common leadership challenge:

That rising star you promoted into a management role, what a mistake! He’s throwing his weight around. She’s behaving unprofessionally. He’s demoralizing the staff. She’s creating conflict. He’s just not getting the job done.

So what do you do?

Traditionally, if we don’t ignore the situation or promote the person (which happens more often than you might think), we confront. We yell. We threaten. We paper the file. We discipline. We demote. We fire. We have that difficult conversation. That’s what accountability is, right?

Not necessarily.

Accountability is us taking responsibility. Us, being accountable.

Every day companies take people who are excellent at what they do and promote them into roles that require they do something more. They assume that people will naturally be as good at the new role as they were at the old one, without recognizing that the new job requires completely different skills and perspectives.

Bad management behavior is a sign of someone who’s drowning — and may not even know that swimming is required, much less how to do it.

As their supervision, their failure belongs to us. It is our job to lead even our leaders.

Should they know better? Maybe. But if they don’t, you are just fighting reality.

Is it understandable and even justified, to discipline these rogue managers? Maybe. It’s just not effective.

Let’s look at how traditional discipline works. We’ve all been there. How do you respond when you are slapped down? Do you push back? Become defensive? Resentful? Do you go underground? Does your confidence take the hit?

Even when people are open to feedback and want to do better, traditional discipline creates an extra layer of fear, defensiveness, and judgment that ultimately gets in the way of performance.

As leaders, what we had better want, even though we may lose touch with it in the moment, is for our people to truly succeed so that our organizations will succeed along with them.

Business is a team sport. If we want to grow, we need to develop and support our players.

Here’s a more effective approach to creating true and sustainable accountability in managers (and others) who disappoint:

1. Take responsibility. Don’t just push people into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim. Supervise and fine tune and guide and coach. Let them struggle — that’s how they learn — but don’t let them go under and certainly don’t let them drown anyone else to save themselves.

2. Align with the person you’re disappointed in. It’s counter-intuitive. We believe we need to confront. Yet, frontal attacks are always met with resistance. So instead of initiating a losing battle, create alignment.

This does not mean making unacceptable behavior okay. It simply means playing on the same team. Instead of standing in front of an employee and pushing them backwards; metaphorically, come around behind them and support their forward movement.

3. Direct their vision to the future. Speak to what is needed. Speak to what’s possible for this person in this role. Speak to their ability and your commitment their success. Be clear about what success looks like in this position in this organization, so they know what’s expected.

4. Build on what’s working. Focusing on what’s wrong keeps you stuck in what’s wrong. Cutting people down doesn’t build them up. Start from what is going well and focus on adding what’s needed. Ask them what support they need.

5. Do not do the work for them. If the support they request removes their responsibility or opportunity for learning, firmly decline and refocus. Empowering and facilitating is the shortest path to growing a stronger company.

6. Have them evaluate their own progress. You evaluate their evaluation. True accountability is helping a person hold him or herself accountable.

7. If you can’t do this, one of you needs to go. That’s right. If they can’t achieve the clear expectations with this kind of support, more often than not, they’ll leave on their own.

On the other hand if you can’t be this kind of leader, what hope is there for your organization?

Make the time. It’s worth it.


July 10, 2011

Managing Growth: Why financial goals undermine financial results

I met this week with a leader in a digital media publishing company that is poised for growth. They have a powerful and connected new board driving them to grow the business. They have a strong platform to build on. They have a devoted following who believes in what they have done in the past.

I began, as I usually do, by asking, “What’s your Point B? What will successful growth look like for you?”

His answer was all about the financials.

I hear this a lot. We are measured by our financial success (both internally and externally) so we start to see the financials as our objectives.

This is an enormous trap that snaps the legs off many businesses. And here’s why:

Your financials are the results of organizational strategy and execution. As organizational goals, financials are generally not actionable. Other than putting money into passive financial investments, there are no direct actions we can take to achieve financial goals. And if goals aren’t actionable, they are nothing more than wishes. Very distracting wishes.

