76 posts categorized "Relationship Management"

February 07, 2013

When To Rehearse and When To Shoot From the Heart

Recently, I gave a talk on Relationship Power at a big conference that required quite a bit of research prior hand and nuance during delivery.  I needed to create a one-of-a-kind talk to specifically help two groups come together, develop empathy for each other and collaborate.  As an outsider, you can't wing this, or you'll easily step in a cow pie with the crowd.   

And because half of my speech relates to their exact situation, it's brand new material for me. It is not in my treasure trove of advice bits, illustrations or signature stories.  Which means that in many cases, even bullet point power point slides only serve as prompts and don't work like a teleprompter. (PS - I never use one. Makes me too stiff and disconnected with audiences.) 

So, I rehearsed.  Not in my head, or by flipping through my power point slides...I gave the talk.  All. The. Way. Through.  With my iPad serving as my countdown clock, I gave the talk at home in my studio the week prior to the talk.  Taped it and listened to it on the plane.  It was excruciating, as I started and stopped the opening five times until I had my legs underneath me. 

Did the talk for the client the night I arrived in town, prior to having dinner.  All. The. Way. Through.  The next morning, I gave the first 20 minutes of it to my mirror at 6am.  That was where most of the custom content was. How did the talk go?  Fantastic!  Felt at ease during the talk, didn't miss any key points, and used my examples without any bobbles or gaffes that could get someone's back up.  Later, I received great feedback from members in the audience, as well as my sponsor. 

If you are making a really important presentation, or doing some material for the first time, rehearse your talk.  Outloud.  All. The. Way. Through.  You'll thank me later, when you tell me about how you "killed it."  

What should you not rehearse?  A crucial conversation.  Frequently, we face situations when we are going to have a difficult conversation with someone about an emotionally charged situation.  We might be mad at her.  It might be a disagreement that needs an airing out.  It might be a confrontation, where you are expecting answers from him. 

The worst thing you can do is rehearse for this.  Why?  You are spring loading your negative feelings as you go over it in your mind (and sometimes outloud, especially as your brush your teeth or make eye contact in your car's rear view mirror.) The more you think or rehearse what you are going to say, the more your emotion's get spun up. 

Also, when you rehearse, you frequently think about what she or he will say in their defense. At that point, you think of your follow up responses, and conjur up a debate or blowout in the process. Later, when you have your crucial conversation, when she replies to your charge, you'll loudly proclaim, "I knew you were going to say that!!!!"  

And then it's on like Donkey Kong. 

In this case, you'll do better to wing it.  Let it play out without much pre-planning, other than to focus on what's really important in this situation.  Are we trying to fix something that's broken, take care of a client or keep our word?  Then that's all the conversation should be about.  Finally, when we head into the crucial conversation, we need to remember: It's not a performance, it's an encounter.  

For more, read Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When the Stakes Are High 

June 04, 2012

One conversational tweak that'll make you a better networker

Great networkers are givers, not takers.  That's a key insight to mastering the art of connection. 

Too often, when we think we are 'networking', we are actually trolling for assistance in one of our ventures.  We are screening people to see if they have use to us, and if we might possess currency we can trade for their assets.  It's a quid-pro-quo approach, and to me, is just salesmanship. 

Networking occurs when you connect two or more people together that should meet - and then get out of the way! (BTW: If you expect something in return for your networking efforts, you are just a broker that's peddline your network). 

So, here's the best way to change from a Prospector or Broker into a real-live Networker of value: Stop asking people "What do you do?" Instead, ask them, "what are you doing these days that I might be able to help you with?" Resist all tempations to uncover potential value to you, and ignore their offers to pay it back. 

By focusing on what others are doing, dreaming about, trying to do, struggling through, etc., you shift your perspective from trading to contributing.  Dale Carnegie said it best: "You will win more friends and accomplish more in the next two months, developing a sincere interest in two people than you will ever accomplish in the next two years, desperately trying to get two people interested in you."

The best networkers I've ever met, such as Keith Ferrazzi, spend 80% of their conversations probing to find out how he can add value through an introduction.  80%.  He's relentless when he asks, "what are you enthused about these days," and as a result, has the unique opportunity to enrich hundreds or thousands of lives per year.  

For more, read Masters Of Networking by Ivan Misner. 

August 10, 2011

What it takes to be great at relationships

If you are kind, connected and calm - people will relate to you. 

They'll be loyal, supportive, helpful and caring back to you.  They will buy from you.  That's the value of relationships, you bring out the best in others.  You create teams instead of silos.  You generate value instead of capturing it.  So, mastering the fine art of relationship development is important to your business life.  

