Posts Tagged negotiation

Handling Stress in the Office – ACCJ Workshop Wrap-Up

20150205_ACCJ_Stress_Workplace_Wrap-up_pdf

In February 2015, DELTANOMIX volunteered to deliver a workshop on “Handling Stress in the Office” to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Thank you to all workshop attendees for joining!

DELTANOMIX sincerely hopes that this workshop will help to successfully improve your stress management capabilities and resilience in order to maximize both your wellbeing and professional performance.

To download the Workshop Wrap-Up pdf document, click here or on the image at the top of this post.

Wrap-up pdf document table of content:

  • The impacts of a lasting exposure to stress  (page 4)
  • A simple practical definition of stress  (page 5)
  • Identifying the stress-related hazards  (page 6)
  • Overstressed: how to detect?  (page 7)
  • How to cope?  (pages 8-12)
  • Useful Resources and References  (page 13)

If you are interested in learning about the full workshop content, please contact deltanomix@gmail.com.

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One key rule for successful business interactions: be prepared!

Business Meeting Preparation

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

 Benjamin Franklin, author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat (1706-1790)

Abstract:

In sport, music, theater or many other disciplines, it is obvious that success strongly depends on the time spent preparing for the event itself. With no surprise, the same rule applies to business. In order to increase your chance of success, an efficient preparation should always include the following four components: Objective setting,  a thorough study of the Context for the expected event, Anticipation of what could go wrong and Rehearsal (OsCAR).

Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): OsCAR for Successful Business Interactions

DELTANOMIX LEADERSYNDROME - OsCAR Business Interactions

Concept:

Looking at the players selected for the Olympic games or at the members of any well-known philharmonic orchestra, it is with no doubt that those high performers could reach this level of professionalism only through long hours of training, rehearsing and preparation. It is also obvious that their successes and performance are directly linked to the intensity and quality of their preparation work. In the same way, in an always more competitive business environment, becoming a champion requires a similar level of preparation, be it for giving or taking an interview, running a presentation in front of your board and your company shareholders, giving a demo to a strategic customer, negotiating a deal with a prospect, handling a difficult discussion with one of your team members, managing the triggering of your Business Continuity Plan during a crisis  and so on…

But more concretely, what does a preparation exercise bring to the table in the context of business interactions?

Among others, the following internal and external benefits can be identified:

  • synchronizing the understanding of a situation among various staff or teams which will allow to speak from a single voice once facing your external counterparts,
  • sharing/getting knowledge and increasing the subject matter expertise among the employees involved in the preparation meeting which will benefit your audience when running the real meeting,
  • getting exposed to various view points and learning to constructively debate and position within a group focusing on a common goal,
  • increasing the perception of professionalism for your contact when going through the official meeting or event,
  • gaining self-confidence and a feeling of control over the situation to come which will in return allow to decrease your level of stress and anxiety,
  •  bringing a level of comfort with the topic to discuss which will help to free up some cognitive resources to focus your attention on your interlocutor by improving your active listening ability…

What are the main rules for a powerful preparation?

  • Be conscious that running a preparation exercise is time-consuming, especially for key business events with many stakeholders involved. Make sure to book the necessary time in the schedule of all relevant parties long enough in advance, specifying the agenda for the preparation meeting using the OsCAR framework below,
  • The group of staff attending a preparation meeting may be larger than the group expected to join the real event. This mainly depends on the type of knowledge or information required to grasp the context of the event,
  • The recommended framework for a preparation meeting consists in four elements:
    1. Objective setting:
      • What do you want to achieve? (eg: convey a specific message during a presentation, get access to a decision-maker for a deal, understand the true motivation for a candidate to join your company…)
      • How will you specifically measure whether you have reached your goal? (eg: get a clear budget figure from your counterpart during  the meeting, get a specific appointment set as a next step, have your audience being able to summarize your message when asked…)
    2. Context study and understanding:
      • Who is your audience / interlocutor / counterpart? (background, existing relationship, area of expertise, personal interests, history, level of authority, level of influence…)
      • Why are they joining the meeting / presentation and what do they expect from it?
      • In case of meeting with a client or a prospect, what is the company business? What are their objectives?
      • What are the latest news about this company?
      • Who is their main competitors and how do they differentiate?
      • In case of existing relationship with your interlocutors, are they supporter, neutral or detractors? Are they satisfied with the product and related services?
      • What type of relationship do they entertain with the rest of your ecosystem (competition, providers…)?
      • You may add as many questions as necessary to get the best possible picture and understanding of the situation (or of the topic to present)…
    3. Anticipation of what could derail the course of the event:
      • List what could go wrong and review what the action course should be.
      • Which objections could you expect? How to handle those?
      • Review the 5 most realistic what-if scenario and prepare alternatives or answers.
    4. Rehearsal:
      • before starting your rehearsal, clarify the logistics (attendee list on your side, flow of the event, owner of the material preparation, set-up of the meeting room – power? internet? projector? microphone? … -)
      • depending on the type of event (one-on-one meeting, internal team presentation, client meeting, deal negotiation, external roadshow and demo…), you can of course use various methods for rehearsing: from standing alone in front of your mirror, to role-playing with colleagues or to go for a complete dry-run in the exact location of the event…
      • Obviously, the closer you get from the real conditions, the better!

