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A Look at Some of the Most Important Communication Skills for Almost Any Situation

Cameron Johnson

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When people are talking about successful people, others commonly speculate on how they achieved that success. Perhaps they were intelligent. They were innovative. They had the right connections or the right idea at the right time. Maybe they were just plain lucky. One of the most common descriptions of a successful individual, though, is that they are “great communicators.”

At Shapiro Negotiations, we talk a lot about developing an ability to communicate and even offer communication training. We can show you (and your team) how to be a better negotiator, a better salesman, a better communicator. But what does great communication really entail? What skills are involved in communicating clearly and effectively with someone, particularly with those who may not want to hear what you have to say?

In the following post, we’ll look into several important skills SNI can help you and your team to develop to improve your communications, both internally and externally.

1. Listening

Arguably the most important skill to acquire when you’re learning how to communicate well is how to be a good listener. And yet some people simply refuse to do it. People focus so intently on being heard and understood that they are simply incapable of understanding anyone else. Most people wait for their turn to talk rather than truly listen.

In the words of James Cash Penney, founder of the well-known J. C. Penney chain of department stores, “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” The first step in communication is for both parties to be speaking the same language. In order to do that, you need to be able to listen to and understand what the other person is saying. Anything else is just two strangers who may as well be shouting nonsense at each other, for all the good it will do.

When you listen to another person, that person will take notice. Attempting to understand what someone else wants grants them validation, permitting them to view you as a potential ally rather than an adversary. Suddenly, you aren’t two people fighting for opposing goals; you are two people who are working together to find an ideal situation for everyone involved.

2. Empathy

In almost any environment, you’re going to come across people you may not agree with. It’s just the way human interaction goes. Fortunately, you don’t have to agree with everyone on every single matter.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least try to understand and respect other people’s opinions and points of view. This ties back into listening to the other person, and perhaps a step beyond. Hear what they other person is saying. Try to look beyond the words they are saying and find the meaning behind those words. Try to recognize what their reasons are for their belief. You don’t need to share the belief, but understanding from where their position stems will give you significant insight into how to keep the conversation civil and even productive.

Phrases like “I understand where you’re coming from” can demonstrate that you’re actively paying attention to the things the other person is saying. Actively acknowledge the emotions that the other party is feeling and you can reinforce the relationship you have been building.

The ability to discern and experience another person’s emotions will grant you the unique perspective of understanding both sides of the discussion. By seeing where both sides are coming from, you will be better able to predict where their goals intersect and guide the conversation to a successful solution.

3. Translation

While most of what we’ve discussed up to this point deals with understanding other people and discerning exactly what they want, it’s just as important to be able to make yourself understood. In order to be understood, you have to be able to take information and translate it into words and terminology familiar to someone else.

For example, a college professor has typically been studying his subject matter for years, if not decades. He understands the reasons behind all of the information he is teaching his students. He could take complex data and use it to analyze and predict results from future experiments.

His students, on the other hand, are new to the subject. They don’t have the benefit of his experience in his field or of his years of research. They don’t have the context he has gained over time as he has been exposed to his material. To get through to them, he has to figure out how to explain the material to them in words that they will understand.

The same is true in almost any sort of interaction. People live such radically different lives that some experiences familiar to one person might be completely foreign to another. Figuring out what words, phrases, or contexts will resonate with the other party will enable you to get your point across and be understood.

4. Clarity

Clarity is the ability to speak in such a way that people understand your meaning. “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” as the old adage directs. Speak simply, speak clearly, and say exactly what you intend. Speaking in a roundabout fashion can be off-putting for several reasons, any of which can bring a negotiation to a crashing halt.

People have notoriously short attention spans. Most people are willing to grant a little bit of leeway, but if you drag on, eventually they’re just going to tune you out. You may be an expert on your subject material, but it won’t matter. If no one is listening, then does it really make a difference anymore what you say?

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are not precise or seem to talk in circles, it can discourage people from trusting you. If it’s difficult to make out what you’re saying, it may seem like you’re hiding something. If you are able to boil down a complicated concept into just a few words, on the other hand, it is a good sign that you really know what you’re talking about.

5. Body Language

The words you say to other people are only a portion of the way you communicate with them. The way you hold yourself, the way you move, where you look, and even the tone of your voice—all of these can contribute to the way your message is received. You may have had a conversation in the past where an upset party snapped, “It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it!” Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, proposes that there are three elements that account for how positively people respond to someone else’s communication. Only 7 percent of the response is based upon the other person’s words, while 38 percent is based on their tone of voice, and the remaining 55 percent is based on body language.

When interacting with others, be aware of the subtle signals you may be sending to people. Avoiding eye contact gives off a sense that you are either uninterested or are hiding something. Staring, on the other hand, can make people uncomfortable. Standing too closes seems overly aggressive, while turning your body away from the other person can make you seem aloof.

By presenting yourself in a more open fashion, you can encourage others to let down their guards a little bit and be more open with you in return. Pay attention to your hand gestures, whether or not your arms are crossed, even the subtle noises you make in acknowledgment of what someone else has said.

