Thursday, 30 June 2016

Brexit and Leadership Vacuum

There's a great New Yorker cartoon by Mischa Richter that shows a large flock of sheep looking rather disgruntled facing a farm dog. The lead sheep says to the dog, "Speaking frankly, a number of us are worried about a serious leadership vacuum."

Serious leadership vacuum?  That's an understatement of what we're facing now. In my last blog I mentioned a paucity of leadership at the very time we, as a nation, need it most.

Instead, we have a bunch of Conservatives jockeying to position themselves as the next party leader and another bunch of Labour MPs trying to oust their current leader.

Great; more diversionary tactics to keep the focus off the power gap that desperately needs to be filled right now. This is when we should be clamouring for our so called leaders to stop pointing fingers at each other and tell us what they are going to do.

The EU Referendum result is a hot potato no one wants to touch so it’s being tossed around and every time it’s tossed to someone new it’s accompanied by accusations, blame and grand denunciations.

Great leaders don’t need to blame, finger point, indulge in recriminations. Great leaders need to ‘grasp the nettle’ as the cliché goes, get stung and get things done, starting with having a plan (see previous blog).

Leadership vacuums occur all the time: we just happen to be witnessing this one on a global scale and yet very close to home at the same time. With just over half the country jubilant and just under half the country in despair, calm, clear voices need to rise above the clamour.

Voices that have a plan.

Notice how much I keep banging on about a plan? I believe in vision and I believe in having impossible dreams. I also believe that vision and dreams cannot happen without a concrete strategy and that’s what we look to our leaders to provide.

Although I am a firm believer in democracy, we have a Parliamentary system in place so that we can be led by people who should have far greater understanding of the issues and are able to represent our best interests. The leadership vacuum we are all suffering with is not being done in our best interest but in the self-interest of those who are all squabbling.

We are in the midst of uncertainty; uncertainty feeds fear and anxiety and this is what happens when we are up to our necks in uncertainty:

We guess what might be going on and the longer we don’t know what’s going on, we then make things up and act as though what we made up is true.

We generally imagine scenarios far worse than reality but without clear leadership it feels like it could become as bad as we imagine.

We gossip and fire up the rumour mill.

We look for someone or something to blame.

We become demotivated and unproductive.

This is true whether it’s our country grappling with ‘pass the parcel’, our company having merger talks behind closed doors, our department facing restructuring or our managers mooting budget cuts.

Uncertainty in any guise needs effective and bold leadership.

I don’t know if there’s going to be good news for our nation any day soon with somebody (anybody?) emerging to guide us through the current chaos.

There is, however, very good news for organisations facing uncertainty. Impact Factory runs a Leadership Open Course every month and we run a lot of tailored Leadership courses as well, and we can say that at least on the corporate level there are wonderful, creative, forward-thinking leaders developing their skills and facing their challenges with enthusiasm, realism and a true burning desire to make things better.

People our banana bunches in Westminster could learn from.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director and Founding Partner at Impact Factory.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Brexit, Change and Human Nature

Hey guys!  You forgot about Human Nature!!

You also forgot about how change works.


Remain was basically selling the status quo with some tweaks.  They clearly didn’t ‘get it’ that a lot of people wanted some kind of change.

Leave got it and promised wholesale change when Britain would 'take back it's country' and there would be a return to the halcyon days of yore, whatever those were.

Impact Factory has been running change programmes for all of our 25 years of doing business, and one thing we can tell you is that for most people change is really hard no matter how much they think they want it; imposed change is beyond difficult; wholesale change is nearly impossible to maintain.

What sabotages change?  Not having a rock solid, well-thought-out, detailed plan:  rigorous strategy, clear vision, specific goals.

We never got any one saying: “Here is our comprehensive plan for leaving.”  “Here is our comprehensive plan for remaining.”

Promises win elections and gain votes; without a strong, wide-ranging plan, those promises will inevitably get broken and broken promises create cynicism, rage, more fear, and the need to blame.

We are definitely in the need to blame phase, alongside the chaos which will only continue to cause disruption unless something else happens (more on that below).

We are also unquestionably in the midst of chaos which may or may not calm down quickly.  The Pound is in free-fall, markets volatile there are predictions of businesses stuffing the Eurostar with their British holdings and heading for Europe, and Remain voters are checking out house prices in Scotland.

Indeed, we have already been approached by a European company who is now moving its manufacturing base back to the Continent and wants us to help with the transition.  They were waiting for the outcome of the referendum before making their decision and they have now made it quite quickly.

Human Nature – the bit both campaigns forgot.

So here’s how it works.

