A New Way of Thinking

So often, we are limited by our own perspective, our own way of looking at business and life. It is no small challenge to break out of this narrow mindset in order to gain the perspective of our colleagues, employees and customers – but it can mean the difference between success and failure.

We have invited two authors to join us next week to help us break through the limitations of our thinking. On August 4th Ann Herrmann-Nehdi will introduce the concept of whole-brain thinking, and then on August 6th Bernard Mayer will provide a new perspective on conflict resolution.

Unlock the Power of Whole Brain Thinking – Ann Herrmann-Nehdi

Filled with real-world examples and essential charts, exercises, action steps, and strategies, this Soundview Live webinar shows you how to rethink your business, prepare for the future, realign your goals, and reinvigorate your team — by putting your whole brain to work.

Taking Conflict to a More Productive Place – Bernard Mayer

In this Soundview Live webinar Bernard Mayer outlines seven major dilemmas that conflict practitioners face every day. Participants will find expert guidance toward getting to the heart of the conflict and will be challenged to adopt a new way to think about the choices disputants face.  They will also be offered practical tools and techniques for more successful intervention. Using stories, experiences, and reflective exercises to bring these concepts to life, Mayer provides actionable advice for overcoming roadblocks to effective conflict work.

As always, these webinar are free for subscribers. And if you’re not yet a subscriber, you can Subscribe to our Online Edition for what it would cost for just these two events, and receive our summaries and a year of weekly webinars.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

EVERYONE CAN BE A GOOD STORYTELLER

Anyone who has read Steven Levitt’s phenomenal bestseller Freakonomics remembers the advice that his father gave him when Levitt, an economist with suspect mathematical skills, wondered about his professional future as an economist. The advice: Find a niche. The advice itself is not the memorable part, of course; it is the story that accompanied it. Levitt recalls that his father explained how he, too, was not the genius of his class and decided that his best bet was to find an under-filled niche that the stars of medical school would ignore. Thus, Levitt explains, his father developed an expertise in intestinal gas and eventually became known as the King of Farts.

Freakonomics is filled with evocative, funny and illuminating stories, which explains, according to Annette Simmons, author of Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, why it was so successful. Facts are important, she writes, but they often fail to connect with those who hear them. To truly be informative and persuasive, you need good stories — especially personal stories.

Another major advantage of stories is that they effectively convey experiences. “Experience changes minds, alters decisions and creates cohesive action,” Simmons writes. The best way for investors to understand the impact of poor working conditions in the company’s developing world factories, for example, is to walk through a sweatshop. In most cases, however, using the tool of personal experience to influence others is not feasible. A good story, if told with enough feeling and detail, can act as a vicarious experience, plunging the listener into the situation.

Six Stories to Tell

Many people believe that they are not good storytellers, when in fact, Simmons points out, every one of us tells stories all the time. We may not realize, however, that when describing a funny moment of forgetfulness or venting about a frustrating customer-service experience, we are telling a story. Of course, not all stories are appropriate for influencing people. Venting makes us feel good but is hardly a teaching moment.

Simmons identifies the six types of stories that, she writes, “lead to influence, imagination, and innovation”:

Who-I-Am Stories. People won’t trust you if you don’t get personal. “Reveal who you are as a person,” Simmons writes.

Why-I-Am-Here Stories. Use stories to explain your agenda and to be authentic. Explain what’s in it for you.

Teaching Stories. Telling a story that creates a shared experience will be more motivating than just giving someone advice.

Vision Stories. Describe, through a detailed story, your vision of the future.

Value-in-Action Stories. Use stories to show a value in action. Hypothetical situations will sound contrived. A true story will make a compelling case for that value.

I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories. Use a story to show your listener that you are already aware of their unspoken objections or suspicions — and that you have an answer.

Finding the Right Stories

One of the challenges to becoming a good storyteller is finding the right stories. Simmons offers four buckets of story sources from which storytellers can draw: a time you shined, a time you blew it (embarrassing stories build trust); a story about a mentor (which shows humility and gratitude); a story from a book, movie or current event (that exemplifies the core message).

Simmons devotes a chapter to each of the six types of stories. In each chapter, she assigns the reader a general situation. In the chapter about teaching stories, for example, she asks the reader to imagine a pet peeve concerning a job poorly done. The assignment is to tell a non-judgmental story to teach the person to do a better job.

In the final section of this practical how-to book, Simmons helps the reader hone the craft of storytelling. She covers areas such as how to add sensory details that make the story experiential, the importance of brevity and the power of multiple points of view.

In an information-age world that seems enamored with the mass processing of “Big Data,” Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins offers the refreshing perspective that the most traditional of all types of communication — the oral history — is also the most effective tool for influencing and leading people.

How to Handle the Emotionally Charged Conversation

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC.