At the same time, keep an eye on how other people are responding to what you say. If they seem to be losing interest or becoming defensive, it may be time to rethink your strategy. If they are not looking you in the eye, they may be uncomfortable. Try not to make quick assumptions based on body language, because it can be very easy to misinterpret; however, be aware of it as you continue your conversation.

6. Interpersonal Connection

Interpersonal connection involves the ability to forge common bonds with others. It doesn’t always need to include a clear goal; sometimes, connecting for connection’s sake can have the biggest payoff in the end. Find a common link with the other person, but don’t be invasive or fake. Get to know them, and help them get to know you.

Show that you have value. Give them a reason to trust what you’re saying. Any connection you build, even one that seems unimportant in the moment,  could lead to other opportunities down the line.

Try to find something in common with the other person, something you can connect over. What similarities do you share? Interests? Histories? Find some way to connect.

7. Diplomacy

Daniele Varè, an Italian diplomat and author, once wrote that “diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” It is a way of guiding the conversation in a particular direction without putting the other person on the defensive. There is a delicate balancing act involved in making sure that all points are heard and acknowledged while no feelings are hurt.

If you accidentally offend someone, diplomacy also involves the ability to defuse a potentially volatile situation. Validate the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Even if you don’t agree with them, acknowledging those feelings can go a long way. People want to be understood, and if you try to push them in a certain direction without putting in the work to understand them, it can lead them to become obstinate and refuse to work with you.

Sometimes, diplomacy involves moving the discussion to a later time. If the situation has already become intense, it may be best for everyone involved to take a break and reconvene at a later time. Depending on the situation, this break could be as long as a week or two or as short as five minutes. The important part is that everyone has the opportunity to process their emotions and return when they are all calm. Remain non-confrontational throughout the process, and take care to avoid accusatory or emotionally-charged phrases like “You’ve got to be kidding!” or “There’s no way!” Simply saying “No,” can convey the same information without putting the other party on edge.

8. Honesty

We’ve placed this skill last, but that certainly doesn’t mean it is the least important. Honesty is at the heart of all productive communication. And while honesty may not necessarily seem like a skill at first, it is actually crucial to develop it in your communication.

If you are dishonest with someone, whether that person is a coworker, a boss, someone with whom you do business, or a close personal relationship, it breeds anxiety in you and distrust from others.

While it may sometimes be tempting to be dishonest with others in order to gain an advantage, any benefit that comes of it will be temporary at best. In the long term, dishonesty will burn bridges behind you and drag your reputation through the mud.

If you build a reputation for being honest, though, even in situations where it might not benefit you, you will build goodwill among those you know, and eventually it can even spread to people you have never met. If you are honest, the relationships you build will be on firmer ground, and any agreements you have with others will be more likely to stand.

At Shapiro Negotiations, we recognize just how important it is to be able to communicate well. It’s the basis on which all relationships stand. The ability to express yourself clearly and understand what others are saying will help you to build stronger relationships, both personal and in the workplace.

One last key tip when it comes to communicating with others: respect. Respect the people with whom you are interacting. Recognize that, while their histories and viewpoints may differ from yours, that doesn’t make them any less valid. Respect the businesses with whom you are doing business. The fact that you are negotiating with them is evidence that they have something that you want, which means there are probably several things you could stand to learn from them.

And, of course, respect yourself. Respect yourself to be honest in the ways you interact with people. Respect yourself to be willing to understand the reasons behind your viewpoints and opinions. Respect yourself enough to figure out more than one way to get your point across so that you can communicate with a wide variety of people. And respect yourself to be willing to continue to grow and improve.

We at Shapiro Negotiations can give you and your team the training you need to improve your communication skills and build stronger relationships with others. For more information, fill out the form below. We’d love to work with you.




How to Manage a Sales Team

Cameron Johnson

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sales managementNo matter how good your product or service is, your sales team is an integral part of getting it into your customers’ hands. For this reason, it is important to make sure that they are given the proper attention. As the sales team manager, it is your job to make sure that they are achieving their goals, but just as importantly, it is your job to make sure that the team’s culture is healthy and that they are receiving the proper training. Below, we go through some practices you can follow to ensure their success:

Monitor performance indicators and make sure they are clear

Your sales team needs a clear picture of exactly what their goals should be. This will help them to focus their efforts and give them a target they can reach for. As time goes on, it can be easy to assume that everyone knows these goals, so it’s a good idea to articulate them regularly to ensure that your entire team is on the same page and working towards the same end. Keep track of these measurables and work with team members who may be struggling in order to help them to reach their goals. While you shouldn’t let underperformance slide, management and other team members should work with them to help them figure out what to do to meet their goals and improve their processes moving forward.

Build a culture that encourages success

Set high expectations from the beginning. People tend to deliver based upon the expectations set upon them, and if you act as though your sales team will perform poorly, chances are that you will be proven right. At the same time, if you set your expectations high, it is likely that they will rise to the occasion.

Creating a strong team culture also involves building relationships between team members. Building a cutthroat environment where team members are always looking to succeed at the expense of each other can be toxic, so encourage a feeling of camaraderie between team members. As your team members become familiar and comfortable with each other, your team’s work processes can become more intuitive and natural, further boosting performance.

