Posts Tagged ‘listen’

In our last post we talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y hire, to help ensure a successful entry into the group.  In this last of a series of four posts we will see what Gen Ys themselves should be doing to quickly become a valued contributor and team member?  We suggest focusing on six key behavior clusters:

  1. Listen and learn. You almost never learn when you are talking. And in any new job you have a lot to learn.  But most people don’t listen well – – –  they merely pretend to listen while they compose a response to what they are hearing.  To break this habit, take notes while others are speaking.
  2. Know how your boss likes to communicate. HBR still has available online the classic paper “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker.  Every boss, employee and new-college-hire should read those 11 pages. New GenYs should ask how their bosses and peers want to communicate.  Is your new boss a listener, talker or reader?  This is crucial information.
  3. Join the team for the long haul. One mindset likely to frustrate you and your management is to overly focus on having a sudden intuitive brainstorm that changes the company or launches a new product and catapults you into the President’s office!  Understand that the financial success of rappers and Hollywood stars and others who, with seemingly limited talent have secured nearly unlimited wealth is very, very rare.  Seth Godin calls this phenomenon “The Purple Cow” and his book, same title, is a great read check it out at).  Focus on helping others, learning all you can about your job and becoming a valued member of the team.
  4. Be tactful. *This is the exception to the previous advice to always “Say what you mean”.  Words are powerful things especially when spoken to or about people.  The key here is to separate a person’s behavior from the person.  Only correct a person’s behavior, never labeling the person as problematic.  Another rule that helps me is to never say something about another that I haven’t already said to them.
  5. Be open-minded. Look for things you can learn, not just from other Gen Ys but from Gen X, Boomers and Traditionalists.  These other generations have seen and done things you won’t get to do for decades, if ever.  Some jobs in an organization require experience and that takes time:  you cannot assign three women to the job and grow a baby in three months instead of nine!  Learn from the unique perspectives, experiences and stories of the other generations.  Keep a journal of ideas, possible projects, ways to improve things, etc. and use it in your employee performance reviews with your boss.
  6. Be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do, every time.  And if an unforeseen (and hopefully unforeseeable) problem looks like it will derail your plan, advise anyone who needs to know.  Give them an early heads-up of the possible change in plans.  Under promise and over-deliver.  Control the expectations of others and then surprise them.

Now here is a last-ditch technique for any deeply entrenched Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists out there, stuck in their old ways of thinking and unable to accept Gen Ys into an organization. If nothing else works for you, not the sensitivity training, not the classes arranged by HR, the great videos by Jason Dorsey nor even your boss’s warning that you need to “get with it and learn to play nice with the new-hires”.  Then try this: Train yourself to think of Gen Ys as belonging to a foreign culture.  That’s right, think of them as being from another country entirely.  You don’t expect foreign nationals to behave like you do.  With their different cultures, values and standards for behavior, we expect them to behave differently.  Do the same for Gen Ys.

We have seen this little mental trick prevent the eye-rolls and other knee-jerk reactions some older people have to some of the occasional stereotypical behaviors of Gen Ys (showing up late for work, telling established managers how to do their jobs, texting while you are conversing with them, jumping across multiple layers in a large organization, etc.).  And if we can break the older person’s stimulus-response chain by adding an interim “thinking” step that says “hold on a minute, this Gen Y person’s brain is not wired exactly like mine”, we can perhaps help older workers accommodate the newcomers.  We are going to need Gen Ys’ outlandish ideas and bold thinking to tackle challenges in the years to come because none of us is as smart as all of us.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

If your boss quit, died or otherwise left the job tomorrow, who would replace him/her?  You can bet that your boss’s boss thinks about that.  It is called continuity planning or succession planning and the bigger the organization, the more important it is.  The leadership wants to be sure the enterprise marches on when a key person leaves, gets sick or dies.  And the way to ensure that is to plan well in advance for smooth transitions.

What does this have to do with you, you ask?  You are not slated to move up into a more senior position in your organization anytime soon?  Don’t be too sure.  It could happen tomorrow, without warning.

I was a very junior manager at a major defense company when a mid-level manager suddenly died of a heart attack while on vacation in the Caribbean.  Instead of promoting one of the 15 people in his organization to fill the job, my boss’s boss’s boss picked me.  Without warning he called me and my boss into his office the week after the death and asked me if I wanted the job.  I told him I was honored to be considered for the job but that I already had a great job working elsewhere in his organization and would like to stay there.  He said to think about it and to let him know my decision in the next few days.

