Category Archives: Relationships

Our Pre-Judgment Problem

BY Seth Godin

Our pre-judgment problem

Most of us can agree that picking a great team is one of the best ways to build a successful organization or project.The problem is that we’re terrible at it.

The NFL Combine is a giant talent show, with a billion dollars on the line. And every year, NFL scouts use the wrong data to pick the wrong players (Tom Brady famously recorded one of the worst scores ever 17 years ago). Moneyball is all about how reluctant baseball scouts were to change their tactics, even after they saw that the useful data was a far better predictor of future performance than their instincts were.

And we do the same thing when we scan resumes, judging people by ethnic background, fraternity, gender or the kind of typeface they use.

The SAT is a poor indicator of college performance, but most colleges use it anyway.

Famous colleges aren’t correlated with lifetime success or happiness, but we push our kids to to seek them out.

And all that time on social networks still hasn’t taught us not to judge people by their profile photos…

Most of all, we now know that easy-to-measure skills aren’t nearly as important as the real skills that matter.

Everyone believes that other people are terrible at judging us and our potential, but we go ahead and proudly judge others on the basis of a short interview (or worse, a long one), even though the people we’re selecting aren’t being hired for their ability to be interviewed.

The first step in getting better at pre-judging is to stop pre-judging.

This takes guts, because it feels like giving up control, but we never really had control in the first place. Not if we’ve been obsessively measuring the wrong things all along.

Read the original article HERE

6 Mistakes That Rookie Leaders Make Which Can Cause Them To Fail

By GORDON TREDGOLD

The transition from technical expert to first-time leader is a difficult step and one that causes many to stumble and fail.  I know this from personal experience.

In fact, I initially struggled to get the respect of my team, almost lost control and failed to deliver the project I was leading. Fortunately, I had a very supportive manager who stepped in and helped to pull me through that ordeal so I could ultimately make the grade. But the lesson was clear: Too often, people are put into leadership positions without the appropriate training, and they just simply struggle.

Here are six common mistakes that rookie managers make, which can cause them to fail.

1. Believe they have all the answers

When you appoint technical experts to leadership positions without the appropriate management skills, they believe that it’s their technical experience which will save them, and they start to believe that either they have, or need to have all the answers. This can lead to team members to feel uninvolved and uncommitted.

2. Too hands off

What a lot of people fail to realize is that with every promotion comes more work not less. When leaders make that mistake, they become hands-off, sitting in their office and leaving everything to their team. As a leader you are heavily involved in defining the goals, setting the vision, inspiring the team and leading the charge. Leadership is not a hands-off paper shuffling job.

3. Too hands on

Just because you were the expert doesn’t mean you need to be involved in everything. Your job is to lead the team, not necessarily to do the work. Sure, there may be times when you need to step in and get your hands dirty, but that should be the exception, not the rule.

4. Micromanage every task

Micromanagement is a productivity killer. No one wants their boss looking over their shoulder every two minutes asking are we there yet. It shows a lack of trust and that you don’t respect their skills. You need to strike the right balance between given them enough space to do the job themselves but also checking in to see how they are doing and whether or not they need support.

5. Create distance

One of the worst and most common mistakes that I see with new leaders and managers is when they look to create a distance between themselves and the people that work for them. They take the ‘it’s lonely at the top,’ to be a strategy for good leadership rather than a description of how it can sometimes feel to be a leader. When you create distance, you make it difficult for people to feel engaged, and when teams become disengaged results can suffer.

6. Act like a friend instead of a manager

It’s good to be friendly, but you need to make sure that the friendship you have with your team doesn’t impact your judgment or decision making. If you were previously one of the team, this can be a difficult balance to strike, as there is a good chance that you’re already friends with many of them, especially if you have worked together for a while.

It doesn’t mean you should immediately drop people, but you need to be able to delineate between being a friend and being their boss. People will try and take advantage, but you need to be firm, and look to do what’s right and fair, and definitely don’t play favorites.

It’s not easy to make the transition from team member to team leader, but as you start on that journey remember that it’s your job to engage, inspire and support your team. They are the people that are going to do the bulk of the work and your job is to put them in a position to be successful, and then help them to be successful.

