Tag Archives: relationships

How to Keep Your Team Focused and Productive During Uncertain Times

By Amy Gallo

Uncertainty is uncomfortable for everyone. Whether it’s political turmoil or a reorganization at your company, employees who are concerned about their future are likely to be distracted and unproductive. What should a manager do? How can you keep people focused while also helping them cope with the feelings that change and ambiguity bring up?

What the Experts Say
Most of us feel overwhelmed, upset, and anxious when faced with uncertainty. “We have a fundamental neuroanatomy that orients us toward stress in highly charged times,” explains Rich Fernandez, cofounder of Wisdom Labs and an expert in resilience. And this can start an unhealthy cycle: “A symptom of distraction is more distraction. Then we feel more anxious,” says Susan David, a founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and author of Emotional Agility. On a team, these feelings, and the resulting hit to productivity, can be contagious. “We subtly pick up on the emotions and start to feel or mimic them ourselves,” she explains. To help people stay focused despite what may be going on in the world or the office, Fernandez believes in “compassionate management,” where you “seek to understand how you can be of service and benefit to employees while balancing the need to keep them on task.” Here are practical ways to do that.

Take care of yourself first
You’ll be better able to support your team and model resiliency if you acknowledge and manage any stress and anxiety you feel yourself. Start by taking the time to understand what you’re feeling. “You want to label your emotions. Put distance between yourself and them so that you can make a conscious decision about how to act in a way that’s in line with your values,” David says. Ask yourself: Whom do I want to be in this situation? What’s most important to me? “If one of your core values is to be collaborative, for example, ask, ‘How can you help people feel like they’re part of the team?’”

Acknowledge the uncertainty
If you sense your employees are concerned about the future of the country, your organization, or their jobs, don’t carry on with business as usual. “These experiences are very real and can’t be ignored, denied, or repressed,” says Fernandez. Even if your intention is to keep people focused, bottling your emotions, or expecting employees to do the same, can be dangerous. People start to feel uncomfortable voicing their feelings or concerns, and “you start to get a rebound effect,” says David. Instead, directly address the issue. You might acknowledge that things seem chaotic and unpredictable at the moment. At the same time, you only want to commiserate up to a point — you should avoid “brooding,” where you get stuck in a negative spiral. Acknowledge how people are feeling, but then “move on to talk about how you want to act as a team,” she says.

Encourage self-compassion
Some of your team members may be looking around and wondering how their colleagues are keeping it together while they’re losing sleep and unable to be productive. Encourage them to have some self-compassion and acknowledge that stress is a normal, physiological response to feeling out of control or threatened. “Help staff recognize that change can bring about a lack of agency,” says David, which can send our brains and bodies into overdrive. If you’re feeling stressed, admit it, or talk about previous situations in which you’ve felt anxiety, so they know they’re not alone.

Ask people what they need
Talk with employees one-on-one and let them describe what they’re going through. Do some “perspective-taking by putting yourself in their shoes,” says Fernandez. You want to “truly understand what they think and feel, even if you don’t agree or feel the same thing.” This empathy forms the basis of trust so that you can move into problem-solving mode. Fernandez suggests saying, “It seems like a tough time. What would be most helpful at the moment? Let’s think about it together, because I want to help and make sure you can get your work done.” Maybe they need some extra guidance on how to reduce distractions, advice on prioritizing their work, or increased flexibility.

Focus on what you do control
Research has shown that even small rituals can reduce stress and improve performance, as can incremental progress toward clearly defined goals. You might also give people more flexibility in dictating their work schedule, so long as you “encourage them to plan in advance and make an agreement that the performance expectations remain the same,” Fernandez says. David recommends returning to values as well. Even when “a lot of power and choices are being taken away, you still get to choose whom you want to be,” she explains. So help employees clarify what’s important to them. You can do this with the whole team by asking, “How do we want to act during these times? How do we want to treat one another?” Members might agree that they want to continue delivering a quality product to your clients while being respectful and kind to one another, for example. “It helps a team stay grounded when you reassert and reaffirm a shared sense of purpose,” says David.