When I teach coaching skills to leaders, someone always asks what to do if a person cries. They usually want to do something that would make the person feel worse for crying. Here are tips for effectively handling emotions that could come up during difficult conversations.

Note: Take the Rate Your Zone of Discomfort quiz to judge your ability to deal with uncomfortable situations.

What if the person cries?  

Allow people to take a moment as you calmly wait for them to signal they are ready to move on.

Crying is a natural physiological response when someone feels hurt, sad, or had expectations that weren’t met. Their reaction could result from stress or a buildup of disappointments. Generally, if you tell the person to take her time and calmly sit in silence, she will let you know when she is ready to move on (I say “she” but men cry too). If you have a tissue available, offer it. If the crying is uncontrollable, ask if they would like to reschedule the meeting but only do this as a last resort. It is always better to give the crying person a moment to recoup than to make her feel wrong for crying.

How do you react when someone gets angry?

If you stay calm and listen, their anger usually subsides.

When you sense someone’s anger, you might instantly defend yourself, getting angry in return, or you shut down. If you feel you are at risk of being harmed, you should find a way to remove yourself as soon as possible. If not, give the person a chance to vent to release the steam. Then when he starts to calm down, ask what has made him so angry and sort out what is true from speculation. Then maybe you can find some ways of dealing with the situation so he regains even a small sense of control.

What if a person or a group of people are confused or afraid?

Dig deep to find what they are afraid of losing.

Do not try to diffuse or soften their emotions; better to tell them you would like to understand what is causing the fear so you can help them move forward. What do they feel they have lost or afraid they will lose? Listen to their stories so you can discover what is holding them back. Is the loss real or speculation? What do they need so they can take one step forward? Listen first, then seek to find what will restore their confidence and feeling of significance.

Avoid judging people for their reactions. Respectfully hold them in high regard during a difficult conversation. Recall what you believe they are capable of achieving. From this perspective, you have a chance at holding an amazing conversation that could surprise both of you.

To hear more about effective ways to handle difficult conversations, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Marcia Reynolds on May 28th: Turning Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.

Why Only 13 Percent of Companies Successfully Execute Their Strategy

thirteeners2

In today’s corporate world, 87 percent of companies fail to successfully execute the strategy they set for a given year. CEO mentor and coach Dan Prosser shows you how to make your company one of the other 13 percent — a Thirteener. In the process, he explains that the true challenge of building a great company — one that consistently executes its strategy — is understanding the real nature of human interaction and the key to success: connectedness.

Whether you’re a successful CEO, business owner, entrepreneur or leader, or whether you’re struggling to build the business you’ve always wanted, Thirteeners will help you transform your organization’s internal connectedness so you can achieve the next level of performance you’re looking for, create a workplace environment that supports your vision and assures participation by every team member, and produce breakthrough results.

With a focus on business as a network of interrelated conversations and through groundbreaking “Best Place To Work’’ company research, Prosser demonstrates what you need to do to transform the way your employees think and act, to achieve  unprecedented levels of performance for your company.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Why conversations control everything in your business.

• The 10 conversations that create a connected organization.

• How the Execution Virus can infect your business and how the vaccine of truth can heal it.

• Key concepts of the Breakthrough Solutions Framework.

 

 

Eight Powerful Strategies to Fix Your Meetings

Meetings are at the heart of effective organizations. Each meeting is an opportunity to clarify issues, set direction, sharpen focus, create alignment, and move ambitions forward. We have to change the way we think about meetings, the way we design and lead them, and, most importantly, how we manage what happens between meetings.

Paul Axtell offers eight powerful strategies for fixing our meeting problems, and within each strategy, he provides concrete advice you can put into action immediately such as limiting participants, being vigilant about what gets on the agenda, designing the conversation for each agenda item, and managing the experience for everyone in the room so people leave feeling heard and appreciated.

Here are the eight strategies:

  1. Choose the perspective: This Matters.
  2. Master effective conversations.
  3. Create supportive relationships.
  4. Decide what matters and who cares.
  5. Design each conversation.
  6. Lead meetings for three outcomes.
  7. Participate in meetings to add impact.
  8. Build remarkable groups.

If you’re struggling with making your meetings productive and powerful, then join us on April 28th for our Soundview Live webinar with Paul Axtell: Eight Powerful Strategies to Fix Your Meetings. Bring your team together for the webinar and post your questions for Paul during the session.

All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want

SOLUTIONS TO FAMILIAR MISTAKES

At a party in Greenwich Village, author and consultant Peter Bregman hears a yelp as one of the guests steps on the host’s dog. The guest yells at the fleeing dog to “watch out!” Then, seeing Bregman looking at her, she explains that “he’s always in the way.” As Bregman writes in his new book, Four Seconds, “Really? You step on a dog, and then you blame the dog? Who does that? Actually, a lot of us do.” Four Seconds is filled with behaviors and actions that a lot of us do, and most of those actions, Bregman argues, are actually self-defeating. Blaming others instead of taking responsibility, for example, makes people appear weak and dishonest, hurts one’s self esteem and, perhaps most importantly, eliminates learning opportunities. “When something is your fault and you don’t admit it, in all probability, you’ll make the same mistake in the future, which will lead to more blame,” Bregman writes.