Train the troops

Even if you have the best processes laid out for your sales team, they will do you no good if you don’t train the team. This can include everything from small, internal training meetings within your sales team to larger, day-long events. As they work in the same environment day after day, it is easy for salespeople to settle into a rut, which can dull their abilities. Bringing in an outside expert for negotiation training can shake things up and give them new insights on the best sales strategies, honing their instincts and revitalizing their efforts.

Coaching happens every day, not just in formal meetings

Corporate sales training events are a wonderful way to improve your team’s results, but training doesn’t stop there. As a sales team leader, you are responsible for your team’s results every day. While individual coaching opportunities can take time from your already busy schedule, it is worth the investment. Taking time to step aside and work with individual team members will build their confidence, both in their own abilities and in you as a leader, and can help them to feel like a part of a successful team.

Celebrate successes

When your team members achieve something, whether it’s big or small, acknowledge it. Celebrate it! Do this as often as you can, because each little celebration gives the team a boost and motivates them to do better. Recognize the successes that your team members have and reward them.

Some sales managers wait too long between wins to celebrate in order to make the celebrations seem more meaningful. While this makes sense to a degree, waiting too long to celebrate can backfire and make your team members feel underappreciated. When your team has a success, acknowledging that success motivates them to achieve even more the next time.

Your sales team is one of the most public faces of your company, but by putting in a little effort and providing the proper training, you can set them up for success. That will bring positive results for them individually and for your company as a whole.

Conflict Management Styles and Techniques

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After decades of study, it’s become undeniably clear: people are different. As shocking as this revelation might be, it’s true. People have different opinions, different motivations, different wants and desires. And just as undeniably clear is this: sometimes, those differences can lead to conflict. People will disagree. One person’s wants will conflict with another’s. People will slip up and end up disappointing each other, and in the end, someone is going to end up upset.

Many will cry, “But can’t we all just get along!?” The question is simple. In an idealized world, everyone would be able to get what they want, and no one would be upset. The answer, however, is a bit more complicated. It’s certainly possible for people of differing opinions and circumstances to work together to find a solution that works for everyone, but it might require some effort. And in some situations, there simply is no ideal solution. In these sorts of circumstances, a diplomat may need to dig deep into his or her bag of tricks to find a resolution. Whatever the situation, the first step in conflict management is to determine exactly what sort of conflict has arisen. By paying close attention and learning where the root of the conflict lies, you can then determine which style of conflict management best fits the circumstance.

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Different styles of conflict resolution

When faced with a conflict, there are several different options for just how to resolve it. Some are more effective than others, and some can be even more destructive than the conflict itself. If a person isn’t careful, he or she could even escalate the conflict. Essentially, conflict resolution styles can be boiled down to five core types.

1. Competing

The most adversarial technique, competing generally involves forcing one side’s ideas and concerns to the forefront, overriding those of the other side. While this method can certainly lead to a quick resolution to the problem at hand, if not handled properly, it can create more problems along the way. Competing is most effective when one side considers their personal goals to be more important than personal relationships.

While controversial, some circumstances do exist where competing is the proper method. When speed is critical and no other method is proving effective, it may be necessary to simply push one side’s solution forward at the expense of the other. This method may be necessary in order to stop violence, or to counter a life-threatening situation. It may be useful to end a stalemate after no common solution can be found. It is important, however, to keep in mind that this can harm the relationship between the involved parties, and much of the energy that could be used to solve the problem will likely be expended in the argument itself. Also, there is no guarantee that it will lead to a satisfactory conclusion, meaning all of those risks and potentially damaged relationship will have happened for no reason.

2. Avoiding

Avoiding, or withdrawing, is basically a non-approach to conflict resolution. Rather than addressing the conflict, the person simply ignores it. Depending on the circumstance, this can be either a temporary or permanent solution.

Avoidance does not necessarily mean sticking your fingers in your ears or burying your head in the sand. As with the other conflict management styles, it’s important to pay close attention to the circumstances surrounding the conflict and determine  whether avoidance would, in this instance, be an example of running away and hiding from your problems, or merely of picking your battles.

As a temporary solution, withdrawing from the conflict can grant an opportunity to gather information and decide upon the best solution. Just don’t make the mistake of trying to avoid indefinitely a problem that must be faced. Doing so could make things worse.

3. Accommodating

Accommodating is basically the opposite of competing. It entails one party forgoing his or her own concerns and addressing the other party’s concerns first. Much like with competing, this method can be useful in the event of a tight deadline where it is important for the parties involved to come to a consensus quickly. It also applies well in a case where one party is simply more interested in the outcome than the other. The accommodating person is basically saying, “I don’t care!” and walking away from the situation.

This method can work well in some situations, but in other situations, it is markedly less than ideal. Conceding specific points can help to grant you valuable perspective. On the other hand, giving in constantly not only prevents the conceding party the things that they want, it can actually make that person seem weak. Over time, it can even become habit to simply give up when a conflict arises, which is also unhealthy. When determining whether or not to concede in a given situation, it’s wise to observe each situation separately and try to find a balance between the two options. Speaking of which…

4. Compromising

Compromise is one of the best ways to satisfy both parties. This strategy generally works when both parties are on equal footing. Each party has to be willing to bend to a certain degree so that the two can meet in the middle at what is hopefully something that works for everyone.

