Monday, April 26, 2021

Study Reveals One Simple Way to Negotiate Better

If you've ever watched any of the cable news shows, you know that it seems whoever talks the most -- and the loudest -- seems to win.

But it appears that such a strategy doesn't work in negotiations, according to new study.

The study finds that during negotiations, periods of silence foster a more deliberative mindset because we interrupt our fixed mindset thinking. In other words, it shifts negotiators into a  more reflective state of mind, and this can lead to better opportunities to create value for both sides.

This silence helps the initiator to think more deeply about a problem, instead of seeing it as a tug-of-war where one side has to win and the other side has to lose.

So, the next time you're negotiating at work -- whether it's with a customer or a co-worker or a boss -- don't feel like you have to talk all the time to "overpower" the other side and get your way. Instead, embrace some silence and let your mind consider other ways to get what you want -- and help the other side get what they want.

Monday, April 19, 2021

4 Ways to Better Manage a Remote Team

A new survey by PwC finds that three-quarters of executives say that remote work caused by the pandemic was successful for their companies and that productivity (despite an initial decline) stayed on track or even improved.

One interesting finding, however,  is that it's "superachievers" who seem to be pulling the weight, often working harder and longer than other team members. These superachievers, which accounted for about one-third of a total sample, didn't slack off even though it appears that other people did.

PwC points out that these superachievers may be accomplishing a lot because of fewer distractions or they are feeling an adrenaline high. But such workers aren't going to be able to sustain the team for long, and other workers report they're suffering burnout and stress.

That's why PwC recommends that leaders need to ensure they're setting all remote workers up for success. Among the recommendations:

1. Key business indicators (KIP). You can't just look at sales calls made, but must also look at effectiveness, input and output and team accountability. This can help managers spot productivity declines or when someone may be near the breaking point.

2. New skills for leaders. When teams aren't physically together, it may be tougher to spot someone who is struggling. Leaders need help in developing their emotional intelligence so that they can better coach remote workers, recognize problems and use effective remote work strategies to help teams.

3. A pat on the back. Some teams would ring a bell with a new sale, or gather for lunch to celebrate achievements. Remote workers still need that recognition -- and leaders need those celebrations to be something that is meaningful to the team member and celebrates achievements in a timely way.

4. Set a schedule. Demands at home can be a distraction for remote workers, so it's a good idea to build structure into team schedules, whether it's a "no meeting" day, or times when breaks are taken for walks or to take care of personal needs.

You may not know what the future holds for your team, whether you will return to the office, continue working remotely or have a hybrid model. But whatever the future holds, don't delay in improving your management of your remote team.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Why Virtual Teams Fight -- and What to Do About It

My last post was on communications, and I wanted to address the topic again because there are some unique challenges with communicating virtually.

One of the biggest issues is that team members are often communicating for the first time with someone they've never met in person. While they may believe a virtual conversation goes well, they are often taken aback when an email later arrives from this person that seems less-that-friendly or judgmental.

Lindred Greer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that communicating through video calls or emails can escalate conflicts quickly as colleagues take disagreements personally. 

That's because colleagues "can’t see the context or the nuance or even the facial expressions of the person who is engaging in this task conflict,” she says.

As a result, one colleague may start to think negatively about the other person, become more aggressive and escalate the conflict -- something that wouldn't happen if working face-to-face.

In addition, as if often evident on social media, people are more uninhibited in their opinions when they aren't face-to-face, and that can lead to some ugly emails or texts that make the situation worse.

She suggests that one critical way to avoid problems among virtual team members is for managers to have a face-to-face "kickoff" meeting with the members. After spending a few days together, relationships will grow so that in the future, they will be better able to assess interactions and not jump to conclusions.

If your manager doesn't facilitate such contacts, then take it upon yourself to try and meet as many team members as possible in person. It might be a bit more challenging while we're still in lockdown, but it will be well worth the effort.

Monday, April 5, 2021

5 Communications Lessons to Learn Today

I've been covering the workplace for a long, long (long) time, and the one thing I have learned is that 99 percent of the problems in the workplace occur because  of poor communication.

Poor communication between managers and employees and poor communication between co-workers is usually at the heart of every snafu, dispute and poor job performance.

That's why I think a recent podcast with management guru Robert Sutton is valuable. You can find the full transcript here, but let me highlight some of his points about how to communicate better:

 1.  "A lot of what a leader’s job is is to be clear about where people should focus attention and where they should not focus attention."

2. "There are people who suffer from collaboration overload. There’s all sorts of evidence...that essentially you’ve got 3 to 5 percent of the people who do 35 percent of the work on many teams. They get beleaguered. They get burned out. They quit. They get cynical." 

3. "When there’s hand-offs between people, between silos, those are the places where the conflict, where the misunderstanding happens. And as a leader, what your job is is to have everybody, for example, in every silo and in every shift understand what it feels like to be the giver and the receiver in the hand-off situation."

4. In meetings, "if a CEO talks the whole time, that's a bad sign. If you’re a boss, shut up and ask more questions. What good leaders do is that they make it safe and encourage the people who talk less to sort of add something, too."

5. "There’s all sorts of evidence that when people argue in an atmosphere of mutual trust, that they’re more likely to bring different perspectives. They’re more likely to develop the best ideas."

No matter what your job, these are the things you need to think about and try to implement in your daily communications. Do you ask questions? Do you cut off someone who annoys you or do you let him/her voice an opinion? Do others trust you enough to give their honest opinions? 

Working on these issues will not only make you a better communicator, but a more valued member of any team.