The Mistakes We Make

In 51 short, engaging chapters, Bregman offers a litany of the common mistakes and actions that most of us make, and then describes the solution. The first step in every case, however, is the same: take a breath. Take the four seconds you need to inhale and exhale, urges Bregman, which will give you the time to act or react appropriately and constructively.

“Don’t Blame the Dog: Take the Blame Instead” is a chapter in the book’s section on strengthening relationships (one of three sections; the others are entitled “Optimize Work Habits” and “Change Your Mental Defaults.”) Other chapters related to strengthening relationships include lessons on not writing people off (but remaining aware of their faults), changing your expectations when people consistently fail to meet your original expectations, and giving people the benefit of the doubt if they are suddenly unreasonable — because something else is going on. Chapters in the “optimize work habits” section include how to keep your cool, how to let people fail (or almost fail), and why to focus on outcome, not process. The “change your mental defaults” section covers topics such as committing to follow through and trusting yourself first.

Each chapter is packed with engaging personal stories. The chapter on putting outcome above process begins with the story of the author and his daughters trying to help people in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With all the distribution centers overfilled with donations, the author abandons the prescribed process and stops at a random devastated house to donate their goods.

Experience Adds Depth

Bregman uses his experience as a consultant to bolster the personal stories with real-world examples of the problem. In the chapter on blame, for example, he describes a meeting in which a V.P. of sales willingly shoulders the blame for his company’s poor results, thus inspiring the other functional leaders to stop playing the blame game and to take their share of the responsibility. “By taking the blame, Dave changed the course of that meeting and, as it turns out, the course of the company,” Bregman writes. “He also got promoted.”

The lessons here are sometimes counterintuitive (Bregman argues against setting goals), always entertaining, and most importantly, insightful and revealing. As readers of Four Seconds pore through these pages, they will laugh out loud, shake their heads at the gall of some people … and look around awkwardly as they read about familiar situations that they also badly mishandled.

Making a Career Among Multiple Generations

The time in which we live is unique in that this is the first time that four generations are working side-by-side in the workplace: the Traditionalists (born before 1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), Gen X (born 1965-1980), and the Millennials (born 1981-2001). This is due in part to increased longevity and in part to people not wanting or being able to afford to retire.

Haydn Shaw, in his book Sticking Points, describes the 12 sticking points between the generations that must be worked through in order for inter-generational cooperation to take place:

Communication                                 Loyalty

Decision Making                               Meetings

Dress Code                                       Policies

Feedback                                          Respect

Fun at Work                                      Training

Knowledge Transfer                          Work Ethic

As younger workers seek to advance in their careers, they will need to learn how to work with those of older generations, and those at the top of companies will be more and more dependent on these younger workers for their success.

This coming week we have the pleasure of hosting two Soundview Live webinars relating to these issues. The first How to Climb Your Way to the Next Level of Your Career with Debra Benton, and then How to Get 4 Generations Working Together with Haydn Shaw.

How to Climb Your Way to the Next Level of Your Career

In this Soundview Live webinar, Debra Benton gives you the insight and tools to make subtle changes in your presentation, attitude, and leadership style that will dramatically increase your leadership effectiveness – and, consequently, help you enjoy work and life.

How to Get 4 Generations Working Together

At this Soundview Live webinar, Haydn Shaw shows you how to help the different generations at work or home stick together instead of come apart, and will help you move beyond these sticking points and get productive again.

Both of these conversations will be helpful for anyone seeking to move up in their career. So please plan to join us on June 17th and 19th and invite your colleagues as well.

The Art of Improvised Persuasion

Customers don’t want to hear sales pitches, so why do salespeople rely on them? In Ditch the Pitch, Steve Yastrow advocates, “Tear up your sales pitch, and, instead improvise persuasive communications.”

Here is a humorous book trailer by Yastrow that explains the value of persuasive conversations.

Ditch the Pitch

 

 

 

 

Ditch the Pitch gives essential recommendations to salespeople, business managers, and anyone who wants to persuade those around us. Steve believes that to be persuasive we need most of all to engage in fresh and spontaneous conversations. By learning his six habits and the easy practices for each habit, we can quickly discover what makes every customer unique. We can then effortlessly navigate a persuasive conversation specifically created for each person – to give the right message to the right customer at the right time.

These are Yastrow’s six habits:

#1 Think input before output.

#2 Size up the scene.

#3 Create a series of “yeses”.