One of the biggest benefits of compromise is that it can bring about a faster resolution to the conflict.  Additionally, each side is able to get at least a part of what they want, meaning neither party is left out in the cold. Still, it’s not always an ideal solution, and it’s not always permanent. Compromise, while usually satisfying everyone involved for a short time, does not necessarily solve the conflict, meaning that conflict could show up again a few months down the line. It does not necessarily bring trust with it over the long run, and so once one of the parties becomes discontent, Still, in other cases, it can work wonders, leaving both of those involved quite pleased with the result.

5. Collaborating

Finally, collaborating is an attempt to show that both people or entities involved in the conflict are on the same side. The goal is for both sides to win. Rather than each side giving up certain desires to reach a consensus, both sides work together to ensure that as many desires are fulfilled as possible. This is the long sought after “win-win” approach. It brings commitment from both parties, as well as shared responsibility for whatever results come about.

Collaboration particularly works in a situation where it is important for the parties involved to agree and continue an amicable relationship. It works very well in environments where collaboration is encouraged and the people involved already hold a high level of trust for each other. Perhaps its biggest downfall is the fact that it takes a lot of time and a significant amount of effort. If a quick resolution is necessary, then it may be more prudent to select a different technique.

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Potential sources of conflict

One of the most important aspects of resolving any conflict is determining the source. Sometimes, problems arise based on the way the company is run or the workload is distributed. Other times, industry problems may arise that have a negative impact on the company and its employees. And sometimes, people just don’t get along. Whatever the cause, recognizing where the problem started is the first step on the path to resolution. Let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons that problems can arise at a workplace.

Interpersonal conflicts

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Fuel for the fires of workplace conflict can come in many forms. The source for angst and frustration are not always immediately visible, but there is always a strong undercurrent at work. Being observant and listening to normal everyday conversations can provide clues and help you know when to step in to diffuse a potentially volatile situation. Any company that employs more than one person carries some level of risk that a conflict can be brewing at any given time. The United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that between 2002 and 2009, the rate of nonfatal workplace violence has declined by 35%, but even without violence, it is still a serious issue that can cost a business money.

1. Personality clashes

Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to a half cup of water, cover with a lid and shake it well. No matter how hard you try, the oil and water will not mix. Like oil and water, some personality types simply do not mix. Nothing can be more miserable for employees than the feeling of being stuck dealing with someone whose personality clashes with their own. A negatively-thinking person may be unable to stand the constant irritation of someone who is constantly positive and happy person. The same can be said of the negative vibes that positive thinking employees have to endure. At some point there will be conflict. A survey conducted by Forbes in 2015 demonstrated a nearly unanimous response that personality clashes were the number one reason for workplace harmony.

A variety of personality tests can be administered to better help determine which employees would work well together and which pairings might produce friction and conflict. It is much easier to take the time to determine this ahead of time rather than spending extra effort monitoring volatile situations, or waiting for a serious clash of personalities that might cost your business money.

2. Employees bringing personal problems to work

Work hours only reflect a portion of the day for most employees. Life happens for everyone, and there are always challenges. It is difficult to shut off emotions and not bring outside problems to the workplace, but every effort should be made to create a drama-free work site. Everyday stress needs to be balanced with a compassionate take on situations that employees experience.

Stay in tune with the demeanor of employees so that you can recognize when they are stressed and seem anxious. Place information in key areas where employees gather for breaks to recommend sources of localized assistance for food, legal, medical or financial emergencies.

3. Gender and race conflict

It might seem strange that in one of the most technologically driven societies, discriminatory situations can arise involving gender and race. The cold hard fact is that prejudices still arise from time to time and create complete chaos when conflicts flare. Both situations are centered and driven by hate and fear, meaning things can spiral out of control quickly.

It is important to offer sensitivity training any time there have already been conflicts regarding gender and race, or if the possibility of future conflicts exists. All employees, no matter their position, must understand that discriminatory behaviors and problems with not be tolerated.

4. Co-worker jealousy

When one coworker feels they are being treated unfairly in comparison to another, jealousy can breed. This may simply be a false perspective, but even the slightest tint of favoritism for one employee over another can stoke the fires of conflict. If there are significant differences in pay, benefits, promotions and vacation days, it will begin to evoke feelings of jealousy in employees who feel slighted.

The best way to handle this type of conflict is to have strict policies in place when it comes to pay, benefits, off-time, and opportunities for promotion. Adhere to the guidelines, and make decisions and opportunities fair for everyone. Feelings of jealousy will die off if there is no fertile ground to permit it to grow.

Business operations conflicts

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Sudden, unexpected changes in a business’s operation, or even a poorly planned infrastructure, can create an atmosphere that is the perfect breeding ground for conflict. Businesses have to streamline at times in order to stay on top. Below are some of the more typical reasons that conflicts can happen when it comes to business operations as a whole.

