Communicate with impact

Setting Yourself Up for Success in a Negotiation

I presented at the Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy & Technology in Houston. The topic was How to successfully negotiate for a raise—How to get past your dread, develop a win/win approach, and negotiate for what you want.

In this article, I have broadened my comments from what I presented there to apply to a variety of career situations—where you might be negotiating a pay raise, a high profile assignment or key role, or for something else you really want.

There are tons of articles about negotiating and the best way to approach it. So, rather than try to cover all that territory, I want to share two things that are mentioned less often but have a huge impact on your success.

Create the Right Perception.

One of the things I coach and do workshops on is Getting the Visibility You Want, which is all about strategically informing others and giving more visibility to your skills and contributions. Take some time to think about who needs to understand how you are adding value and who will influence the ultimate decision about whether to give you what you are asking for. If you don’t know already, find out what their perception of your performance is today and where you may need to close some gaps.

Let me be clear, this is not about creating a false image. It is about proactively helping others understand your value and helping them understand how to best leverage your skills and talent. We all know this doesn’t happen overnight, so allow enough time to close any gaps in perception.

Also, remember that how you “show up” in the conversation where you ask for what you want matters. So, think about how you want to be viewed or perceived in the negotiation. For example you might want to be seen as confident, reasonable, committed to the company’s success, and looking for a win/win for you and the company. Whatever it may be, think about how to frame up the conversation to reinforce that image.

Understand How You Will Get in Your Own Way.

Many of us have fears or anxiety about negotiating or asking for what we want. So, think about how you might get in your own way in advance. It could be a belief or concern that keeps you from asking for what you want. For example, I have a client who was really concerned that she would be viewed as greedy because she was already paid well, even though the data showed that she was clearly underpaid relative to others at her level.

Another client who was asking for a nontraditional role feared the worst, that they would just say, “We can’t give you what you want. Just leave if you’re not happy.” Test these beliefs by looking for confirming and disconfirming evidence. More often than not, our own fears are the biggest barrier to getting what we want.

In both of the examples above, I worked with my clients to identify their mental roadblocks and how they might react in the face of resistance, and develop strategies to keep both from getting in their way. I am excited to say that both of my clients got everything they asked for.

There are so many things I could have covered in this article, and so much I still want to share with you. For now, think about how you can start applying these two concepts, whether you are asking for something big or small.

When Someone Plays Hardball

I had a conversation with a talented leader who has achieved tremendous success in her career. She is in a tough political situation that has thrown her for a loop. A fellow leader at her company clearly wants to expand his span of responsibility and is blatantly playing hardball to make it happen. The situation has affected this woman’s ability to stay level-headed, focused on what she needs to get done, and ultimately sustain her performance. And, because she carries her work frustration home, her personal life has suffered as well.

As someone who has worked with many large companies across industries, I have seen ugly politics time and again — and have personally experienced them myself. It’s never fun, but you can navigate through it.

Here are three ideas that can help you:

1. Identify your triggers.

We all have “buttons” and some people know how to push them better than others. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. It could be a person who comes across as self-serving (e.g., blatantly schmoozing, taking all the credit, etc.) or does something equally frustrating.

When you have a strong reaction — one that you keep replaying in your head or can’t let go of — you need to identify what triggered it for you. Usually it’s not just about what that person said or did. Rather, at the core it has to do with something that you really value being violated.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure this one out by yourself because your emotions can cloud your judgment and ability to work through it. So, you may need to talk to a coach, colleague, or confidant who can help you get to the heart of what’s going on.

2. Leverage the “Power of the Pause.”

If nothing else, the next time you let yourself get triggered by this person, just pause. Remember that no one can make you feel or react a certain way unless you let them. Do you really want to give the person that much power over you? That may sound counterintuitive because you may want to blame the other person for the whole situation—“Of course it’s their fault that I’m so stressed and frustrated!”

Do not underestimate the power you have. You know that you cannot control the other person, but you can control yourself — with deliberate focus and practice. I fully recognize this is much easier said than done, which is why people often need help to make the shift.