On the way back to our work area my boss said “What changes are you going to make in the organization?” to which I replied “I am not sure I am going to take the job.”  He immediately stopped walking and looked at me, genuinely puzzled, and said “You must have been in a different meeting than the one I just attended.  You were just assigned that job.”  I protested that “Wally said I could think about it let him know . . .” and my boss cut me off saying “About 3 minutes ago, you became the new manager of that organization.”  And so I had.

Often it won’t happen to you this way.  Instead, you’ll move up from within your organization, replacing your boss who leaves the organization for one reason or another.  And here is where seeking a broader perspective on things can stack the deck in your favor.   Here are some tips on getting ready and getting selected for your boss’s job:

  1. Anytime your boss talks about his/her concerns, challenges or problems, listen and offer support.  If that means helping with one of his projects, in addition to your own work, do it.  And don’t brag to others about such involvement . . . in fact don’t discuss it with anyone not directly involved in the boss’s project.  If the boss wants that info released, he will release it.
  2. Anytime your boss or her peers talk about the larger organization’s position, posture, reputation, liabilities, etc. listen and learn.  Try to get “in sync” with the leadership of your organization and learn to see the bigger picture they must deal with.
  3. Be humble but be ready.  Opportunities come at unpredictable times.  When asked if you are ready for more responsibility, if you believe that you a) are ready now or b) are almost ready, respond that you are always learning but that, yes, you are ready for a bigger challenge.  And then, as they say in Hollywood, fake it ‘til you make it.
  4. If you know you need assistance in an area, ask for that help as a condition for taking the job.  If you get in over your head later, ask for help fast.  People do not mind assisting open, proactive, genuine people who need a little coaching.  Just be humble and admit that you need some education in finance or engineering or whatever courses you slept through in college and then find yourself a mentor/coach to help you understand the basics.

And one last point:  don’t ever be “irreplaceable”.  You cannot be promoted out of your present job if you are in a key position and there is nobody to replace you!  The time to start training your replacement is yesterday!

Branding With or Without YouThis is in continuation to my branding series that was published from October 1 – October 8. Here is a quick recap of the earlier posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look for the sake of continuity:

  1. Branding – What’s the point?
  2. Branding – What’s your brand promise?
  3. Branding – Branding is a balancing act
  4. Branding – Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
  5. Branding – Don’t get caught in the hype
  6. Branding – Get the mix right

This post is the 7th in the branding series and is about your brand being created… with or without you!

Brands are dynamic.  Customers use our products and services. They like or dislike their experience and they say so, publicly.  This type of customer engagement directly impacts your brand.  In this way, your brand is being created with or without you.  You can’t control it.  What you can control is how you deal with it.

You’ve probably heard the saying “feedback is a gift”.  It’s also a gift that you can’t return or exchange if you don’t like it.  It’s yours to deal with whether you like it or not.  Since most brands have some sort of an online presence today, customers have a very public option when providing feedback.  They can leave their comments on your 1-800 customer feedback line or send their concerns to some anonymous email.  More likely, however, they will post their issues to a website, blog or user group.

When customers provide this type of public, direct feedback, we basically have two options:

1.  Engage – and hopefully influence the nature of the discussion

2.  Remain passive – and let the discussion continue without us

I encourage companies to engage in the discussion.  That’s the point of the internet, social media and online communities.  We have the capability to have these discussions in real time with many more customers than we could have ever have done in the past.

Yet, there are hundreds of examples where companies have had negative comments appear online about their products and they chose not to engage, or even acknowledge, the feedback.

In most cases this sort of “head in the sand” approach doesn’t work out very well for the companies involved.  They appear aloof, disconnected and uncaring.  Customers post comments on corporate blogs and social media sites, and the damage is done.  Companies then spend a ton of money and time trying to “manage their online reputation” – which usually means feeding good content into these sites in order to push the negative stuff off the first few pages of search results.

While this may work in some cases, it seems to be that it is a lot more effective, not to mention efficient, to just engage in the conversation to begin with!  Here are some ideas to help you proactively manage your brand online:

  • Pay attention:  Create Google alerts for your company name, brand names, etc.  Monitor where you brand is being mentioned and in what context.  It’s next to impossible to influence how the brand is being represented if you don’t know where you’re being mentioned.
  • Be active:  Identify the key places where your brand is being mentioned and get involved.  Participate in discussions relevant to your brand but not where you are directly mentioned.  You will get insights into the tone of the conversations and understand more how to position your brand appropriately.
  • Acknowledge feedback:  When someone posts something negative, acknowledge their issue.  Let them know you heard what they were saying.  Explain your response, but don’t try and justify your position, as you will only serve to annoy them further.