1. Perceived unequal pay and job duty distribution

Nothing can give birth to feelings of unequal treatment faster than pay rates and unfair distribution of work. Employees talk, and if one is making a significant amount less while doing equal or more work, there will be a conflict at some point. Policies forbidding employees to discuss wages with one another never work, and even if they did, they’re illegal.

Complete company transparency is the best way to handle this type of potential conflict. Allowing employees to see how and why raises are given is a golden opportunity to build an incentive to work well. Listen to feedback from employees regarding the number and intensity of tasks that are expected to be completed in a given workday and whether those tasks are fairly distributed. Often, managers are unaware of tasks that aren’t reasonably possible to complete in the time allotted, so employee feedback is absolutely necessary to fix these problems. Once these problems have been identified, a few changes to balance things may be all that is required.

2. Supervisor/Employee clashes

How well do your employees and supervisors work together? This is another source of conflict that may revolve around a difference in personalities. Supervisory and management personnel may have the credentials to direct a group of people, but how refined are their people skills?

Management level employees should optimally have the skills to work with all personality types in all situations. Providing social occasions involving all levels of personnel allows everyone to come together in a more relaxed environment. Added opportunities for supervisory training can also help you develop an eyes-on-the-ground approach to possible conflicts and quell them early on.

3. Dramatic policy or operations changes

At times, businesses have to dramatically change operational procedures, and it can leave employees feeling frustrated, since they are not part of the decision-making process. Sudden major changes can throw people off their game. It is not surprising to see upticks in the number and severity of conflicts during these times of stress from change.

Offer as much notice and explanation as possible before implementing large-scale change. Create a positive outlook from the start that all can embrace. Offer plenty of transition time and training as is possible in order to mitigate the inevitable frustration and stress.

External business influences

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Not all workplace conflict starts and ends within the company’s direct influence. Keeping up with the pace of the world in business can force changes and reconfiguration, causing conflicts to erupt where there were none before. Below are two of the most common sources of conflict caused by outside forces.

1. Economic downturns

The world economy often takes unpredictable turns. When the economy falters, it directly impacts the financial structure of a business. This can lead to something as simple as employees being offered fewer hours each week, or situations as dramatic as mass layoffs. When companies feel the pinch of a tough economy, it is only a matter of time before it trickles down to the employees.

When possible, assure all employees on a regular basis that their jobs are secure. Trimming hours is usually more preferable than the thought of losing a job altogether. Give as much advance warning as possible if there is the real possibility of having to let employees go. Not only does this give them time to prepare for the worst, it builds trust between them and the company.

2. Technological changes

The fast pace of the business world creates demand for companies to stay on top of technological advances. Huge changes that bring businesses more in line with the world’s operation can be intimidating to employees who may not be technologically inclined.

Ongoing training should be provided for employees who are struggling to learn how to operate new equipment and computer programs or systems. This provides necessary stress relief and helps keep conflicts to a minimum.

Tips to keep in mind

During the actual process of observing, analyzing, discussing, and finally resolving the process, there are a few things to keep in mind that might hopefully keep tensions from rising too high. We’ve already mentioned the first, but it bears repeating.

1. Listen carefully to determine the entire scenario, then troubleshoot

The key to finding a common point on which to agree is understanding. By paying attention to what the other person is saying and trying to learn what they really want, it’s much easier to determine which concessions will be worthwhile. Then, together, you can troubleshoot the issue accurately and form an effective solution.

2. Remain neutral

The instant you become combative or take an offensive stance, the other person will respond in kind. If communication breaks down to the point where neither side is listening to the other, then you will never find a solution that works. All of your energy will be spent fighting each other. Keeping a neutral tone and mindset, on the other hand, communicates that you are not trying to take something from anyone else. It boosts your credibility and significantly increases the likelihood that the other person will listen to what you have to say.

3. Make resolution the priority, not “winning” or “being right.”

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of assuming that the only way to solve a conflict is to “win.” Being so certain that your way is the only right way is a sure way to alienate the other person. People who feel that they are being ignored or talked down to will often dig in their heels. Instead, respect that the other person may have some good points himself and again, be willing to listen.

4. Focus on the situation at hand, not the past.

Assigning blame is focused on the past. The thing about the past, though, is that it’s already happened. It can’t be changed. It can’t be fixed. It can’t be undone. Holding a grudge or trying to figure out whose fault it is in the moment is counterproductive, clouding judgments and distracting from solving the real problem. While it is important to figure out what caused the conflict in the first place, doing so when faced with a conflict is not the ideal time.

When it comes to conflict, one of the best pieces of advice we can receive is to prepare ahead of time. Knowing the best way to interact with someone—whether that person is a customer, a coworker, a friend, or a family member—can help prevent escalating problems and keep a difficult situation from spiraling out of control. For in-depth training on how best to handle conflicts with other people, take a look at the conflict resolution training offered by Shapiro Negotiations, N.I.C.E. vs. Nasty – Dealing with Difficult People.

