Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The North Win and the Sun: Persuasion, Leadership and Negotiation

Consider this Aesop’s fable:

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as he could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

The lesson?  Persuasion achieves more than force…certainly in the long run.

In this blog I want to analyze the role of persuasion in leadership and negotiation.  Frankly, any leader and negotiator would be completely ineffectual without the ability to persuade others.  I often ask students to raise their hand if they think they are persuasive.  Almost all do, because most think they are persuasive.  However, it is not so easy and many of us are much less persuasive than we think…some find out the hard way.

One of the best ways to think through being persuasive was articulated by Aristotle in his book Rhetoric published some 2300 years ago.  In the book Aristotle discussed the three means of persuasion – Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.  This short framework is really helpful to plan how to be effective and to think broadly about the different ways to persuade others.  Here is an explanation that both leaders and negotiators should take to heart to improve their ability to persuade others.

Ethos is the credibility and trustworthiness that you possess.  Why should someone listen to you?  Are you the right messenger and, if so, why?  Do you have authority and a track record that gives you a platform to be heard?  If not, how can you create such a platform?  And if you don’t have time to create a platform can you find the right messenger to deliver the message for you?  So part of being persuasive is -- are you the right person to make the case for something?

As a leader and negotiator Ethos is critical.  Without credibility people simply won’t listen to all of your knowledge or follow you where you want to go.    

Pathos is the emotional connection or bond that you make with the person you are trying to persuade.  Often times when one is trying to persuade another it comes down, not to logic, but rather to feelings and connecting with people at that level.  This is what Pathos is all about.  Stories, examples, and empathy are a very good way to persuade with this mode.

The most effective leaders and negotiators know how to paint a picture of something AND also how to draw you into that picture through an emotional tug.  As Maya Angelou stated “People will forget what you said.  People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made me feel.”    

Logos is the logical case that you make to someone.  Certainly in the Western world this is where most of gravitate toward when it comes to persuasion.  We try to create a logical and reasoned case as to why someone should do something.  While this is often effective, it is problematic when either Ethos or Pathos is really what is going on for the other person.  The other challenge to remember when it comes to Logos is to create the logical case from the perspective of the person you are trying to persuade.  We often make the mistake of creating a logical case from OUR perspective and then cannot figure out why it did not resonate with the other person.   

Of course, eventually Logos becomes important.  If you don’t have Logos than many a persuasive case will falter.  Leaders and negotiators have to be able to eventually connect the dots or they will lose the other. 

To put a bow around this blog post, let me share a real world story of how this works in practice. I was working with a company conducting a negotiation training last year.  After I explained this framework to the group a woman came up to me and said something like this, “I have been stuck with a problem that I have been working on for a client for the past 3 months.  I thought I had figured it out and presented a very logical (Logos) case to them that really made a lot of sense.  They rejected my solution almost immediately.  I was puzzled and could not understand what happened…until now.  What I am now realizing is that they really wanted to hear some Pathos from me – an acknowledgement that I truly understood their problem and had it all under control.  Had I just done that the problem would have been solved.”

So, in short, there are three means of persuasion – Ethos, Pathos and Logos.  Use the framework to prepare and look for clues as to which is most important to the other.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The role of confidence in leadership and negotiation

“Confidence is a gift, given to you by yourself. To have it costs nothing but to not have it comes with an immeasurable price tag.”
Debbie Dickerson, Confidence is Your Game Changer

Confidence is a fundamental part of effective leadership and negotiation (among other endeavors in life).  However, what it means to be appropriately confident is sometimes unclear and can cross a fine line into being over or under confident.  Let’s explore this idea and try to grasp its role as it pertains to leadership and negotiation. 

The word confidence comes from the Latin word confidere, which means 'to be sure.'  However, how do we know how sure we should be?  It is a little bit like Goldie Locks and three bears.  As you will recall in that story, Goldie Locks tried porridge that was too hot, too cold, and then just right.  Similarly, you can be too sure in yourself (AKA overconfident or cocky), not sure enough in yourself (AKA under confident or meek), or you can have just the right amount of confidence.  When you have just the right amount you continue to trust yourself even when you fail…without questioning your overall ability.  Clearly the best leaders and negotiators find that sweet spot.    

When it comes to the role of confidence in leadership and negotiation it is not a stretch to say that it forms the foundation of everything that is done in these realms.  For example, when it comes to leadership Francisco Dao explains, “Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best.”  Similarly, when it comes to negotiation, listen to the words of international negotiator Lahktar Brahimi, “You have to be, at the same time, arrogant because you want to solve problems that look unsolvable, but you need to also be very very humble.  These are contradictory things but if you look closely they are not that contradictory.  You also need to have determination, you want to succeed, and you think (reaching success) is doable.  But you also need to be modest, don't play god, you are not god and you have to accept failure as part of the process.”

The key to confidence in leadership and negotiation is the belief in yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to do, but that has to be combined with an ability to listen to others when you are off course or heading down the wrong road.  If you fail to listen you are over confident.  As Stone, Patton, and Heen explain in their book Difficult Conversations, “One reason people are reluctant to admit mistakes is that they fear being seen as weak or incompetent. Yet often, generally competent people who take the possibility of mistakes in stride are seen as confident, secure, and ‘big enough’ not to have to be perfect, whereas those who resist acknowledging even the possibility of a mistake are seen as insecure and lacking confidence. No one is fooled.”  Conversely, if you listen too much and lose your way, than you lack confidence. 