Frighten people enough and they will do anything to survive.  Their fight or flight mechanism will kick in and they will react.

That is what’s happening now. 

Since this campaign was run on fear by both sides, the population has existed in a climate of anxiety for months.  The actual vote was a way of relieving that pressure and the aftermath of the outcome was the opportunity to put people's fear into a manageable state of being.

That hasn't happened and thus resignations, demands for resignations, in-fighting, nasty racist banners, vile notes shoved through letter boxes, increase in bigoted incidents.  Our leaders (sic) contradict each other:  We need to leave immediately; there’s no rush to leave. 

Markets are unpredictable and unstable because they represent global fears.

Fear has not been quelled.  Fear has only been fuelled.

People who voted either way are now seeking some kind of ‘control’.  Lashing out at ‘immigrants’ is one form of control; signing petitions is another.

The paucity of leadership everyone is experiencing now only unconsciously encourages people to act to reassure themselves that the choice they made is the right one.  People can behave irrationally when they feel that their values and beliefs need defending.

Here’s what people need – this is the human nature bit:

The need for safety, security and not to live in fear
The need for leadership and guidance
The need to feel in charge when all around are behaving like headless chickens
The need for order
The need for hope

We all need strong leadership now that:

Acknowledges what people are going through – on both sides of the ‘divide’
Allows others their point of view and doesn’t make them wrong for how they are feeling
Avoids telling them it’s time to move on
Manages people’s expectations realistically
Presents a plan that is comprehensible, believable and accessible
Looks for small changes that can be put into effect immediately

My fear is that you’ve blown it, guys.  My hope is that someone or a group of someones will wake up to what’s really needed to pull people together, and with compassion and care, make it happen.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Change Management, Conflict Management, Leadership, Project Management Courses.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Negotiation 7 Top Tips

In my last blog I talked about Negotiation as a game and needing to understand your own conscious and unconscious rules and also about making an effort to figure out what your opposite number’s rules are as well.

That is certainly in my Top 7 Tips along with a few other hints to make negotiation more fun and less arduous.

  1.  Know the Rules 
Identify the rules you follow when entering into a negotiation and identify the expectations you have about how you think other people should behave. If you pay really good attention you can probably figure out what ‘the other side’s’ rules are. You can come a cropper if you expect others to follow your rules if theirs are different.

  1. Know your bottom line 
Whatever the level of negotiation, it’s essential to be clear what is non-negotiable.  Although it’s always wise to be flexible, you have to know for yourself what you won’t compromise on.  You don’t have to declare that up front (see Hint 4); at the same time, you do need to strategise how to achieve it.

  1. Be willing to give something away
In order to better achieve what you want, make sure you have a few ‘giveaways’ to add to the mix. Making concessions helps you look more accommodating and people often feel compelled to return the favour by making concessions back. Be generous without giving the whole shop away.

  1. Also, know to keep something back 
Being too accommodating means you might indeed end up giving the shop away, so hold back. There’s no need to declare your bottom line the minute the negotiations start. By taking it slowly you also get to gauge how the other side is reacting and you can adjust your tactics accordingly.

  1. It doesn’t have to be adversarial
A lot of negotiations end up being a fight because there’s an expectation that it will be difficult. If you go in with the attitude that both sides can get what they want (that cliché of win-win is a great place to end up), your body language, behaviour and approach will all reflect that and make you better equipped to handle what comes across the table.

  1. Really listen to what ‘the other side’ wants
Listening to what ‘they’ want not only will give you insight into their ‘rules’ but will give you insight into what’s important to them, what they may need in order to meet you half-way, what motivates them and conversely, what will make them bristle and shut down.

  1. Be prepared to ‘change your want’
This is my personal favourite and transformed the way I negotiated once I realised what a great tool it was. Back off from the bottom line and change what you want.  You don’t have to give up your bottom line, you just need to be prepared to wait longer to achieve it.  If you’re in the middle of a difficult negotiation hanging on to your bottom line may turn things highly adversarial; if you shift your want to building rapport or developing the relationship between you, you have a far better chance of getting what you want in the long run.

There are loads more hints and tips to be found on our Negotiation courses as well as the opportunity to practise trying out new ways of arriving at win-win.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director and Founding Partner, Impact Factory

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Negotiations Skills One Day Courses as well as our Two Day Influencing & Negotiation courses.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Game of Negotiation

We at Impact Factory really do believe that negotiation is a game and those who enjoy playing are the best negotiators by far.