The Impact of the Gettysburg Address 152 Years Later

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November 19, 2015, marks the 152nd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, a speech that is regarded as one of the most masterful public addresses in history. Some of the elements of oratory artistry Abraham Lincoln used that day remain relevant to negotiation training and really, any persuasive pursuit, to this day. That fact is a bit ironic since the content of Abraham Lincoln’s speech itself, dismissed the importance, and life expectancy of the words he spoke.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here …” he said, “… but it can never forget what they did here.”

The fact that Lincoln humbly shrugged off the content of a his own message, reducing his own words to simple phonemes that ring through the air for just a split second then disappear into the aether forever points to his rhetorical  techniques. He set the stage with a string of words that explicitly demerited the person who spoke them and pointed the hearts of the audience away from the persona, and toward some other truth. That is not to say that persuasive speaking takes the form of misdirection, although there may be sleight-of-hand involved. As the 20th century French language scholar, Jaques Derrida once wrote, “Speech never gives the thing itself, but a simulacrum that touches us more profoundly than the truth, “strikes” us more effectively.”

Derrida’s use of the verb, “strikes,” directs our attention to the centerpiece of our Gettysburg Address commemoration, which is this. Speech is an act. It’s a thing that a person does. In spite of Lincoln’s own dismissiveness, history certainly remembers both what he did, and said that day. So, let’s talk more about Lincoln’s actions on that day and the legacy they left behind.

The Battle of Gettysburg

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The American civil war saw some of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history. The Battle of Gettysburg, which had taken place months earlier, July 1-3, 1863, was the worst of them. At the end of the three-day conflict, more than between 46,000 and 51,000 servicemen were either killed, wounded, or missing. It was far more bloodshed than the public on either side of the conflict could rationalize.

The price of war in the aftermath weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of the Northern public where a peace movement had been gathering support for some time. Reluctance to continue also crept into minds of the soldiers, and military commanders, as well as President Lincoln. It also weighed on the Confederacy. The Battle of Gettysburg marked a major turning point in the conflict. The Confederacy’s campaign to invade the north in full force had been pushed back. Robert E. Lee’s long-standing reputation for invincibility in battle was permanently dispelled.

Strategically speaking, however, the immediate southern reaction to the battle was that it was a setback, not a disaster and that many of the Confederacy’s military goals had been largely achieved. The sentiment was that Lee won the day on July 1. Confederate troops fought valiantly the following two days, but failed to dislodge the Union Army from strong defensive positions outside the city. And once defeated, the Confederates successfully stood their ground on July 4, and retreated further only after realizing the Union lacked the will to pursue and attack. Ultimately it was a defeat that Lee handled with his usual mastery. The full scope of the events at Gettysburg were not understood to be a turning point until later.

The Battle of Gettysburg had opened up a critical opportunity for Union forces to destroy the Confederate Army once and for all. But, it was an opportunity they had missed when the moment was ripe. According to one historian, President Lincoln complained to Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles stating, “Our army held the war in the hollow if their hand and they would not close it.”

How the Speech Set the Tone for Victory

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Northern enthusiasm dissipated in the months between July and November that year, as workers labored to construct the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg, and word spread that Lee’s army had escaped destruction and the war would need to continue. President Lincoln needed an opportunity to muster the Union’s resolve and press the advantage while there was still time.

Reburial of Union soldiers from Gettysburg Battlefield graves to new grave sites at the National Soldier’s Cemetery had begun October 17. President Lincoln had been invited to “formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks,” by David Willis of the committee for the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. The occasion presented Lincoln with the opportunity rededicate public resolve to seeing the war all the way through. Lincoln’s address followed a tiresome speech lasting more than two hours given by the well-known Massachusetts statesman, Edward Everett. Lincoln needed only two minutes to accomplish his goals.  

Multiple historians noted significant parallels between the timing, context, and rhetorical tone Lincoln’s speech, with the speech given by the Athenian politician, Pericles’, recorded by Thucydides in The History of the Peloponnesian War. For one, the timing and setting for The Gettysburg Address precisely mirror Pericles’s speech. Public funerals commemorating the sacrifices of fallen soldiers were an established Athenian tradition by the fifth century B.C. And even though it’s uncertain how much influence the History of the Peloponnesian War had on Lincoln, the rhetorical parallels are very plain to see. Lincoln began with an acknowledgment of revered predecessors, with the phrase, “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent…”

Like Pericles, Lincoln praised the uniqueness of the State’s commitment to democracy by stating, “..a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…government of the people, by the people, and for the people…” Like Pericles, Lincoln Addresses the heavy emotional burdens carried by speakers on such occasions, “…we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.” And ultimately, like Pericles, Lincoln exhorts the survivors to vindicate the dead by emulating their deeds, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the great task remaining before us.”

Lincoln’s Legacy

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Speech is an act, and a powerful one at that. Despite any appeals to humility, great speeches and great speakers like Abraham Lincoln, and like Pericles before him, are always remembered. The Gettysburg Address is regarded as one of the greatest, most concise, yet most influential statements of national purpose on record. In two minutes, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence. He equated the Civil War with a struggle for the preservation of the Union that had been rent asunder by the secession of the southern states. At the same time he redefined the war to be more than just a partisan political struggle to preserve the Union and federal authority over states, but also to preserve the very paradigm in which partisan struggles could be moderated by a fair democratic process for generations to come; another parallel to Athenian history. We all know the final outcome. The Union Army pressed the advantage and eventually won the war. And a year-and-a-half after speaking at Gettysburg, Lincoln was assassinated.