Encourage and model self-care
Sleep, exercise, and good nutrition are proven stress killers and productivity enhancers. So encourage your team members to take care of themselves, says David. For example, if an employee tells you she’s taking her phone to bed to read work emails or the news, you might suggest she leave it in another room. If you see people checking Twitter or gossiping about a reorganization during lunch breaks, you might invite them to  go out for a walk instead. It’s not a manager’s place to dictate these behaviors, but it’s OK to give advice, especially based on your experience and what’s worked for you. Mindful breathing helps to calm anxiety and increase focus, Fernandez says. Although it may seem awkward to remind your staff to inhale and exhale, you can share the research on its benefits.

Principles to Remember


  • Normalize stress — it’s a common physiological response to uncertainty
  • Increase employees’ sense of control over their actions and work schedule
  • Encourage people to take care of themselves by getting sleep, exercising, and eating well


  • Neglect your own anxiety and concerns
  • Ignore people’s emotions
  • Let the uncertainty be an excuse for not getting work done

Case Study #1: Talk about concerns openly and give people flexibility
Building up to and following the U.S. elections, Jan Bruce, cofounder and CEO of meQuilibrium, a digital coaching platform that helps people be more resilient, watched as the level of worry increased among many of her 41 employees. “People were talking about it and expressing concerns,” she says. Some were anxious about personal issues, such as the ability to pay back their student loans or renew their visas. Others were worried about the company and how policy changes would affect its ability to recruit from abroad. “It has certainly been a tense atmosphere,” she says. “People don’t like uncertainty. We’re wired to scan for potentially negative and scary outcomes, so it makes sense.”

Given her company’s focus, Jan knew what she needed to do. First, she made sure that people felt comfortable talking about what they were experiencing. “We set an overall tone, even prior to the election, that it was acceptable and encouraged to talk about politics in the office,” she says. Employees were able to “acknowledge what they were feeling, address it with their colleagues, and then move on to getting work done.”

Since people were able to express their worries, Jan and other managers at meQuilibrium could help strategize how to address them. “I see that fears often get magnified and people tend to blow up the numbers. They might say that we’re not going to be able to hire anyone because of the changes around foreign visas, but only 5% of our hires have visas,” she says. They talked openly about the risks to the business. “We didn’t sweep the concerns under the rug, even if the outcomes were usually less instantaneous or drastic than they feared.” With the issues on the table, they could move into problem-solving mode and talk about how they should guard against those risks.

Many staff members got more involved in politics after the election, and Jan made sure they had the control over their schedules to do so. “A few weeks ago we found people were leaving the office to go to demonstrations or marches. To us, that’s the same as going out for a dentist appointment. We’re not endorsing any political stance — we’re just giving employees the freedom to do what’s important to them.”

While Jan says that this may be a particularly tumultuous time in U.S. politics, her approach is not unique to this moment: “Transparency, social support, and flexibility are part of our values, no matter what’s going on in the world.”

Case Study #2: Provide a sense of hope
Naomi Hardy was the regional HR manager at an energy company during a merger of nine different entities. It was a stressful time for most employees, but there was one person in particular, a geologist, who was struggling with the tumult of the reorganization. “He was going over budget on project, time and time again,” she says. Because he’d been a strong performer in the past, “senior management was puzzled and the employee was distraught.”

When Naomi started talking with him, she discovered that “the changes going on in the workplace, the uncertainty, and the constant rumors were causing him anxiety.” As a result, “he’d lost focus, and what normally took him one hour to complete began to take him four or six hours to complete. He just couldn’t concentrate.”

Naomi worked with the geologist to focus on what was in his control. She reminded him that no matter what happened at the company, he had unique strengths and an impressive list of accomplishments. She coached him to “advance and learn during these times and make himself valuable whether or not he was laid off,” and even encouraged him to identify competitors “that would be happy to have him on their team, should the need arise.” At the same time, she emphasized the importance of managing his projects more effectively and meeting his clients’ needs.