Read the original article HERE

Companies Are Bad at Identifying High-Potential Employees

By Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman

A high-potential employee is usually in the top 5% of employees in an organization. These people are thought to be the organization’s most capable, most motivated, and most likely to ascend to positions of responsibility and power. To help these employees prepare for leadership roles in a thoughtful, efficient manner, companies often institute formal high-potential (HIPO) programs.

And yet, according to our data, more than 40% of individuals in HIPO programs may not belong there. We collected information on 1,964 employees from three organizations who were designated as high potentials, measuring their leadership capability using a 360-degree assessment that consisted of feedback from their immediate manager, several peers, all direct reports, and often several other individuals who were former colleagues or who worked two levels below them. On average, each leader had been given feedback from 13 assessors. Previous work we’d done with these organizations had shown that this assessment technique was highly correlated with organizational outcomes such as employee engagement, lower turnover, and higher productivity. The higher the leader scored, the better the outcomes.

But when we looked at the participants in the HIPO programs, 12% were in their organization’s bottom quartile of leadership effectiveness. Overall, 42% were below average. That is a long way from the top 5% to which they supposedly belong.

So how were these individuals chosen? What we found was that, in all three organizations, there were four characteristics that these individuals possessed:

  • Technical and professional expertise. It is often said that the person most likely to be promoted is the best engineer, chemist, programmer, or accountant. Having deep knowledge and expertise goes a long way in terms of getting a person noticed and valued. And it’s true that technical expertise does matter for managers. However, it’s essential to understand that what got you invited to the party is not enough to keep you at the party. People who are skilled technically but lack excellent leadership capabilities need to develop those skills.
  • Taking initiative and delivering results. Senior leaders in an organization were willing to look beyond poor leadership skills for a person who was consistently self-motivated and productive. Perhaps this is not surprising — when we asked over 85,000 managers what was most important for their direct reports to do to be successful, their number one choice was “drive for results.” Results do matter, but sometimes a top individual contributor should stay an individual contributor and not become the boss.
  • Consistently honoring commitments. When they say “It will be done,” it gets done. Inevitably, this creates trust in an individual and a willingness to look past other skills that are not excellent. There is no apparent downside to this skill until a person gets promoted and they become overwhelmed with too many assignments they have committed to achieving. We find that people who lack leadership skills don’t trust direct reports enough to delegate assignments and involve others. This leaves them drowning in commitments.
  • Fitting in to the culture of the organization. In addition to these skills, we found that underperforming people in HIPO programs tended to emphasize a specific trait valued by their organization. One organization, for example, had culture that placed a great deal of weight on being nice. Employees who showed consideration and concern for others would occasionally be considered HIPOs even though they lacked other leadership skills. The other two organizations valued people who volunteered for new programs or initiatives. People with that attitude were rewarded by being included in the HIPO program, even when they weren’t effective in other parts of their jobs. Paying attention to what is valued in an organization can help an individual get noticed.

We also noticed that the underperforming HIPOs were especially lacking in two skills: strategic vision and ability to motivate others. When filling their HIPO programs, organizations should look for people who show signs of having these skills — which are very important as you climb the organizational ladder — and not place quite so much emphasis on things like cultural fit and individual results.

For the organization, there are several risks to filling your HIPO program with people who don’t actually possess leadership potential. Leaders may well be lulled into assuming that they have an adequate leadership pipeline when in reality they have less than half the pipeline they thought. Just as bad, the organization may be missing out on the people who would make great leaders, even if they don’t fit the stereotype of a high-potential leader.

The situation is hardly any better for the people in the HIPO program who aren’t likely to flourish in senior management roles. These people may assume that their career is on track when in reality they may have been steered in a career direction that is less than ideal for them. These misplaced members of the HIPO group were often extremely effective individual contributors, even if they weren’t equipped for a senior role. These are people the organization wants to retain (which may be another reason they’d been funneled into the HIPO program — perhaps senior management has no more imaginative way to reward top contributors). When organizations push their top contributors into management roles in which they won’t thrive, however, they are running the risk of losing a top individual contributor and demotivating the people who are now reporting to an incompetent boss — and losing them as well.