Conclusion

We believe that there is always a model for success that can be studied, repurposed, and followed. We also teach that persuasion, whatever, and wherever the context, is far more than just words. Abraham Lincoln’s techniques are as good a model for someone to follow today, as Pericles’s techniques were for Lincoln 152 years ago.

In his eulogy to the slain president, Senator Charles Sumner referred to The Gettysburg Address as a “monumental act,” also noting that Lincoln had been mistaken in his thought that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Rather, Sumner remarked, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”

Ways to Ensure Employee Retention

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For most employers, recruiting new hires is easy. The problem comes when the same employees want to quit once they’ve worked for you only a few months or even weeks. If you struggle with employee retention, you aren’t alone. It’s a tough market for employers as well as employees, but there are things you can do to improve retention. Today, we’ll discuss why employees quit and how you can keep them from doing it.

Why Employees Quit

For every hundred employees, there are a hundred reasons to quit. According to the experts, though, the top reasons most people quit include:

  • Lack of trust. Your employees will quit if they don’t feel you treat them as adults. Stringent penalties for being five minutes late, managers constantly looking over their shoulders, or surprise meetings where they’re quizzed on performance all make employees anxious and frustrated. Most people work hard to get their jobs, and they deserve to be trusted to do what you hired them for.
  • Lack of vision. Walt Disney got the idea for Disneyland while watching his kids ride a carousel – he wanted to create a place where children and adults could have fun together. Disney had a gift for sharing his vision and getting others to believe in it. If your employees don’t know why they’re with you, they’ll leave.
  • Lack of people skills. Employees want to know you’re listening. If you ask for suggestions in a meeting, take them to heart. Don’t interrupt when a worker talks to you. Remember names and faces, and ask friendly questions.

How to Retain Employees

Now that you know why people leave jobs, you might wonder how to keep them. Most business owners agree on a few key strategies, including:

  • Know your numbers. How high is your turnover rate? What time of year do most employees leave? What departments have the highest and lowest turnover? These numbers will show you where you need to improve.
  • Look for stressors. The workplace itself is stressful, but some jobs are more demanding than others. For example, doctors, police officers, teachers, and pastors are all particularly vulnerable to burnout. Find your company’s specific stressors. Are they confined to certain departments? Pinpoint the stress and invite employees to help you address it.
  • Evaluate the hiring process. Who are you hiring and why? Many potential employees get discouraged because interviews focus on personality and “soft skills,” not the skills they need to do the job. Strike a balance between professional and personal.

Meet SNI’s Spring Interns!

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Join us in welcoming SNI’s interns for the 2014 Spring semester!

Trevin

Trevin Jaggars

Trevin’s main job at SNI is to assist Ron Shapiro on projects and help with any research and writing proposals. He is in grad school at Georgetown for sports industry management.  His favorite dessert is cheesecake and he even writes poems! His current career goal is to get a full time position with a sports team or company.

Demetria

Dimetria Jenkins

Dimetria is our fiance and accounting girl. She is a senior business major with accounting and finance concentrations. On her birthday, she’d love to eat either tiramisu or crème brulee.  She knows how to play the saxophone and is a great chef and baker! Before continuing on to get her MBA and other certifications, she is hoping to gain some work experience in the accounting and finance industry.

Matt

 Matthew Legg

Matt is a second year law student at the University of Maryland School of Law and is a legal intern this Spring at SNI.  On his birthday, his favorite dessert is yellow cake with chocolate icing (and plenty of those thick icing balloons…).  He took an independent study in college on 3D animation, and knows how to create basic digital animations.  After he graduates from law school and passes the bar exam, he’s hoping use his law knowledge foundations and experience to further establish his career path.

Glen

Glen Rock

Glen is our marketing guy. He helps with social media, blogs, email campaigns and other creative tasks. His favorite birthday dessert is a brownie fudge sundae and for fun he wakeboards and snowboards! He is a Senior at Towson University studying Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.  His current career goal is to find a position in sales or marketing, possibly in Austin, Texas!

The 5 Essential Characteristics of a Great Manager

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The key to improving performance within your company is effective management. By providing employees with excellent managers, you can ensure that they will have a good example to follow when it comes to their own work. However, it is important that managers possess certain characteristics in order for them to be truly effective. Here are the five traits that are absolutely essential when it comes to your being a successful manager.

 

1. The Ability to Self-Motivate

Managers are responsible for motivating their employees, which means that they themselves must possess the ability to self-motivate. Self-motivation means that you are not only able to get yourself going on the project at hand, but that you are also able to work independently to take on each next step towards completion. As a manager, it is necessary that you are able to self-motivate because you will need to imbue this characteristic in the employees whom you are managing.

2. Effective Communication Skills

Another critical trait that managers must possess is effective communication skills. In large part, the main job of a manager is communication. Good managers are able to communicate with their employees in a way that is clear and conducive to a positive working relationship. Furthermore, good managers excel at both verbal and non-verbal communication. A good manager leads by example in order to communicate such behavior to employees.