Her efforts to increase his sense of agency and hope paid off. He got back on track with his project deadlines and budget, and “he was able to see a future, regardless of the future of the company,” she says. Although he was ultimately let go, he quickly found a job with a competitor.

Read the original article HERE


Why even the best feedback can bring out the worst in us!

By Robert Nash

There’s a curious thing about people. All of us are driven in some way or another to achieve – we want to run faster, be more creative, win more awards, cure more illnesses, earn more money. But here’s the thing: if you want to help us reach our individual potentials by pointing out how we’re doing and where we could improve, if you want to offer warm words of wisdom, constructive criticism or “360-degree feedback”, then think again. Most of us would rather not hear it.

Our fragile egos are partly to blame. We all want to meet our own expectations of ourselves, and so being critiqued – or even just the prospect of being critiqued – can present an enormous threat to our self-esteem and positive sense of identity. Yet as decades of psychological theory and research have demonstrated, people have endless cunning tactics at their disposal for remaining positive in the face of criticism.

For this reason, rather than us welcoming feedback with open arms, our first response is often a defensive knee-jerk. These reflexes serve to make us feel better about ourselves and yet, almost paradoxically, they also shine an unflattering spotlight on our insecurities, character flaws, and unpleasant attitudes.

Ignorance is bliss

The art of deflecting feedback requires being adept with selective attention and self-deception techniques. Many people will cautiously fish for compliments, for example, innocently seeking feedback only from supportive allies, and only on matters in which they know they excel. But perhaps the simplest deflection technique is to avoid hearing feedback at all. We observe this “fingers in the ears” reaction within the education system, where students sometimes fail to even collect or look at the advice they receive on their assignments. And in the world of public health, we see that people will go to great lengths to avoid visiting their family doctor, rather than risk being advised to lose weight or stop smoking, or given other unwanted home truths.

Students sometimes fail to even collect or look at the advice they receive on their assignments

Psychological research reveals more about this unhealthy appetite for ignorance. In one study, students watched a bogus educational film about a serious disease called “TAA Deficiency”. In fact, TAA Deficiency is completely fictional, but the students were not told this information; instead, they were asked whether they wished to provide a cheek swab for assessing their risk of developing the disease. Half of the students were told that if they ever developed TAA Deficiency, then the treatment would involve them taking a two-week course of pills. Of this group, 52% agreed to provide the diagnostic cheek swab. The other half of students learned the treatment would involve taking the pills for the rest of their lives. Of this group, only 21% agreed to the swab.

Are people’s fragile egos to blame for an inability to take constructive feedback? (Credit: iStock)

These findings demonstrate a common pattern seen in other studies within and beyond the context of healthcare. That is, people are especially resistant to hearing feedback when they believe it could oblige them to do something difficult or unpleasant.

It’s not me, it’s you…

Although ignorance is bliss, it isn’t always possible to ignore or avoid critical feedback entirely. In many situations, we instead need to find other ways to protect against ego-bruising. One of the other handy tools in our self-deception toolbox is misdirection: focusing attention away from our flaws.

For example, when we hear that we have performed worse than other people, our common reaction is to point to those people’s shortcomings and away from our own. “She may achieve more than me” – you might argue – “but I have more friends, and a better personality too.” It isn’t unusual to exaggerate our own admirable qualities and our rivals’ flaws, of course, but research shows that we do this far more when we learn that our rivals have outperformed us. And although it might sound spiteful, this can be a highly effective way of maintaining and validating our positive self-regard in the face of failure.


When given bad feedback, a natural response is to focus attention away from our flaws (Credit: iStock)

Perhaps the most apt person to discredit when faced with difficult feedback is the person who provides it. As Harvard academics Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen astutely observed in their book Thanks for the Feedback, “When we give feedback, we notice that the receiver isn’t good at receiving it. When we receive feedback, we notice that the giver isn’t good at giving it.” In this spirit, when a critical reviewer recently informed one of us that our research paper would have been “better with more effert” (sic), it was highly tempting to note the critic’s poor spelling, and surmise that they were just incompetent. Who would trust the judgment of someone who can’t even spell? Reacting this way wouldn’t push us to improve the paper, of course, but it would certainly be far easier and would numb the pain.