#4 Explore and heighten.

#5 Focus the conversation on your customer.

#6 Don’t rush the story.

Join us on June 10th for our Soundview Live webinar The Art of Improvised Persuasion and hear from Steve directly on how to apply these habits to your conversations, sales or otherwise. And if you’re in sales, invite your whole sales team to the webinar.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Absolute Value

by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen

by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen

It used to be that if you were selling consumer goods your field of play was limited to the shelf space immediately to the right and left of your item. People could compare packaging, price and quantity to determine if your item was worth their money and attention. In Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information, Stanford professor Itamar Simonson and best-selling author and executive Emanuel Rosen discuss what is causing the shift from relative to absolute value and how your company can make an impact. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Simonson and Rosen do an excellent job of compressing and presenting a mountain of research into concepts executives can absorb in a timely manner. The pair begin by presenting the new patterns in consumer decision making. One particular point of interest is the authors’ suggestion that there is a decline in the belief that marketers can cause buyers to act in “irrational” ways. As the pair write, “The relevance of these influence tactics has diminished in a world where people can easily assess quality. On average, better decisions are being made based on the information that’s available.”

Absolute Value then takes readers into a new framework for influence. Executives will want to spend a portion of time considering the ideas presented in a section on the Influence Mix. Simonson and Rosen write that three sources can impact a person’s decision to buy: prior experiences, preferences and beliefs, other people/information, and marketers. One of the most beneficial sections in the book pertains to matching your communication method to the customer’s influence mix. In a book filled with forward-looking insights, the authors’ advice will help guide marketing professionals into the next shift in commerce.

What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do

LEAD POSITIVE

See, Say, Do the Positive

For veteran consultant Kathryn Cramer, author of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do, the best way to inspire followers is to focus on the positive. Cramer developed a methodology called Asset-Based Thinking (ABT) based on this message of positive thinking, and describes in her book how leaders:

  • See the positive in the past, present and future;
  • Say the positive with communications with substance, sizzle and soul;
  • Do the positive by responding with intention (not reacting), leveraging their qualities, and driving positive change over the long term.

These questions will give the leader and his or her team a clear memory of how they leveraged positive “situational forces” and overcame negative ones to achieve success. Cramer’s force field analysis is both informational and inspirational.

One of the recurring approaches in Cramer’s ABT methodology is the Self-Others-Situation framework, in which leaders take into account themselves, others and the situation in question. For example, to help leaders “see” the positive in the present, Cramer writes that they need to consider what makes them feel strong and capable (self), how they develop meaningful connections with other people (others), and what gives them a sense of progress or achievement (situation).

Techniques and Strategies

The see-say-do framework is at the heart of Cramer’s Asset-Based Thinking methodology, which offers a comprehensive framework for leaders to respond to a wide variety of challenges and situations. In Lead Positive, Cramer describes a range of ABT techniques and guidelines for applying the framework. The “force field analysis,” for example, is a technique used to learn from a past situation that successfully worked, and is built around four questions or sets of questions:

  • “What forces were working for us?” With this question, you should identify five positive, accelerating forces, Cramer writes.
  • “What forces were working against us?” This question should lead to one or two negative forces.
  • What did we do to leverage the accelerating forces and eliminate or sidestep the negative forces?”
  • “What behavior do we want to repeat and knowledge do we want to carry forward? Which situational assets do we want to recreate, and which situational pitfalls must we avoid?”

The Message of St. Andrews

Cramer reinforces the lessons of ABT with real-world examples. One such real-world example involved St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System, an organization that provides a range of services for seniors, including affordable retirement housing and in-home health care. St. Andrew’s was looking to become more financially secure and a regional leader in its field. The organization looked to Cramer to help them create a vision for the future.

The first step was to develop a vision message of substance, which used an ABT structure that included what needed to be accomplished, what the executives needed to make the employees and staff understand, the call to action for employees and staff, and the benefits for all. To add sizzle to the vision message, Cramer helped Chief Operating Officer Diane Meatheany to use a narrative structure called the Hero’s Journey, based on the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell. The Hero’s Journey narrative follows a series of steps: the call, the resistance, the threshold crossing, the journey, the supreme ordeal and the return home. Meatheany crafted a story about the future of St Andrew’s and her role in it structured on the Hero’s Journey. The soul of the communication from Meatheany and the rest of the team — the all-important meaning of what is happening — was incorporated into the message through a series of answers to key “why” questions: why this is important to the bigger picture, our values and beliefs, and our organization; why it is important to me and my commitment; and why we need you involved.

The author of nine books and the founder of a consultancy that works with companies such as DuPont, Starbucks and Microsoft, Cramer knows that the deceptively simple message of positivity can belie the complexity of leading a diverse group of people in a constantly changing environment. Lead Positive transforms the principles of ABT into a practical workbook for leaders.