Over my career, I've isolated the two ingredients that Relationship Masters contain: Emo-Talent and Generosity. Check out this video clip for more on this. 

The key to being a Relationship Master from Tim Sanders on Vimeo.

PS - Keith Ferrazi has a Relationship Masters Academy with great resources.  Check it out! 


July 07, 2011

Relationship Mistake: "You shouldn't feel that way!"

Empathy is a powerful relationship glue.  When you attempt to see things from another person's perspective, you validate his feelings, helping him feel like he's not alone in his suffering or joy. 

But, especially at work, we #fail to show Empathy when others are afraid or upset.  As managers, when the organizational change or new plan is revealed, we roll up our sleeves, prepared to tell all the fraidy cats or naysayers that "they should be afraid or upset."  

We tick off all the reasons they should accept and be happy (opposite emotions) about this change or new circumstance.  We attempt to extinguish other people's bad feelings like a fire in the wastepaper basket.  And then they slink off, feeling even worse for the wear.  After all, they didn't need to be convinced, they needed someone to listen. 

In his remarkable book, The 8th Habit, Dr. Stephen Covey Sr. explains that in many cases, people who are emotional distraught just want to be heard.  When they feel like they've been heard, the negative emotions usually evaporate.  But, again, that's not the conventional wisdom when faced with negative emotions in others.  Fix it, cancel it, talk the other person out of it - change the subject, anything but absorb it.  Men are the worst. 

To truly be empathetic, you need to be a powerless listener, making an earnest attempt to understand the pain from the other's point of view.

What's the right response?  When faced with negative emotions in others, learn how to say, "I'm sorry" or "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I can only imagine how you must feel."  Those are good empathy vehicles.  Don't confuse empathy with sympathy (eg. "I know how you feel, I had that happen to me in the past too.")  While that might create a little community in misery via a reference point, you don't really know how he feels just because you've been in similar circumstances before.  

In this video clip (Powerless Listening/The Day Anthony Went Off To College), I talk about the power of empathy, and why we love our kids or our pets so much.  They treat feelings as facts - not opinions offered up by others for our repair or judgement.  


March 21, 2011

Wake up to a big cup of Love

Every morning, my waking thoughts are ones of gratitude. 

I think about people from the previous day who were there to help me.  I think about a person in the coming day who will be a part of my success.  This focus helps me realize something: I am not alone. I have an abundance of support, and I'm not the Lone Ranger.  And when I think of them, how much they want to help me, and how it means to my work - my heart gets full of Love.  A big steaming cup of wake-up-in-love for your helpers. 

I love the people that help me succeed.  I appreciate them, and later in life I'll certainly think of them fondly - like a war buddy or a frat brother.  Who do you love in your career life?  Are you thinking about your support system every morning or do you wake up and check your email and get overwhelmed? 

If you haven't done it recently, you should identify the people in your bizlife that make you successful. And then you need to express your gratitude for them and help them back.  That's love at work.  Here are a few ways to approach this: 

1.  Begin every morning with ten minutes of gratitude thinking.  Search your memory for instances of assistance from the previous day or week.  Give advance thanks to someone that you think will help you in your day ahead. 

2.  Express your gratitude.  You can send a short email, make a call or tell that person when you see them next.  Don't hold it inside, because without expression, you are not committing yourself.  When you express gratitude, you are painting yourself into a positive corner. 

3.  Tune yourself to notice assistance.  If you do this exercise for a few weeks, you'll find that you are thanking the same people over and over again.  You'll be motivated to find new subjects for your gratitude, and if you try, you'll spot them hiding in the daily woodwork.  The more you focus on all the support you get, the more you'll realize that you are far from alone.  You have dozens of people helping you, sometimes a few clicks away from your normal point of view.  Trace the help back a few steps and meet some new people that are behind-the-scene, making you more effective.  

This idea is just one of many mood and confidence boosting techniques featured in Today We Are Rich: Harnessing The Power Of Total Confidence - Buy your copy today or download a free eBook excerpt from it at TWAR.com

March 18, 2011

Criticize the outcome, not the person

For many leaders, managers and parents, giving criticism is a fine art. 

Go too lightly, and you aren't doing your job.  Lean too heavy and you can demoralize someone who's really giving his all.  Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "the leader's role is to define reality, then give hope."  So true.  Applies to criticism as well.  

Part of your Emotional Talent arsenal is the ability to give feedback to help your people improve or succeed without unduly creating negative emotions.  The way to do that is to follow a few rules: 

1 - Wait a little while before issuing criticism: Let it simmer, or at least let your first wave of emotions subside.  If you can, sleep on it before you act. 