But all is not necessarily lost. The underqualified people in the HIPO program who truly do aspire to senior positions in the organization should focus on learning and practicing the leadership skills required. We strongly believe that HIPOs with leadership deficiencies can eventually develop excellent skills, but the majority of those with poor skills don’t realize their deficiency. Being part of the HIPO program masks their shortcomings. So take an honest look in the mirror at what you need to learn.

As for the managers running the HIPO program and selecting people to be in it, we suggest they be a little more careful in whom they anoint.

 

Why This Leadership Model Simply Cannot Be Argued With

By Jeff Boss

Heart. People. Hard work. That’s the model of the Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) and it’s paid dividends–but not just monetarily.

Consumers are directing their dollars toward businesses with a purpose, whether that purpose is to create a better environment or to grow employees into a better version of themselves. It’s not uncommon for business owners to waive off the pressure to pursue purpose because, well, “purpose” doesn’t exactly pay the bills. However, the people who believe in purpose do, because they’re the ones you attain, train and retain to sustain pursuing that purpose–which translates into dollars.

Dan Simons, owner of FRG, shared his thoughts about growing an ethical business from the ground up, and why doing so is critical to a sustainable competitive advantage. “The seed from which a business grows will forever define it, so choosing and assembling the DNA requires mindfulness from the start,” says Simons. “For us, this creates the fertile ground our company culture grows from, more than one initiative or another. All of our work, from our management structure to our martinis, is driven by who we are and what we believe.”

I know, powerful stuff.

Here are four best-yet leadership practices from Simons on growing and sustaining an ethical and successful business:

1. Home Is Where The Heart Is

Building a successful business, no matter what kind, starts at home, with what matters to its people, its owners, managers, and staff. So many of the great businesses we all know and love—from Zappos to Method to Apple— work because they have heart. Their people believe in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. So does the Farmers Restaurant Group, which was inspired and backed by the American family farmers led by Mark Watne of the North Dakota Farmers Union. FRG currently operates five restaurants in the DC area, including the popular Founding Farmers. Known for scratch-made, source-matters menus, FRG also works to keep their prices reasonable and bring more of the food dollar back to the people who grow it in an effort they call “unbundling the industrial food chain.”

“The reason we are what we are is because of why we began,” Simons claims. “It all started with the family farmers, 42,000 of them who majority own the business either as individual investors or through the NDFU. Our model comes from them—the family and the farm.  Our employees call the company the Farmily; they know the work they do puts money in their own pockets, but also in the pockets of our Farmer-Owners and that provides a lot of the heart–working collaboratively to make something sustainable and worthwhile.”

2. People Matter And People Contribute

Founding Farmers along with its sibling restaurants, including the newly opened Farmers & Distillers, are a growing business with more of a focus on being great than on being big. They employ over 1,000 people and serve an estimated 100,000 guests per month. Yet within the company, it operates like a family. The management and staff are connected and they believe relationships are foundational. The company runs a quarterly school for employees, teaching everything from time management to food safety to emotional intelligence and relationship building. They have a company “constitution,” which includes a clear set of governing rules and requires learning company history, language, and culture. This constitution also serves as a tool that encourages self reflection, asking questions, and holding oneself and one’s team accountable.

Heart. People. Hard work. That’s the model of the Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) and it’s paid dividends–but not just monetarily.

Consumers are directing their dollars toward businesses with a purpose, whether that purpose is to create a better environment or to grow employees into a better version of themselves. It’s not uncommon for business owners to waive off the pressure to pursue purpose because, well, “purpose” doesn’t exactly pay the bills. However, the people who believe in purpose do, because they’re the ones you attain, train and retain to sustain pursuing that purpose–which translates into dollars.

Dan Simons, owner of FRG, shared his thoughts about growing an ethical business from the ground up, and why doing so is critical to a sustainable competitive advantage. “The seed from which a business grows will forever define it, so choosing and assembling the DNA requires mindfulness from the start,” says Simons. “For us, this creates the fertile ground our company culture grows from, more than one initiative or another. All of our work, from our management structure to our martinis, is driven by who we are and what we believe.”