Despite a thorough OsCAR preparation, things rarely go as per plan. Nonetheless, it is exactly because you have prepared with the relevant stakeholders that you will be in a better position to tackle any unexpected challenges. Being prepared will allow you to approach more openly, confidently and creatively those unavoidable surprises.

Practice:

  • exercise 1: Over the past 6 months, select the most important internal and external business interactions you had run and that had ended up successfully.
    • Describe what those two events were about and how it went?
    • How much have you prepared for each of those events?
    • What were the objectives and measure of success?
    • What was your level of stress and confidence when running each event?
    • Which image have you given to your interlocutor? How satisfied are you with it?
    • Could the outcome have been better? Why and how?
    • Could the result have been worse? Why and how?
    • If you had to do it again, what would you do differently in preparing for those events?
  • exercise 2: Over the past 6 months, select the most important internal and external business interactions you had run and that had failed.
    • Describe what those two events were about and how it went?
    • How much have you prepared for each of those events?
    • What were the objectives and measure of success?
    • What was your level of stress and confidence when running each event?
    • Which image have you given to your interlocutor? How satisfied are you with it?
    • Could the outcome have been better? Why and how?
    • Could the result have been worse? Why and how?
    • If you had to do it again, what would you do differently in preparing for those events?
  • exercise 3: Pick from your current to-do list the next key internal and external business interactions you will have to run. Use the OsCAR framework to prepare for those two interactions. Once the events are over, answer the same questions as the two exercises here above and compare the results. What do you conclude? Which actions will you take as a next step?

So What?

The art of running successful business interactions (from internal one-on-one discussions on one side of the spectrum to external strategic executive meetings and presentations on the other side) heavily relies on the science of preparation. While preparing allows you to gather the necessary information to get a clear picture on the situation, boost your knowledge and understanding of the topic at stake, share and discuss your views with the relevant internal stakeholders, it also gives you a better grip on what can be expected or what can go wrong during the course of the real event, thus making you ready to face the unexpected. Efficient preparation meetings can be based on a four-step approach (OsCAR): 1. confirm your goal and related measure of success (Objective setting) 2. study and analyze the situation and the background using all relevant sources and resources (Context) 3. identify the risks, objections or issues that can arise (Anticipation)  4. train through dry-run or role playing once the logistics is confirmed (Rehearsal). Using the OsCAR preparation framework should give you the peace of mind to join confidently any business interactions as well as provide you with the necessary resources to cope with the various challenges arising as your event progresses.

Last Revision: 2015 March 28

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Deep diving around Bjørnøya: the virtue of questioning

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” 

 Albert Einstein, US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

Abstract:

When discussing with your teams or customers, be it unintentionally, due to time constraints, or to hide some precious insights, one is very often given with partial information only. It is therefore recommended to spend time exploring “the below part of the iceberg” using a specific questioning method in order to improve the relevancy of your critical decision calls.

Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): Uncovering the truth: think iceberg

DELTANOMIX LEADERSYNDROME - Iceberg Questioning

Concept:

In the same way that you would not invest your personal saving in stock options without knowing and understanding the performance of the underlying instruments, you do not want to make decisions or commit on critical matters without getting the full picture.

Nevertheless many reasons may prevent your interlocutor from shedding the Hollywood projector light on the reality: time constraint, fear of the management reaction (complaint from an employee), desire to hide information (prospect negotiating a contract), lack of self-awareness (employee in burn-out)…

Grasping the lower level realities of your interlocutor requires times, tact and method. From experience, the best way for exploring the untold is to ask questions following the below criteria:

  • ask one question at a time in order not to bring confusion to your interlocutor,
  • ask open-ended questions (how/what/why/in what way/to what extend/tell me more about/elaborate…),
  • ask probing questions (questions that require detailed answers),
  • ask non-leading questions (questions must not direct your interlocutor to specific answers),
  • ask questions that focus around the matter of concern and that your interlocutor will connect to (initial topic, answer to the previous question),
  • ask unbiased questions (questions that are not based on your assumptions).