2 - NEVER use email to issue criticism.  It's very weak at relaying your intentions (coach or dictator?).  Have the guts to give it face to face or at least over the phone.  This will increase your effectiveness by 500% according to Mehrabian's research on how others decode our messages for intent. 

3 - Objectify failure.  When a product turns out wrong, it's still a thing.  When an event doesn't come off as it should, it's still just a thing.  Too often, we personalize it, associating people with the #fail. To that I say, "Criticize the outcome, not the person."  One CEO at a software company used to gather this development team around a conference table when a product launch failed, putting a box in the middle for everyone to deposit "project artifacts" such as discs, mock ups, emails, etc.  He had each person take an object out of the box and talk about the why-it-happened and how-you-feel about it.  It really worked - sucking the funk out of the room and focusing on 2.0.  

4 - Last but not least, don't be Waffly when you give criticism.  If you are going to say the outcome was below expectations, don't hedge it with a bunch of might's maybe's or other wamby pamby talk.  You need to be very clear, or you'll end up in a debate, giving forgiveness way to early or losing any credibility for future feedback.  Your folks need to know that you are strong in your beliefs, even if you are thoughtful in your delivery. 

For more, read Crucial Conversations a GREAT book on the subject. 


February 02, 2011

What's your point-of-view about People?

People will almost always fulfill your expectations of them. 

This is the core idea behind research on The Pygmalion Effect: People sense what you expect of them, and respond accordingly.  Sometimes, and it's rare, they do the opposite.  Note that I say 'rare' as in less than 10% of the time or so.  

If you want to be an effective sales person, you have to possess a positive bias about your suspects, prospects, customer and company.  Otherwise, you'll use false urgency or misrepresentation to make the sale - and you'll likely turn on your company on a dime.  If you are a leader, and you have a distrusting attitude about people, you'll bully, mislead and manipulate them to go in your direction. The minute your performance slips, though, they too will turn on you.  

There's a thread that runs through all my books and speeches, and it has to do with my point-of-view about human beings.  I believe that people are good, fair and loyal.  They want the same things you and I want.  They almost always give back when given to or pay it forward.  When they are selfish, boorish or mean-spirited, they are motivated by suffering or fear.  Only in rare cases do human break this design-mold. 

But in our minds, the ego magnifies each violation of the 'give-back-be-good' ethic, making us think that people are usually in it for themselves, or at least half the time, takers instead of givers.  It seems that way, because no one wants to be taken advantage of.  That's the ego talking.  If you wrote down a list of every person you've been generous too, and circled the ones who took-the-good and ran - you'll find that in about 80-90% of cases, my theory came true.  This exercise is liberating, because it frees you up to be an investor, not a user.  It frees you up to be a giver, not a taker.  

Here's the takeaways from my POV: 

1 - Design your business to assume that people are kind, fair and loyal.  For employees, take some risks and be generous with them from Day 1.  For customers, trust that when you give them value, they will give you back goodwill, future income and satisfaction.  There's a business model out there called "The People Customer Model" - where you take care of employees, who then take care of customers and partners - putting your enterprise into a trust based virtuous cycle of profits.

2 - When people are bad, find the Tiny Tim story or the Fear source.  I talk about this in The Likeability Factor:  Most negative behavior, especially bullying or pessimism, is driven by a suffering.  When employees at Yahoo complained to me about co-workers in this regard, I challenged them to do some research first - finding the Tiny Tim in their life (personal problems, health issues, etc.) that explain the behavior.  In a remarkable number of cases, they came back brimming with empathy, because I was right - The bad guys were sleeping on a friend's coach, battling a health scare or suffering from a  life of being mistrusted and/or abused.  In some cases, the selfish were, in fact, fighting for their economic or political survival.  Here's the point, if you judge a person as bad before you do your research, your ego is running the show. 

3 - Make yourself vulnerable by extending trust to others, even those you've just met.  Over time, this habit will pay dividends, because people will trust you back.  If you haven't read my post on Mack Brown ("Develop a Sincere Interest In Others"), it's a good follow up to this post.  Do not wait for people to earn your trust and generosity - by that point, your response is merely calculated.  This is what Dale Carnegie meant when he wrote, "you'll accomplish more by developing a sincere interest in people, than trying to get people interested in you." 

Read an excerpt from Love Is The Killer App from Fast Company for of my perspective.


January 27, 2011

Listen More Than You Talk For Better Meetings

If you listen more than you talk, you just may find out how to win the deal.

This was the biggest takeaway I got from my days as Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo, working on some of the companies biggest sales opportunities.  Normally, most sales calls or networking meetings are all about the presentation - your spiel.   You have an agenda, answers to all potential objections and some ideas on next steps.  