I know, powerful stuff.

Here are four best-yet leadership practices from Simons on growing and sustaining an ethical and successful business:

1. Home Is Where The Heart Is

Building a successful business, no matter what kind, starts at home, with what matters to its people, its owners, managers, and staff. So many of the great businesses we all know and love—from Zappos to Method to Apple— work because they have heart. Their people believe in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. So does the Farmers Restaurant Group, which was inspired and backed by the American family farmers led by Mark Watne of the North Dakota Farmers Union. FRG currently operates five restaurants in the DC area, including the popular Founding Farmers. Known for scratch-made, source-matters menus, FRG also works to keep their prices reasonable and bring more of the food dollar back to the people who grow it in an effort they call “unbundling the industrial food chain.”

“The reason we are what we are is because of why we began,” Simons claims. “It all started with the family farmers, 42,000 of them who majority own the business either as individual investors or through the NDFU. Our model comes from them—the family and the farm.  Our employees call the company the Farmily; they know the work they do puts money in their own pockets, but also in the pockets of our Farmer-Owners and that provides a lot of the heart–working collaboratively to make something sustainable and worthwhile.”

2. People Matter And People Contribute

Founding Farmers along with its sibling restaurants, including the newly opened Farmers & Distillers, are a growing business with more of a focus on being great than on being big. They employ over 1,000 people and serve an estimated 100,000 guests per month. Yet within the company, it operates like a family. The management and staff are connected and they believe relationships are foundational. The company runs a quarterly school for employees, teaching everything from time management to food safety to emotional intelligence and relationship building. They have a company “constitution,” which includes a clear set of governing rules and requires learning company history, language, and culture. This constitution also serves as a tool that encourages self reflection, asking questions, and holding oneself and one’s team accountable.

Read the original article HERE

 

Need to Persuade Someone? Don’t Touch Your Face (and 14 Other Science-Proven Strategies)

By 

At one time or another, each of us needs to be persuasive or convincing. You may be a professional salesperson. An entrepreneur. A manager. A parent.

Whatever the case, for most people, being persuasive is intimidating.

People stress about saying the right thing. About finding that one magical phrase to make people say yes. About not tripping over their words.

But science tells us a different story.

When it comes to being persuasive and convincing, it’s what you don’t say that matters the most.

Marianne Schmid Mast and Gaëtan Cousin, in the book Nonverbal Communication, have identified 15 science-backed behaviors used by persuasive people.

The good news? These are behaviors that any person can master, behaviors that, when paired with the most basic argument, will take your persuasiveness to the next level.

1. Speak faster (more than 150 words per minute)

Most people speak between 125 and 175 words per minute. The faster you speak, the more your perceived expertise and credibility increase.

(Just don’t overdo it.)

2. Maintain eye contact

Never be the one to break eye contact first. Persuasive people keep eye contact longer.

3. Smile more

Plain and simple, people respond to smiling.

4. Use facial expressions

Facial expressions and animation convey passion and enthusiasm for your cause. It’s not only contagious, but convincing as well.

5. Nod more

Subtle nodding triggers a subconscious, but positive, reaction in listeners.

6. Gesture more

Use your hands, a lot. Like facial expressions, hand gestures reaffirm passion and conviction, and increases your persuasiveness.

7. Lose your nervous ticks

Touching your face, wringing your hands, grabbing your ear, rubbing your eyes — all these movements come across as suspicious. Avoid nervous ticks at all costs.

8. Use objects

While nervous ticks are out, nonchalantly playing with a pen or other object portrays an air of casualness and relaxation. That puts the listener at ease.

9. Don’t lean back too much

While you want an air of relaxation, you don’t want to be too relaxed. You don’t want to come across as noncaring. You’ll never convince someone that way.

10. Keep it close

Depending on your relationship, the closer you can get, the more convincing you will be. Sometimes it’s OK to push the personal space limits.

11. Relax

People who are uptight come across as nervous, or having something to hide. Relax if you want to be persuasive.

12. Don’t stand at attention

Speaking of relaxed, loosen your posture up a little bit. Being too rigid portrays an air of superiority and won’t aid your cause.