Your brand is being created. Its up to you how big a part you play in it… to make it look like the way you want it to be!

Rules for the sake of Rules

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 3, 2009

rules sake rules“I am really sorry, sir. It doesn’t matter what you have to say about why you need this specific service because it is against our policy to provide this. I want to save you the time of going over why you need what you need as we simply cannot provide it.”

I was told this at a local Walgreens a few weeks ago.

All I could do was stare confoundedly at the store representative. I mean, what can you, the customer, really do when the provider tells you that they don’t even want to LISTEN TO YOU? You do what I did – stare confoundedly at them.

I have come across so many instances of this that I am led to believe this is no trivial matter or a one-off instance. This is a serious issue plaguing the customer service industry and if you think you are perhaps not impacted by this, well… then you are probably not in the business of making money. The solution to this issue, ironically, comes from within the company itself. All it takes, in most of the cases, is another “more helpful” representative of the company who simply and genuinely wants to “help” the customer. Even if they end up with the same result i.e. not being able to provide what the customer is after, they try and try and try until they exhaust all possible options. They don’t tell the customer that they don’t want to hear them out because they care for the customer’s time. That is, in fact, complete bullshit. All that tells me is that the representative wanted to save HIS/HER time and it surely sounds a lot better if he/she said it was about saving the customer’s time. In my specific case, I simply went to a neighboring branch (of Walgreens, again) and got what I needed from a “more helpful” representative who found a way to help me, without breaking the rule… and he found a way by just spending an extra 10 minutes listening to my problem. Heck! Even if he had not been able to help me after the 10 minute of my cathartic problem-telling, I would’ve still come out a happy customer – a customer that was at least heard out.

The lesson to learn here (for me and perhaps for you) is to consistently question the rules and the rule-enforcers in your organization to ensure the purpose of the rules (i.e. helping your customer) is not being lost in the process of upholding the rules. Here are a few good ones to ask:

  1. Are you or your employees following the rules blindly and in fact, turning customers away OR are they putting some thought into the situation and EXPLORING if there is any way they can help the customer without breaking the rules?
  2. Are you or your employees enforcing the rules with a level of rigidity that is in fact hurting your customers or are you looking to “help” the customer, even if it means you might have to “bend” the rules a little from time to time.
  3. Most important one: Are you turning the customer away with a big fat “NO” the moment you sense a rule might be broken if you help them in the way they need help OR are you at least, starting out with a magnanimous YES and are willing to HEAR THEM OUT!

The next time you remember a RULE, think of why it exists and see if the RULE itself defeats the purpose of why it exists… that’s a sure shot giveaway of a rule that needs to be inspected and perhaps, overruled!

Who’s holding you hostage?

by Mark Goulston on September 8, 2009

hostageRight now, there’s someone in your life you need to reach. But you can’t, and it’s driving you crazy. Maybe it’s somebody at work: a subordinate, a team member, a client, your boss. Or maybe it’s somebody at home: a partner, a parent, a defiant teen, an angry “ex.”

You’ve tried everything—logic, persuasion, forcefulness, pleading, anger—but you’ve hit a wall every time. You’re mad, scared, or frustrated. And you’re thinking, “What now?”

Here’s what I want you to do: Think of this as a hostage situation. Why? Because you can’t get free. You’re trapped by another person’s resistance, fear, hostility, apathy, stubbornness, self-centeredness, or neediness—and by your own inability to take effective action.

And that’s where I come in.

I’m just an average guy—husband, father, doctor—but a long time ago, I discovered that I had a special talent. You could drop me into just about any situation, and I could reach people. I could persuade defiant executives, angry employees, or self-destructing management teams to work cooperatively toward solutions. I could get through to families in turmoil and to married couples who hated each other’s guts. I could even change the minds of hostage takers and desperate people contemplating suicide.

I wasn’t sure what I was doing differently from everybody else, but I could tell it worked. I knew I wasn’t smarter than everybody else, and I knew my success wasn’t just luck because what I did worked consistently, and it worked with all kinds of people in every type of situation. But why did it work?