Confidence, however, is not just about how we ourselves when it comes to leading and negotiating.  It is also about how followers or others we are trying to influence see us.  As Thomas Wren explains, “Not only is the leader’s self-confidence important, but so is others’ perception of him. Often, leaders engage in impression management to bolster their image of competence; by projecting self-confidence they arouse followers’ self-confidence. Self-confident leaders are also more likely to be assertive and decisive, which gains others’ confidence in the decision. This is crucial for effective implementation of the decision. Even when the decision turns out to be a poor one, the self-confident leader admits the mistake and uses it as a learning opportunity, often building trust in the process. . . .”  The same can be said for negotiation.  If the other negotiator senses a level of confidence in you than they are more open to your proposals and ideas and will also have a level of respect for you that won’t been seen if you come across as over or under confident.  According to a study by Huthwaite International, a UK-based sales and negotiation specialists firm, under-confident negotiators achieve a successful outcome in just one in five of the negotiations they’re involved in.  The survey of over 1,300 professionals in 52 countries also found that those who feel ‘neutral’ achieve an even lower rate of success in negotiations, with only 16 per cent of them succeeding.  Successful negotiators were defined as those who implemented 75 per cent or more of their negotiations without the need to renegotiate. Those defined as unsuccessful were negotiators who had a rate of success lower than 50 per cent in their negotiations.

The study also stated that more than six out of 10 (62 per cent) of successful negotiators describe themselves as “very confident” when entering negotiations.  As the CEO of Huthwaite, Tony Hughes, stated “Confidence has a huge impact on negotiators’ behaviour and what they ultimately achieve.” Hughes ends the study with the following advice for negotiators, but also seems relevant for leaders, “Our advice is to be confident but not aggressive. Try to strike the right balance with your negotiation partner and focus on long-term partnerships.”

So the bottom line is that confidence is a critical and often unforeseen underpinning of leadership and negotiation.  If you have it, find the right balance so you don’t tip too far in either direction.  If you don’t feel confident, probe as to why and then work on those aspects until you do.  It takes time to build confidence if you don’t have it, but when you find it you won’t lose it easily.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Leaders vs. Managers: Distinct negotiation approaches

There are two basic ways in which to view and approach any negotiation. We can see it as either distributive or integrative; or a combination of the two. Leaders have the ability to see negotiations in both lights, but based on the literature it appears that managers are biased in seeing negotiations as inherently distributive in nature.  Here is why I would make such a claim. 
First, let’s break down some key features of the approaches to a negotiation and then look at why managers are predisposed to focus on distribution and not integrative approaches.
Distributive Negotiations are generally seen as:
·      Having an outcome that is win or lose,
·      Zero-sum in nature or a fixed pie,
·      Actively seeking to assert one’s position only,
·      Focused on limiting information sharing as much as possible,
·      Having the mantra that anything not acquired is lost.
Integrative Negotiations are generally seen as:
·      Having an outcome that is focused on mutual gains for both parties,
·      Focused on creating value and enlarging the pie before dividing it,
·      Seeking to actively understand the other side’s perspective,
·      Understanding the importance of reciprocally sharing information,
·      Having the mantra that mutual giving can result in mutual gaining.
Now that we have clarified that, it is critical that we draw a clear distinction between leadership and management.  John Kotter, Professor at Harvard Business School, explains that the classic business school definition of management revolves around1:
1)   Planning
2)   Organizing
3)   Directing
4)   Controlling
Contrast that with McFarland, Senn, and Childress, who collaborated to write Twenty-First Century Leadership: Dialogues with 100 Top Leaders. They defined the 21st century leader as someone who:
1)   Facilitates excellence in others
2)   Has interpersonal sensitivity
3)   Exhibits a mastery over change
4)   Takes a holistic approach -- embracing a wide variety of qualities, skills, and capabilities.
Based on the following descriptions we can see that a manager's inherent training and focus on ‘directing’ and ‘controlling’ aren’t conducive with most element of the integrative approach to negotiations.
Someone who believes they need to direct the discussion won’t actively seek to understand the other side and someone who is trained to control a situation won’t likely be willing to share information in a reciprocal manner. Further, neither directing nor controlling are natural segues into the concept of mutual gain.
Juxtapose this with the 21st Leader as described by McFarland, Senn, and Childress. Every aspect of a leadership approach lines up with the integrative negotiator:
The concept of mutual gain and that value can be explored and found align with a leader's desire to take a more holistic approach and facilitate excellence in others.
Actively seeking to understand the other side directly connects with a leader's tendency for interpersonal sensitivity. And finally, we find that this leader who has mastery of change understands that giving can result in mutual gaining. Anyone who is comfortable and capable of changing and embracing change will be open to creative and collaborative solutions.
This isn’t to say that the manager bias in negotiation is always bad. Certain negations are best viewed through the lens of distribution. Simple, transactional negotiations are perfectly tailored for the manager. In fact, they are likely to be the most effective and efficient at this type of negotiation.

However, the information presented would seem to indicate that for more complex, multi-variable negotiations you will want to have a leader, rather than a manager, involved.

With thanks to Chayse Myers for his input.