Usually, the sales executive shows a power point deck, which takes up three quarters of the allotted meeting time.  Sometimes the slides are customized to address the prospect's needs, other times they are canned.  Even when there's no formal presentation, the conversation is heavily weighted towards the sales person, not the audience.  After all, it's in our sales-DNA, sell-sell-sell!  

I reversed this approach, in order to gain valuable insight from prospects that could give us a leg-up on competitors that were just trying to 'sell stuff.'   We had a goal: only talk 40% of the meeting and use the rest to listen, record and brainstorm.  Meeting dynamics changed, as we became more consultative and prospects became more open with us.  In the end, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, securing several deca-million dollars deals in 2001 and 2002.  Here's how you can listen more than you talk: 

1 - Don't make a presentation until the end, and treat it like a TED talk (18 minutes, timed).  Open the conversation with questions that either help you discover value opportunities or spur your prospect's imagination.  For example, during a high level pitch to HP, I asked a senior executive to imagine that they just bought Yahoo!, and her assignment was to integrate our most valuable parts into their company.  "If you owned Yahoo," I asked, "what would you do with us?" She outlined a few quick ideas, some branding placements and others pure technology integrations (eg. Business Instant Messenger, Printer refill levels on Yahoo Maps, etc.)  In the end, her laundry list of ideas were poured into a pretty big strategic deal.  That's the value of having a conversation. 

2 - Measure your word count.  I asked prospects and partners if it would be OK to record the meeting, and have a transcription service (like On-Sitemedia) turn it into a Word doc.  That way, we won't miss any details and both parties have a better understanding of what we are talking about.  Most of them were happy to allow this.  When I received the Word document back, we were able to calculate word count (our stuff in black, their words in red).  Then, it was easy to see exactly how much we were talking vs listening.  The more we did this, the lower our word count got (and the higher our sales became.) 

3 - Under-answer questions.  Don't launch a multi-point ten minute speech when answering a common question or objection.  Pick your greatest hit and deliver it in about 60-90 seconds.  Then ask a question to get them talking.  

4 - Insert pregnant pauses.  Our tendency is to rush in when someone's just finishing up a question or comment to provide our answers.  That's not how to do it.  Great interviewers know that you should always leave an uncomfortable pregnant pause after a guest's answer or question.  Why?  Your conversational partner will feel uncomfortable with the silence, and fill it with more content.  Most of what people say or ask is heavily scripted to keep the 'cards close to the vest'.  But, as we learned with Frost-Nixon, when you are filling dead air (pregnant pause), you come off script and the truth spills out.  Some of the juiciest sales intelligence I ever gathered happened when I waited out the prospect after he/she gave me a pat answer. 

5 - Read a new book on the subject.  Of course, that's my prescription to most performance improvements.  Read, learn, innovate and experiment.  There's a brand new book out, cued up next on my Kindle for consumption: Talk Less Say More: Three Habits To Influence Others And Make Things Happen by Connie Dieken.  


December 22, 2010

The Art Of Being a Good (Gift) Receiver

It's better to give than receive, unless your receiver isn't up to it. 

In other words, without a gracious receiver, gift-giving can be awkward, disappointing or worse - escalating.  Sometime during the last decade, a new type of giving-mentality has erupted: You can't outgive me, I'm the Big-Giver around here! 

Whether personal or professional, we've come to realize that when we give to others, we build our relationships and trigger the law of reciprocity.  Or, as I'd say as a Lovecat, "Nice Smart People Succeed."  So now it's an arms race of gift giving, where we one-up people's <feeble> attempts to give, give-back or be generous with us.  I call this 'Bully Giving' - where the intention of the giver is to own the receiver, if only for a minute.  In a holiday season scenario, where gifts are usually exchanged, this creates a bad situation.  

Here's my point: We need to be good receivers, so others can experience the "Joy Of Giving".  This is not a competition to see who the best giver is, or whether we are Net Givers in an exchange situation.  It's about the spirit of giving, gratitude and love.  And that requires as many good receivers as it does good gift givers.  When you are given to this season, here are three ways you can embrace the art of receiving gifts: 

1 - Be Available.  When someone gives to you, be in full-receive mode.  Pay attention to the card, what he says as he hands it to you, the packaging and most of all - the thoughtfulness behind the gift. Don't change the subject.  Don't apologize that your gift is or may be smaller.  Don't hold back emotions, in fact, make yourself emotionally available to truly show some happiness! 