In analyzing my methods, I found the answer. It turned out I’d happened on a simple, quick set of techniques—some I’d discovered on my own, and others I’d learned from mentors and colleagues—that create traction. That is, they pull people toward me, even if those people are trying to pull away.

To understand this, picture yourself driving up a steep hill. Your tires slip and slide and can’t grab hold. But downshift, and you get control. It’s like pulling the road to meet you. Most people upshift when they want to get through to other people.

They persuade. They encourage. They argue. They push.

And in the process, they create resistance. When you use the techniques I offer, you’ll do exactly the opposite—you’ll listen, ask, mirror, and reflect back to people what you’ve heard. When you do, they will feel seen, understood, and felt—and that unexpected downshift will draw them to you.

The powerful Persuasion Cycle™ techniques can move people rapidly and easily, often within minutes, from “no” to “yes.” I employ them every day to fix broken families and help warring couples fall in love again. I use them to save companies on the brink of meltdown, get feuding managers to work together effectively, and empower salespeople to make “impossible” sales. And I use them to help FBI agents and hostage negotiators succeed in the toughest situations possible, when life and death are on the line.

In fact, as you’ll find out, you have a lot in common with hostage negotiators when it comes to reaching the people who don’t want to listen to you. That’s why I’m going to tell you Frank’s story.

Frank is sitting in his car in a large mall parking lot, and nobody is coming near him because he’s holding a shotgun to his throat. The SWAT team and the hostage negotiation team are called in. The SWAT team takes positions behind other cars and vehicles, trying to not agitate the man. As they wait, they fill in the background details. They’re looking at a man in his early thirties who lost his customer service job at a large electronics store six months earlier for yelling at customers and coworkers. He’d interviewed for several jobs, but didn’t get any of them. He was abusive verbally to his wife and two young children.

A month earlier, his wife and kids moved in with her parents in another city. She told him that she needed a break, and he needed to get his act together. The landlord of their apartment kicked him out at the same time because they hadn’t paid the rent. He moved into a shabby room in a poor section of the city. He stopped bathing and shaving and ate next to nothing. The last straw was the restraining order he’d received the day before he ended up at the mall parking lot.

Now the lead negotiator is talking calmly to the man. “Frank, this is Lieutenant Evans, I’m going to be talking with you, because there is another way out of this besides hurting yourself. I know you don’t think you have any choice, but you really do.”

Frank exclaims: “You don’t know s***. You’re just like everyone else. Leave me the f*** alone!”

Lieutenant Evans replies: “I don’t think I can do that. You’re here in the middle of a mall parking lot with a gun to your throat, and I need to help you find another way out of this situation.”

“Go f*** yourself! I don’t need anyone’s help!” Frank replies.

And so the conversation proceeds for an hour, with stretches of silence lasting several minutes or more. As the information about Frank comes in, it becomes clear that he’s not an evil person, just a very disturbed and angry one.

The SWAT team is poised to “take him out” if he threatens anyone else with his gun, but everyone except Frank would like to end this peacefully. However, the odds of that don’t look so good.

After an hour and a half, another negotiator, Detective Kramer, arrives. Kramer is a graduate of one of the hostage negotiation training sessions I’ve delivered to police and FBI hostage negotiators. Detective Kramer’s been briefed about Frank’s background and the status of this negotiation and offers Lieutenant Evans a different suggestion: “Here’s what I want you to say to the guy: ‘I’ll bet you feel that nobody knows what it’s like to have tried everything else and be stuck with this as your only way out, isn’t that true?’”

Evans replies, “Say what?”

Kramer repeats the suggestion: “Yeah, go on, say this to the guy: ‘I’ll bet you feel that nobody knows what it’s like to have tried everything else and be stuck with this as your only way out, isn’t that true?’”

Evans complies and when he says that to Frank, Frank too replies with: “Say what?”

Evans repeats it to Frank, who this time responds: “Yeah, you’re right, nobody knows and nobody gives a f***!”

Kramer tells Evans, “Good, you got a ‘Yes’; now you’re in. Let’s build on that.” He adds a second question for the lead negotiator to ask: “Yeah, and I’ll bet you feel that nobody knows what it’s like to start every day believing that there’s more chance that something will go wrong than go right, isn’t that true, too?”

Kramer tells Evans to repeat what he’s heard and get an additional confirmation: “And because nobody knows how bad it is and nobody cares and because nothing goes right and everything goes wrong, that’s why you’re in your car with a gun wanting to end it all. True?”