13. Move around

Think about normal conversations. People move, change positions, sway. Keep your movements as relaxed and normal as possible.

14. Make physical contact

Again, depending on your relationship, a barely noticeable touch anywhere from the elbow to the shoulder of the other person before making your ask will make a world of difference.

Try it.

15. Don’t overdo it

Don’t speak too loud, or too soft. Don’t be too animated, or too lethargic. Don’t be too aggressive, or too passive. Practice keeping your personality in the middle when you need to be persuasive.

Read the original article HERE

 

Your Business Is Going to Depend on Connected Spenders, So You’d Better Understand Who They Are

By Louise Keely

Consumer-facing companies are at a loss. The middle class, long the bread and butter of consumer companies of all kinds, is shrinking as a percentage of the population in mature markets. And in emerging markets, where many consumer companies have been laying their bets for the future, growth has started to slow.

To thrive again, companies need nuanced ways of defining a segment of consumers to focus on. Our research indicates that five questions can help point the way:

  • Do they have access to the internet?
  • Do they have a significant amount of discretionary income?
  • Are they willing to spend a lot of their discretionary income?
  • Do they prefer premium goods and services when they can afford them?
  • Do they seek to be on the cutting edge of consumer trends?

Consumers who answer yes to all five questions are what we call “connected spenders.” When we look more closely, we see that almost all of them are working-age, and over 30% are 25–34 years old. They are highly urban; nearly 80% of connected spenders live in a city. In emerging markets, that number is even higher, at 90%. While connected spenders are more affluent than the average, not all are high income. And, in turn, not all affluent consumers are connected spenders. Globally, connected spenders make up about one-third of low-income populations and two-thirds of high-income ones.

Today connected spenders count for about 19% of the global population, and that is projected to grow to 37% by 2025. Cumulatively, over this decade they will spend $260 trillion — 46% of the world’s consumer spending. In markets such as the U.S., where internet access is just shy of 90%, only 36% of the population are currently connected spenders, a number that will grow to over 50% by 2025.

Connected spenders are the heaviest purchasers in categories including electronics, travel, and dining out, and they’re likely to be early adopters of new ways to buy in any category. In financial services, for instance, these ways are the newest cashless payment methods or mobile banking products. In media, they will gravitate to multiple devices and to the newest services to stream video and audio. In CPG categories, connected spenders will be drawn to “hot” concepts such as health and wellness, and offerings that combine product and experience, such as subscription services. Shopping experiences such as in-store cooking demonstrations or shopping apps to help them find and select products in more convenient ways will also appeal to them.

How should companies approach the connected spender opportunity?

First, they should recognize that people can only be connected spenders if they are connected. Mature markets already boast close to universal levels of internet access, but we estimate that 2.3 billion more consumers will come online in the next decade, almost all in emerging markets. By 2025 just three mature economies — the United States, Japan, and Germany — will feature in the top 10 countries for connected spenders. That top 10 will include Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria — markets that do not get much attention from Western companies.

Companies therefore need a two-track strategy: woo the connected spenders in mature internet markets now, where they are already deeply invested, and get ready for the new connected spenders as they come online in emerging economies over the next 10 years. This approach fits the financial realities of the world’s markets. Even in 2025 the average mature-market connected spender will spend nearly $40,000 per year, 10 times what the average in an emerging market will be.

In a mature market, consumer companies must get already-connected connected spenders excited about the products and shopping experiences they offer. Connected spenders seek novelty and exciting experiences across all their consumer activities. They prefer cutting-edge products and state-of-the-art technologies. Offerings that bring an imaginative, technology-driven twist to an existing product or that solve a consumer problem with a new digital offering will open connected spenders’ wallets.

Connected spenders are a digitally oriented advertising audience. Online marketing and advertising, particularly on smartphones, will be a good investment to engage these consumers, especially with newer formats, such as online sporting events or sites that combine curated content with online shopping. Connected spenders respond to traditional advertising as well, but they are much more likely to spend time on a manufacturer’s website or to remember an internet ad. Connected spenders will watch an ad if it is educational or highly relevant. The challenge, therefore, is to increase the information-richness of advertising and the personalization of its content and delivery.