So start by taking a small step. Practice pausing when you get triggered. Even 2-3 seconds can give you just enough time to choose a different response.

3. Make a different choice.

OK, this last step may sound like a statement of the obvious, but I can’t tell you how much value people get from seeing it in black and white or hearing it. Doing more of the same will never get you a different result. Period!

The person who triggers your frustration can probably predict how you’re going to respond. So, once you can make yourself pause, you will start to notice that you can make a different choice in the moment.

By choosing a different response, you can break the unproductive cycle. This will help you focus much more on what will serve you best in that situation and less on reacting to the other person’s behavior.

A couple of final thoughts: First, don’t underestimate what you can do in tough political situations to drive the outcome you want. Second, leverage the power you have when someone plays hardball. If nothing else, identify your triggers in the situation, because doing that will help you get to a better outcome faster.

Presentation Pearls of Wisdom

I attended a panel discussion at the Greater Houston Women’s Conference with three professionals who collectively have over 75 years of experience in acting, radio and TV. They shared some valuable reminders and tips about Presenting Your Best Self On and Off Camera. So, I’ve included four things to think about the next time you’re preparing to be in front of an audience:

1. Who is my audience and what will they want from me?

Any presentation starts with thinking about your audience. Even if your audience is just one person, first take a few minutes to put yourself in their shoes. Think about what they will want from you whether it’s information, reassurance, or something else. This will go a long way in helping you position your ideas in a way that addresses their underlying needs and resonates with them.

2. What do I want from my audience?

As a presenter, you also typically want something from your audience. For example, you may want them to feel confident in your abilities or think you are the right person for the job. Knowing what you want from your audience will give you more insight into the type of information to present and how to best communicate it.

3. What is my story?

Remember that storytelling is powerful—and there’s always a story line. A talented Deloitte partner taught me this lesson early on in my career. To this day, I remember walking into his office with a draft presentation for a client meeting. He left it sitting untouched on his desk until he asked me a series of questions. I can’t remember the exact questions but they led me to give him the 3-4 headlines, the key messages we really needed our client to know and understand.

By the time we finished talking, I knew I had missed the mark with my presentation. I had a gold mine of information (supporting charts, data, etc.) but I hadn’t effectively woven it into a compelling story that made the “so what” crystal clear. I remember sheepishly reaching across his desk to take back my work, hoping he wouldn’t look at it first.

4. What do I need to do to take my nerves out of the equation?

The last two tips focus on addressing nervousness that many of us experience when it comes to presenting in front of an audience, especially when a lot is at stake. Nervousness can come from not being fully aligned or associated with your story, or focusing more on yourself than your audience.

On the first issue, the best advice I can give you is to practice saying your presentation out loud. According to the panelists, three times is the magic number to imprint the script in your memory. Think about how valuable this preparation could be if a meeting runs over and your presentation time gets drastically shortened. Knowing your story would help you quickly distill your presentation down to the essential headlines.

Second, remember to focus on your audience instead of yourself. Many of us can’t help but zero in on our own fears and what others think of us. So, to address this, imagine that your audience is full of people that you enjoy being around, and that your primary objective is to serve them. By staying focused on what your audience needs you will focus less on your fears.

Hopefully after reading through this, you realize that there are some small steps you can take to prepare that can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your presentations. Remember that taking even as little as five minutes to think through these questions can go a long way. So, I would urge you to identify one practice that you’d like to start incorporating today.

How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable

It can be difficult for some women to voice a difference of opinion in a way that will be well-received (i.e., not too assertive).

On the other hand, saying nothing can have negative consequences of its own (i.e., being viewed as not assertive enough). If you’ve found yourself waffling about whether to speak up or bite your tongue, read on.

1. Don’t be a derailer.

Recall a time when you sat in a meeting thinking to yourself, “I don’t agree with the direction we are heading” but didn’t say a word. Perhaps you thought it was the wrong forum in which to voice your concerns.