The more you ask, the deeper you may have to dive and explore… Take your time.

Obviously, this uncovering exercise will request you to reach initially a certain level of confidence and trust with your interlocutor. This may not come with the first interview, meeting or discussion; therefore try to identify when the time has come to go under-water. You may also think of specific arrangement and behavior to help you break the ice before your deep diving:

  • book a time-slot long enough to discuss comfortably without being in a rush (respect though the time constraints of your interlocutor),
  • ease the sharing by selecting the appropriate environment: for example, round or oval tables usually support sharing ideas (contrary to squared tables that emphasize opposition or hierarchical position),
  • remove any attention-catcher from the environment in order to stay focus while discussing  (turn-off your screen, phone, shut the door of your office…); this will strengthen your listening ability and also show greater respect to your interlocutor,
  • comfort your interlocutor on the confidentiality of your talk if necessary (and respect it!),
  • think of being off-site, around a coffee or at lunch, or at least find a neutral place to break the regular context that may model the behavior and answers of your interlocutor,
  • listen more than talk and give enough time your interlocutor to answer,
  • acknowledge verbally what has been said before moving to the next question,
  • introduce the difficult questions smoothly,
  • keep eye-contact in case of face-to-face meeting.

A complementary approach is also to think under which conditions you would be more inclined to share your “secrets” or run uncovered with somebody. What works for you may work for others…

Of course, thank your interlocutor for his time and honesty at the end of the discussion.

Practice:

  • scenario 1 – a recruitment interview: you need to evaluate a candidate on his team working competency. The candidate already told you in generic terms that, in his previous jobs, he has always been considered as an efficient team worker by his superiors (top part of the iceberg). Imagine questions that will allow you to uncover the candidate’s true abilities to work as a team and to foster team spirit.

Examples:

“Tell me about a time when you disagreed with other team members. How did you resolve the issue?”

“Share with me some initiatives you had taken as a team member to improve the overall team performance.”

And finally you have discovered that not only the candidate was unable to propose and participate to team development activities but that he was also unable to cope constructively with conflict situations within a team…

  • scenario 2 – a staff complaint: based on the analysis of your resource planning, you have just adjusted your organization by requesting your team to support a new product suite very similar to the existing one from a technology standpoint. This new task comes on top of their current support tasks but the data supporting this decision are accurate, reliable and shows the necessary bandwidth within the team. Nevertheless, one of your staffs who recently looked overwhelmed by those changes has requested for a one-on-one discussion and tells you: “This new organization cannot work for the team! I will never be able to support this new product when I am already overloaded with a long list of issues to close!” (top part of the iceberg). Which questions would you ask your employee to understand and answer the real concern?

Examples:

“In what way do you think that our team will not be able to cope with this new assignment?”

“What would you suggest to better balance your workload between solving the current issues and the support activities around the new product?”

After a few round of questions, you have understood that your employee had simply needed a bit of support in reviewing the priorities of his issues regardless of the product suite. You have also discovered that his main concern was to take over the support of a product that he had been told to be very complex where in fact no extra technical knowledge was required… 

  • scenario 3 – a prospect demand: you are negotiating an important contract with a new prospect in a country where you do not have a local presence. Suddenly, the prospect turns to you and says: “You know, for such a complex solution, we will need a local support team. You will provide us with local support, right?” (top part of the iceberg). Think of questions that will allow you to move from this demand to the real underlying need in order to enable an effective negotiation.

Examples:

“Would you mind elaborating on your “support” definition?”

“In which areas and to what extend do you see a local presence being more efficient than any other type of support?”

Drilling down on the initial demand, you have finally uncovered the need for a technical service desk that would match the local regulation in terms of support hours and that could speak the local language. You have been able to easily negotiate that your 24×7 multi-lingual centralized support center would perfectly answer this need, as it is already the case for other specific countries.

So What?

Poor, wrong or incomplete information almost systematically results in inadequate decisions and answers, regardless of the situation. As a manager, it is your responsibility to make wise choice for your organization and employees in any circumstances. An appropriate questioning method will therefore support your decision-making process by allowing you to drill down and uncover the essence of a concern or of a need.

Last Revision: 2015 March 24

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