What does “getting ready” for emerging markets’ connected spenders mean? Three things:

First, make it easy for consumers to move their consumption behaviors online as access allows, by including safe and convenient access to and education about new digital goods and services. Connected spenders enjoy learning about products. Most companies know they need to make e-commerce easy. They are far less aware of how critical education is in these markets, especially for products and services whose benefits are not immediately obvious, such as insurance or organic personal care products. It may seem that making it easy for consumers to buy the goods is enough, but it isn’t. In many cases, a great deal of explaining needs to go along with access.

Second, design products and shopping experiences to align with the dominant internet access methods of each market, as in the China example above. In many emerging economies it is well-known that consumers are leapfrogging to internet access by smartphone and may never use personal computers. But what is underappreciated is that a mobile-first or mobile-only strategy will not be the same in all markets. In China, smartphones are prevalent among urban consumers and social media sites are used for everything from shopping for groceries to paying credit card bills to buying an insurance policy. In other places, such as Nigeria, traditional trade is more prevalent and smartphone use is less so. Shoppers there will be looking for text-based tools to help them pay for items in local retail stores.

The final imperative is to be flexible in prioritizing markets, because a connected spender in spirit only becomes one in practice when internet access is accompanied by the other elements needed for e-commerce to boom — including market-wide online payment infrastructure and solutions to the logistics of the “last mile.” Companies must monitor the development of communications, transport, and financial services infrastructure.

Connected spenders are naturally engaged and eager; it’s what makes them so attractive. But they are also demanding, and their expectations will need to be satisfied. They are looking for new goods and services, with the latest technology, but with tangible benefits — and they will do the work online to find the best prices. The reward for investing to meet their demand will be significant, as the total annual spending of connected spenders will rise from $15 trillion in 2015, or 35% of global consumer spending, to over half of the annual total in 2025 — $32 trillion.

Read the original article HERE

3 Reasons That You Are More Important Than You Know

By LeaderTribe

I recently talked to my friend Ben. When talking about his 3-year-old son, Ben said, “He’s everything to me.”

I have great news Ben: you are everything to your son as well.

When asked, “Who is the most important and influential role model whom you have ever met?” the number one answer is “a parent.” For people under 30 years old, that answer is given more often than a business leader, religious/community leader, political leader, celebrity, and entertainer… combined!

But what I find most interesting is the second most popular group—teacher or coach. Think about that. The most influential people in our lives are parents and teachers and coaches. When we get older, it might be a boss where we work. Do you see the pattern? The most important influencers in our entire lives are just normal people! People like you and me. You are important!

You really are more important than you know. You matter!

If you are like me, you’ve battled insecurity and feeling like a poser. You get discouraged, lonely or depressed—and you’re quickly tempted to feel very insignificant. You might feel that you just want to love someone and to be loved in return. You believe you are the only person feeling that way. That’s not true… and I can prove it.

I had the privilege of leading an executive training for some very bright, very successful business leaders. We talked about helping employees who were feeling insignificant and sensing that they really didn’t matter. I had these leaders take a risk with me. I invited every leader present to close his or her eyes, then I said, “I’d like to do a quick poll: If you have ever felt unimportant, insignificant, and like no one noticed, please raise your hand.” Then I said, “Open your eyes!”

Every hand was raised. That’s right: every single one. And each of them thought they were part of a small minority who had lifted their hands.

When you are tempted to feel that you don’t matter, please remember, that is a lie! You do matter and you are important. There are a many reasons that is true, but let me give you three:

  1. You have the capacity to love (or care deeply) for others, and people need that so desperately! The best leaders care deeply for those they serve.
  2. You have potential to be joyful and to enjoy a life that is full and meaningful. Discouragement is usually temporary. If not, seek help. But when you have recovered, you bring purpose and joy to those around you.
  3. You can be forgiven and you can be a forgiver. Even Harvard Business Review recognizes the importance of forgiveness in our lives. Helping others in this area is one of the greatest gifts you could give them.