3. Confidence Without Arrogance

As a manager, it is important for you to be confident. Having confidence shows your employees that you believe in your own abilities, which will increase their respect for you. Unfortunately, such confidence is all too often mistaken for arrogance. If your employees believe that you are arrogant, they will lose respect for you rather than gaining it. To prevent this, imbue your confidence with personality to make yourself likeable to your employees.

4. Willingness to Share

One ineffective management strategy is withholding information from your employees. Instead, effective managers share as much information as possible with their employees, creating an environment of collective intelligence. This creates trust between management and employees, leading to a more effective relationship. Remember to never isolate yourself from those you are managing, as this will lessen trust in the relationship.

5. Prowess in Problem Solving

Finally, a great manager is able to problem solve. Problem solving is one of the key components of a management position, whether you are working out a conflict between employees or solving a crisis with a client. In addition to being able to solve problems, a good manager takes responsibility for problems that arise.

What Does Your Client See in Your Business?

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Your prospective clients, like any clients, are bound to see the business world in their own way. Their experiences in the industry will undoubtedly influence their point of view. It all comes down to their understanding of the industry and how their own business or personal needs relate to the products or services they are going to pursue in order to get a leg up in a competitive industry.

These aspects of business give clients a particular outlook on their own business model, as well as the challenges they face and the opportunities available to them. This outlook is a major factor in how your client understands and deals with the concept of value in business – that is to say, just how much products and services are worth in relation to their own needs and objectives.

Breaking it Down: Point of View and Value

It should be a given that you have an intimate knowledge of the industry and of your prospective client’s needs and goals in business. With this in mind, you should be able to create a value that is aligned with the client’s objectives. When the value you generate is in the ballpark with your client’s outlook on value, then making the transaction is easy and doesn’t require any further analysis. This makes for a smooth relationship between you and your client, because they understand the worth of your product or service in much the same way that you do.

Distortions of Outlook

Difficulties arise when the client’s outlook creates a distorted sense of value. For example, if your service has been proven to create much more effective results than those of your competitors, with solid statistics on such fundamental aspects of business as improved ROI and lead conversion, then it should be clear that your service could be an invaluable aspect of any client’s strategy.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many people opt for lower quality for a lower price, so being the best is not always going to cut it for these clients. If this particular client does not see that your price is lower, then you will not be able to win them over.

What to Do?

What does this mean for you? Well, there are two options: either change your own value, or change your client’s perception of value. Neither of these answers are particularly simple. It may not be worth it to realign your sense of value with your client’s; then again, it may not be worth it to put in the work to change that of your client. Either way, the aforementioned understanding of your client’s needs and goals will be a crucial factor in making the next steps forward.

Sources:

http://thesalesblog.com/blog/2013/07/05/your-clients-value-lens/

http://thesalesblog.com/blog/2013/06/25/the-urgent-case-for-business-acumen/

Performing at the Top Level in Sales

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It’s not easy to be in the sales industry. Buyers may not have a sense of what products and services are available to solve their problems, or even that your company exists. The solution they need may be right under their nose the entire time, and that’s where effective sales people come in. Smart sales people know the ins and outs of lead conversion and how to make sure everyone wins.

What Makes a Good Sales Person?

A good sales person meets a number of criteria.

  • Great sales people focus on results. They are goal oriented, and can figure out an effective path to take to achieve their objectives.
  • Great sales people are self-starters. They manage themselves without becoming distracted, and do not need to be immediately supervised. Autonomous sales people have a lot of freedom, and carry a lot of responsibility as well.
  • Great sales people do not take rejection personally. This is one of the basics of being in the industry: you’re going to get a lot of “no” in comparison to “yes.”
  • Great sales people are persistent. In sales, it’s important to be resilient, and not to give up if they are rejected or lose a deal. They remember that selling is a time consuming process and that they need to be patient and keep at it.
  • Great sales people are good listeners. They often listen more than they talk, because without an intimate understanding of a client’s needs, they will not be able to provide solutions. They can then provide honest answers about the products and services available to meet – or not meet – the needs presented to them.
  • Great sales people are balanced. They approach the work with a good blend of introversion and extroversion, and know when to step up and when to pull back.

It Isn’t Easy to Find Good Sales People

It’s difficult to find great sales people. Many managers lower their standards because they have trouble finding the best performers out there under pressure. A lot of this is because of the bad reputation that sales people are pushy and are only in the business to make money on products that people don’t really want. There is little education and professional development available in sales. This makes recruiting all the more difficult.

Aim High in the Face of Adversity

It’s not easy to recruit a good sales person in today’s market, but with the will to work hard and learn the language, it’s possible to become an excellent sales person. It takes resilience, an ego that won’t be bruised, and self-motivation, but with the right tool set, a person with sales potential can become exactly what recruiters are looking for.

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/04/12/the-unexpected-secret-to-being-a-great-salesperson/

http://www.youngupstarts.com/2012/03/29/infographic-anatomy-of-a-top-performing-salesperson/