“True,” Frank replied, his voice showing the earliest signs of calming down.

“Tell me more. What exactly has happened to you? When was your life last okay, and what’s happened since then to turn it to crap?” Evans invites.

Frank starts to recount the events since he was fired from his job. When he pauses, Evans responds with: “Really . . . tell me more.”

Frank continues describing the problems he’s had.

At some point, with guidance from Kramer, Evans says: “And all of that’s caused you to feel angry? Or frustrated? Or discouraged? Or hopeless? Or what exactly?” Evans waits for Frank to pick the word that best fits how he feels.

Frank finally owns up to: “Fed up.”

Evans follows up with: “So you felt fed up and when you got that restraining order, that was the breaking point?”

“Yeah,” Frank confirms. His voice, once hostile, is quieter now. In a few sentences, Frank’s gone from refusing to communicate to listening and beginning to have a conversation.

What just happened? The most critical step in persuasion—the step I refer to as “buy-in”—has begun. That’s the step where a person goes from resisting to listening and then to considering what’s being said. What caused Frank to start listening and begin to “buy in” to what Lieutenant Evans was saying?

That shift was no accident.

The secret lay in saying the words that Frank was thinking but not saying. When the lieutenant’s words matched what Frank was thinking, Frank leaned into the conversation and began to say, “Yes.”

The Persuasion Cycle™

You probably don’t find yourself in the types of situations that hostage negotiators handle. But on any given day, who are you trying to persuade to do something?

The answer is:  nearly everybody you meet. Almost all communication is an effort to get through to people and cause them to do something different than they were doing before. Maybe you’re trying to sell them something. Maybe you’re trying to talk sense into them. Or maybe you need to impress them that you’re the right person for a job, a promotion, or a relationship.

But here’s the challenge: People have their own needs, desires, and agendas. They have secrets they’re hiding from you. And they’re stressed, busy, and often feeling like they’re in over their heads. To cope with their stress and insecurity, they throw up mental barricades that make it difficult to reach them even if they share your goals, and nearly impossible if they’re hostile.

Approach these people armed solely with reason and facts, or resort to arguing or encouraging or pleading, and you’ll expect to get through—but often you won’t. Instead, you’ll get smacked down, and you’ll never have a clue why. (How often have you walked away from a sales pitch, an office meeting, or an argument with your partner or child, shaking your head and saying, “What the heck just happened?”)

The good news is that you can get through, simply by changing your approach. The Persuasion Cycle™ techniques work for hostage negotiators in the most desperate situations, and they’re equally potent if you’re trying to reach a boss, a coworker, a client, a lover, or even an angry teenager. They’re easy, they’re fast, and you can hit the ground running with them.

These techniques are powerful because they address the core of successful communication: what I call the “Persuasion Cycle”.
Persuation Cycle

All persuasion moves through the steps of this cycle. To take people from the beginning to the end of the Persuasion Cycle™, you need to speak with them in a manner that moves them:

  • From resisting to listening
  • From listening to considering
  • From considering to willing to do
  • From willing to do to doing
  • From doing to glad they did and continuing to do

The focus, central tenet, “the secret of getting through to absolutely anyone,” is that you get through to people by having them “buy in.” “Buy-in” occurs when people move from “resisting” to “listening” to “considering” what you’re saying. Ironically, the key to gaining “buy in” and then moving people through the rest of the cycle is not what you tell them, but what you get them to tell you—and what happens in their minds in the process.

In my new book, Just Listen, I lay out the nine basic rules and twelve quick techniques you can use to move people through different points on the Persuasion Cycle. Master these rules and techniques, and you can put them to work wherever you go in your career or personal life. They’re the same concepts I teach FBI agents and hostage negotiators for building empathy, de-escalating conflict, and gaining buy-in to a desired solution—and when you know them, you won’t need to be held hostage by another person’s anger, fear, lack of interest, or hidden agenda.

You’ll have the tools you need to turn any situation to your advantage.

Want to learn more, including the “Nine Basic Rules” and twelve quick techniques to move anyone through the Persuasion Cycle? All you need to do is Just Listen !

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goulston picture 2aMark Goulston, M.D., is a business psychiatrist who through his early career intervened with suicidal and violent individuals. This eventually led to his training of hostage negotiators for the police and the FBI. From this experience he developed an uncanny ability to get through to virtually anyone, and the methods he used form the basis of Just Listen.

Dr. Goulston currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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