THE BOTTOM LINE. As an insecure kid from a single parent family (and that parent divorced four times), I felt insignificant and helpless. But a neighbor lady was nice to me. I drew her a picture at school and she told me “it is so beautiful” and “how much she loved it.” It meant the world to me, so I drew her many more. Over a decade later I saw the picture—it was terrible. But not to her, she saw it through eyes of love. Go find beauty in and encourage someone who needs to hear it. See… you are important!

Read the original article HERE

The Secret to Negotiating Is Reading People’s Faces

By Kasia Wezowski

Although most of us like to think of ourselves as rational decision makers, ample research shows that emotions play an outsized role in negotiations. If you can’t read what your counterpart is feeling and instead focus only on what he or she is saying, you’re highly unlikely to achieve everything you could have.

Of course, experienced negotiators know how to mask their true feelings. They choose their words, tone, body language, and expressions carefully. To the average observer, they often appear neutral, impassive. Or they’re able to convincingly fake an emotion if they think it will help them advance their own interests.

However, there is a way to read what your counterpart is feeling even if they are deliberately trying to hide it from you. The secret is to pay attention to the spontaneous and involuntary microexpressions that rapidly flit across everyone’s faces at times of intense emotion. If you know what to look for, they can provide an instant, honest window into how your counterpart is feeling.

Here are some examples of common microexpressions (as depicted by Patryk Wezowski — my husband and business partner — and me):

As you can see, it’s quite easy to recognize the meaning behind the expression on a still photo. In a real-life situation, however, when the stakes are high and the microexpression lasts for as little as one 25th of a second, it’s a different game entirely.

In my work as a body language researcher and instructor, I’ve long theorized that one of the key differences between exceptional negotiators or salespeople and those who are merely average is the ability to read these microexpressions, gauge visceral reactions to ideas or proposals, then strategically steer them toward a preferred outcome.

To test this idea, we conducted two experiments using videos like this one, which gauge users’ ability to recognize these expressions.

In the first study, we compared the video test scores of salespeople from the Karnak Stationery Company with their performance and found that those with above average scores noticeably outsold their colleagues. The second experiment involved salespeople from a BMW showroom in Rome, Italy. We found that high performers (who had sold more than 60 automobiles in the most recent quarter) scored almost twice as high on the test as low performers. Our conclusion: Effective negotiators seem to be naturally good readers of microexpressions.

The good news is this isn’t an ability you either have or you don’t. You can learn it, and get better at it over time, with practices tests and in real-life negotiations by following some simple rules:

  • Focus on the face. The next time you ask an important question in a negotiation, focus on your counterpart’s face for at least four seconds, instead of just listening to the words coming out of his or her mouth.
  • Tell a story. Negotiators have an easier time controlling their expressions when they’re talking. So don’t ask too many open questions. Instead describe what you want or share an anecdote about another negotiating partner who shared concerns similar to theirs and watch how they respond as they listen. Their guard will lower a little and you’ll be able to see their honest reactions to what you’re saying — knowledge to guide the rest of the conversation.
  • Present multiple options. As you present a list of choices to negotiating partners, their microexpressions will reveal which they like and which they don’t, sometimes even before they’re consciously aware of their preferences. Watch closely to see what their face tells you about each option.

Here’s how it might work in practice:

Imagine you’re a consultant who has proposed a certain fee for your services: “Based on your requirements, we can propose $100,000 as the consultancy fee for this project.” If you see your potential client show the microexpression of disgust, you can calibrate accordingly and lower your price without skipping a beat: “But because we anticipate a longer term collaboration and are excited about the direction your business is heading in, we can offer you 25% discount.”

What if you instead recognized an expression of happiness or contempt after the initial offer? Maybe your counterpart expected a higher price, or doubts that you’re offering the premium level of service. You could quickly adjust your price in the opposite direction: “That’s the basic fee which covers X and Y. For your project I also recommend our entire suite of services including A, B and C, which means the total price would be closer to $150,000.”

Attention to microexpressions allows you to secretly respond to the feedback your negotiating partners don’t even realize they’re giving, ensuring that you stay in control of the dialogue and achieve better outcomes.

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