2 - Be Authentically Grateful.  Use receiving a gift as a platform to state your feelings for the giver.  Let him/her know you are grateful for the gift, but even more, for the relationship or association.  Let the moment of your expressed gratitude linger.  As I talk about in my next book (Today We Are Rich), gratitude is a muscle, not a feeling.  We need to work it out to increase our spiritual strength. After the holidays (or your B-Day), sit down and write Thank You notes, and be very specific about what the gift means to you, and how you'll put it to use.  You don't need to reserve Thank You cards for weddings, graduations, etc. 

(Note: When you express your gratitude, you are giving your Giver positive feedback.  That will motivate the giver to keep on giving, because it's working.  I call this living in the Good Loop and it requires positive feedback.)

3 - Be Humble.  In the moment of receiving, be a little in debt to your giver.  Don't analyze the gift in terms of whether it's big enough, too big, a surprise or better than other gifts you are getting.  It's not a competition or an acid-test of others' feelings for you.  It is a gift, and you are the recipient. Don't immediately respond with a superior gift, so as to take the moment away from the other.  

Over the next few days, you'll have many chances to put this into play.  During your next birthday, you'll really have an opportunity to say Thanks! and help spread the joy of giving.  


November 19, 2010

Should you make friends at work?

Tugwarteam small
Someday you'll realize that your co-workers and customers are/were/could-have-been your friends. 

This is what I told a person sitting next to me on a flight this week.  On this five hour journey, trapped in captivity, he and I talked about our businesses and eventually, Facebook.   He's an agent for insurance and financial services with his own office (and various social media pages in their infancy).  I asked him, "Do you friend all your customers, suppliers, partners, etc.?" to which he replied,

"Only if they were already friends.  Work isn't personal.  And besides, I'm not sure I'd want them all as friends." 

Wow, I thought, it must be awful to have to work with people you don't like.  But I think that was more of a throw-away line, really.  He was really just conveying a conventional idea: Work isn't personal.  If you need a friend at work, bring your dog.  I've heard this before countless times when working in companies and during my travels on the lecture circuit. 

We don't purposely try to make-friends with other people in our business life.  If it happens, then that's cool, but we should still avoid actively seeking friendship.  To some, being friends compromises their professional relationships. But I wonder if that's really a statement about them, and their lack of willpower when it comes to obeying 'the rules at work.'  I treated my friends the same, be they direct reports or cash paying clients.  I mean, we connected well, so we likely spent more time together...but that's actually a good thing from a team-innovation point of view. 

When I say making friends, I mean that we establish an emotional connection with someone, and decide that we like them and want them to be successful or happy.  If we want to maintain this connection, we invest in them, both being a resource as well as a sounding board.  In my business life, I try and do this with ANYONE I'm going to rely and spend time with.  My speaking manager (Karen) is my friend.  My top vendor-partners (Rapture and OutThink) are my friends.  Same goes for bureau agents, meeting planners and editors at magazine like One+.  I cannot imagine having a professional-distance relationship with any of them.  What about you?  Do you seek to capture or create value with your work contacts, or do you seek to build a connection with them - and coproduce something great together? 

If you'd like to make friends at work, here are a few tips: 

1-  Be on the lookout for someone doing something right or produce a (sustainable) positive mood at work.  These are the type of people that you will easily be attracted to and want to help.  

2- Always consider cube mates or frequent contacts, as they are the easiest friendships to form.  Research from The Likeability Factor indicates that people like others in many cases, due to the "proximity effect."  In the case of air travel, I find this the case often.  You sit next to a person long enough and you'll find a connection. 

3- Connect at the passion to passion level to deepen the bond.  

4- Invest time and effort into giving-forward in friendships.  Make it a point to find opportunities to share valuable knowledge, or network your friends together to connect-the-dots and create value. 

5- Prepare this short speech for times when things go wrong (you have to fire them, raise the rates, enforce the rules): "This business is a baby, and it can't take care of itself without our help.  The rules protect the baby, and that's why we are here.  Our friendship should only help the company succeed."  If that doesn't work, remember, the other person is being a bad friend by asking you for special considerations.  It's not your company, never forget it.  If it is, then it's your right to decide how you want to enforce rules or make exceptions.  (read The Law Of The Ledger, taught to me by Stanley Marcus Jr.)

What do you get out of making friends at work? You create an atmosphere of trust, where there's likely to be innovation and collaboration instead of cynicism and playing Devil's Advocate.  You'll have a place you enjoy spending time at, instead of doing-time-at-for-the-man.  You also get the satisfaction of living a better life, where your 9-5 existence is as emotionally pleasing as your social or home life.  Really, it's up to you to 'get over' the stigma that you keep work mates at arms length.  So make the leap, and be a Lovecat.  Remember, nice smart people succeed. 


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