Discrediting the feedback-giver is not always enough, though, and the next step might be to actively blame them for our failures. In fact, the way we blame feedback-givers can sometimes uncover our most unpalatable of prejudices. In a study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Canada, students reported the grades they had received in various courses, and rated the quality of the teachers who gave them those grades. The results showed that students who performed poorly tended to minimise their loss of face by blaming their teachers: the lower the grades they received, the more they judged the teaching as low-quality. But crucially, unlike their high-performing classmates, the poorly performing students were especially critical of teachers who were female. In their search for ways to discredit their teachers, these students apparently discovered that discriminatory sexist attitudes can be an effective tool of blame.

‘Emotional armour’

It seems that even the most useful feedback can bring out our worst sides. But are these defensive reactions to feedback inevitable, or can we avoid them? It stands to reason that if we could, then we would often be far better equipped to reach our goals. After all, feedback is one of the strongest influences on our development, yet we can only ever benefit from advice that we listen to.

The trouble is that none of our options really seem very appealing: failing to reach our goals makes us feel bad, but so does hearing critique that could help us to achieve those goals. If we are so afraid of damaging our self-esteem, though, then perhaps the solution to this dilemma is to reflect on why we feel so positively about ourselves in the first place. Indeed, research suggests that people are more open to receiving diagnostic medical feedback – such as by getting tested for the fictional TAA Deficiency – if they first think about the positive traits they most value in themselves, and remember past occasions when they demonstrated those traits. This finding fits with the broader, perhaps predictable, picture that people who already experience high self-esteem are generally better than their less-assured counterparts at seeking feedback from others.

Our resistance to feedback could prevent us listening to health advice, like the need to take a long-term medication (Credit: iStock)

So if we want to be more receptive to unwanted news, it might help to put on some emotional armour beforehand, ensuring that our positive self-regard can stay intact regardless of whether the news is ultimately good or bad. In fact, maybe another part of the problem is that we allow ourselves to treat feedback as unwanted in the first place. Classic psychological studies on persuasion show that people can easily trick themselves into thinking they enjoyed an unpleasant task, if they only believe they actively chose to do it. Could something similar work with feedback? Can we convince ourselves to accept advice merely by believing that we chose to receive it?

Some support for this idea comes from American research in which participants estimated the years in which various historical events occurred. The more accurate their answers were, the more money they won. Each participant then answered the same questions for a second time, but not until they were offered feedback about the answers that other people had given. Sometimes this feedback was free, and sometimes it would cost a few dollars from their winnings if they chose to accept it. Unsurprisingly, people were more likely to accept free advice than costly advice. But participants were much more likely to take the feedback on board – by shifting their estimates toward what other people thought – when they had paid for it. In other words, these results suggest that people feel a stronger sense of obligation to act upon advice when they feel they have invested resources in receiving it.

Whichever mental precautions we take, though, reaping the benefits of challenging feedback will always be tough

If we actively seek and invest ourselves in receiving honest feedback, then, and if we bolster our positive identities in anticipation of how bad it might feel, we may find ourselves ready to hear and accept the advice that we most need. Perhaps there are even ways to train ourselves to recognise our knee-jerk reactions whenever we have them, so that we can resist concluding that everyone else, rather than us, is wrong.

Whichever mental precautions we take, though, reaping the benefits of challenging feedback will always be tough. Science may offer advice on how to do this better, but ultimately, we are all free to take it or leave it.

Robert Nash is a psychologist at Aston University, UK. He is @DrRobNash on Twitter.

Naomi Winstone is a psychologist at the University of Surrey, UK. She tweets as @DocWinstone.

Read the original article HERE

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


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.


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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