As many business leaders have learned the hard way, we cannot directly control our financial results. Sure, we can influence them — but we are ineffective when we put our focus on trying to control them. Setting financial goals is an attempt to control what we can’t control and results in tremendous squandering of focus, energy, time, good will and much more.

So, if we can’t control the financial results, what can we control?  We can create the conditions that will produce the results we want to see. This may seem at first like semantics, but we all frequently see leaders who by focusing on trying to create the money overlook the very strategies and actions that would otherwise lead to the money.

No matter what your mission statement says, setting financial objectives makes money the purpose of your organization. The primary goals and objectives of any organization inform its decision-making, interactions and everything else. When your primary objectives are financial, your people can’t help but make decisions that communicate to customers and prospective customers that money is what you care about. As your customers are an important player in your growth, the effort to focus on money as a goal actually undermines its own achievement.

Making the bottom line your main purpose in this way robs you of the opportunity to capture the hearts, minds and energy of your customers, your staff, your vendors, and the public. Focusing on the money keeps you from having a higher purpose that people can really get behind, talk about, and want to work hard for.

Growth is not a one-sided event that is all on your company to create. Growth is always a collaboration between an organization and its customers, staff, vendors and others. Focusing on the money, which is only of interest to one party in the collaboration, actually denies and sabotages the existence of that crucial partnership.

So, what do I coach my clients to do instead?

  1. Develop a clear picture of the purpose of your organization. What business are you in? What is the meaning of your products and/or services to your various audiences?
  2. Know your desired financial results. Revenues are a critical guide and measure of organizational health and progress, but should never be your primary objective. Even (as in the case of banks, investment companies, etc.) when growing money is your product and service!
  3. Set objectives that create the conditions for the financial results you want to see. Set objectives based on actions, behaviors, or things your organization can create that support both your organizational purpose and your desired financial results. Use the results as a measure rather than as the objectives themselves.

The most successful companies already know this: Focus on creating the conditions that lead to the results you want to see and the results will take care of themselves.

June 19, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: None So Blind As Those Who Focus on Reality

A vice president in a health care organization sees the problems caused by upper management as unsolvable.

She thinks she is just being realistic. She feels powerless to make any changes and fears that she will lose her job if she speaks the truth. She is paralyzed and feels her only option is to tolerate or leave. She doesn’t even consider the potential opportunities that might become available to her in identifying and addressing these challenges head-on.

The president of a digital marketing company believes that “no one has money to spend right now.”  He can find plenty of evidence to support this reality, in the media and from his own personal experience in reaching out to companies for new business who have said “This is not the time.” This belief combined with his fear of rejection and failure is actually preventing him from being able to find and target companies who are growing and profitable and in need of her services.

The head of a PR agency focuses on the likelihood of losing a client if she asks for fair compensation in today’s recessed economy. Not wanting to fight reality, she charges less than she knows she needs and is struggling to make a living. She doesn’t see the potential of winning the client over by making a strong value proposition.

Every business (and life) situation has BOTH challenge and potential. When we focus exclusively on what’s lacking, what’s not working or what might go wrong, we miss the wealth of opportunities that surround us. When we focus too much on “reality” (meaning fear), we become blind to possibilities that could turn our situation around far faster than we could even imagine.

A critical leadership best practice is while remaining aware of the challenges,  keep your focus on the potential. Form a vision for a better way and let that guide your thinking, decisions and actions. Be a little (or a lot) unrealistic. Dare to believe that things could be much much better. And then put your focus on making it so.

Where are fear, frustration or lack keeping you from seeing the opportunities right in front of you?

Ask yourself if you’re being driven by wanting (it may feel like needing) control, safety, approval, separation or connection. Be brutally honest.

Get coaching support in shifting from reacting to these blinding wants to activating the creativity of what’s possible. Your success depends on it.

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