What was the impact of your choice? Did you catch people off guard by not speaking up in that moment and later sharing privately that you had major concerns? Regardless of your intent, how were you viewed? Did some think you were being passive-aggressive or maybe not assertive enough? Did others wonder, “Why didn’t she just say something when we were all there? It could have saved us a lot of time.” Also recognize that others may have unvoiced concerns, so by speaking up you might just give them the courage to share them.

Finally, remember that you can express a different point of view in the moment without turning it into a big deal. For example, if your concerns will warrant a lot more discussion, you can suggest an offline discussion with a smaller group if that makes sense. The next two strategies might also help.

2. Frame your disagreement as “Yes and…”.

Before you highlight points of concern, acknowledge areas of alignment. By first demonstrating that you “get it” (i.e., that you understand the other person’s point of view and what could work well) others will be more open to your perspective.

Some people fall into the trap of jumping straight into what they think won’t work, which can trigger defensiveness — and then they entirely forget to point out what they do like about the idea. So, challenge yourself to say, “Yes and ...” instead of “No, but ....”

3. Depersonalize your comments.

Finally, remember to keep it objective by evaluating each idea against the intended outcomes. In other words, point out the criteria for success (stated or implied) and help others understand how the ideas on the table do or don’t satisfy them. This makes the evaluation of the ideas feel much less personal, and the originator of the idea is less likely to feel attacked when you give your feedback. By framing your suggestions in the context of the group’s objectives, others will be more receptive to what you have to say.

Sometimes saving your disagreement for another time is indeed the best option. But in many cases, it may not be. I challenge you to be more assertive in expressing your views while considering the impact on how you’re viewed as a leader. Take a minute now to identify one step you’ll take to put these ideas into play this week.

Tiny Traps that Reduce Your Effectiveness

In a conversation with one of my former colleagues from Deloitte, we got on the topic of little things that people do that diminish their effectiveness. It’s amazing how seemingly small things can make a big impression. Take a look at the list below to see if any of these apply to you. If you’re not sure, ask others for feedback:

Assume that others understand

Sometimes when you have worked in an industry or functional area for so long, you can easily overlook how much jargon you use or the complexity of your world. So, periodically confirm that the other person understands your train of thought and the technical terms you are using. If you’re on the receiving end of the confusing jargon, ask questions in the spirit of making sure you understand their key points.

Focus more on your own message

Have you ever found yourself chomping at the bit to get your point across while someone is talking? Maybe you’re just really excited about your idea or you strongly disagree with what the other person is saying. If you fall into this trap often, practice being “in the moment” to fully receive the communication from the other person—not only their words but what they are saying with their body language and tone. This may ultimately lead you to an ever better idea.

Immediately show your feelings on your face

At one time or another, we’ve all found our faces showing exactly what we feel:

  • “You just don’t get it—and you never will!”

  • “You’re an idiot. That was the dumbest thing I have ever heard anyone say!”

  • “You are so irritating.”

  • “I don’t have time for this. What do you want?!”

As you think about the last time a situation like this occurred, ask yourself a few questions.

What was the impact of your reaction? How did it affect your effectiveness as a leader (e.g., the relationship with the person, results, etc.)? What assumptions did you make?

If you can make yourself pause even for a second or two, you may be able to contemplate a different possibility—that they have positive intentions, that they may have valid points, or that your assumptions may be incorrect. So, instead of judging, what could you ask them to confirm your understanding about their intent, goals, or point of view?

Use “filler” phrases

As you move further and further up the ladder, clear and concise communication matters a lot. Filler phrases like these—and, so, actually, um, right—can detract from your message, especially when you use them over and over.

I discovered mine when I recorded my new program. Yes, it’s always enlightening to hear yourself speak! Unless you have the opportunity to hear a recording of yourself, ask others to tell you what they notice and how it impacts your effectiveness.

I challenge you to identify one tiny trap that you might fall into. If you’re not sure, ask for feedback. I want to help you notice the little things that add up to a lot— and be much more intentional about how you “show up.” Remember that taking small steps to improve your effectiveness can go a long way.

© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.