Hmmm.  Calling it a game might make it sound frivolous; negotiation can be serious stuff.  That's one of the things right at the top that make negotiating such a trial - it can feel like a life or death, do or die, last man standing kind of thing, which puts huge pressure on the negotiator to get it right, get what they want, get the desired outcome.

A do or die attitude certainly doesn't feel like a game.

Shifting your attitude so that you can enter into the negotiating arena as a 'player' will make a significant difference to your outcome.  In order to shift your attitude, you need to take stock of your beliefs around negotiating which in turn lead to understanding your ‘rules’ about negotiating.

Pretty much everyone has their own set of rules and that’s often why they find the subject so tricky.  Not only do most people have rules for themselves, they also have expectations that those on the other side of the table will have similar rules.

However much the term ‘win-win’ is bandied about, you can’t arrive at win-win without a deep understanding of what your own rules and beliefs are, because one of the main blockers to arriving at a successful conclusion is how you think the other person/people should behave.

If we dig a bit deeper, we run slap bang into Values and Values are those core principles that guide our lives.  Here’s an example:  let’s say that one of your core Values is that things should be fair and people should respect one another. Therefore, what most likely happens is that one of your rules for negotiation is that it ought to be fair with an even amount of give and take.

That’s all well and good if you are negotiating with someone who has similar Values and thus similar rules. 

Trouble starts when you come up against someone who has no interest in fairness, is determined to get his/her way and doesn’t act particularly respectfully.  What often happens is that negotiations then get focused on the wrong thing because of this values clash and they can more easily break down.

The more you are able to identify your rules, based on your beliefs and values, the more you can gain perspective on how much they influence your attitude when you enter a negotiation.  This also means that you can check out, first, whether you expect the other person/people to have similar beliefs and rules; and, second, if they don’t, whether you can step far enough back to identify what some of their rules might be.

If you can do that, you are beginning to ‘play the game’ of negotiation.  The rules are in place; now what can you do next?

Again, if you can work to experience negotiation as a game, you could enjoy trying to figure out what the ‘other side’s’ rules are, especially if you know they are different to yours. 

I remember being in a negotiation once with someone who’s number one rule was clearly ‘win at all costs’.  And I’ll confess that it took me a few minutes to figure that out because I was there trying to be polite and considerate (my rules!) and he didn’t want to know. 

He was obviously used to getting his own way because he laid out his stall (“This is what I want.”) with absolutely no interest in anything coming out of my mouth.  I wasn’t going to become a ‘win at all costs’ type of person in order to go head to head with him, but I very swiftly (well, somewhat swiftly, once I figured out what was going on) realised I was going to have to change tack to get anywhere.

I became honesty personified but with a very real tactic fuelling it.  I just called it as I saw it, “I can see you want to win at all costs.”  “It doesn’t feel as though you have any interest in what I’m saying.”  “You certainly know what you want.” 

It started to feel like a tennis match where every time he whacked the ball over to my court with one of his demands, I whacked it back by describing what he was doing.  And it worked!  Eventually he stopped and just laughed once he cottoned on to what I was doing.  And then we got down to negotiating.

The point is that I couldn’t play the ‘game’ by my rules because I’d be mincemeat; I didn’t want to play by his ‘rules’ so I had to find a strategy that would work for both of us.

I was a player and it was fun.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Negotiations Skills One Day Courses as well as our Two Day Influencing & Negotiation courses.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Brexit: Communication of Catastrophe

Let me nail my colours to the mast right now – I really dislike the word Brexit.

Somebody clever thought it up and now we’re stuck with it.

I’d like to think ‘it’ will all be over in a week’s time, but of course it won’t.  Whatever the outcome of the EU Referendum we can look forward to millions more words analysing what happened and what’s going to happen and what might have happened, blah blah, blah.

Now, I’m not decrying the issue of whether Britain should remain or leave the EU.  What gets my goat is the appalling way in which we are communicated to by our politicians, the news media, social media, vox pop and so on.

I call it the Communication of Catastrophe. 

I’d rather watch re-runs of Flog It! than listen to the news and various pundits for and against telling us just how bad it’s going to be if we leave or if we stay.

Here are the Rules of The Communication of Catastrophe:

  1. Exaggerate.  It doesn’t matter what fact you have or don’t have, exaggerate it. 

  1. Use Emotional Blackmail.  Notice that no matter what the outcome, we’re all going to be worse off – yes, you right now, the person reading this, is going to be worse off if we stay and worse off if we leave.

  1. When in Doubt, Make It Up.  Ever tried to check out one of those facts that are being thrown at us?  You can’t; they’re not real.  They’re just a whole lot of threatening numbers flung at us to prove or disprove a point of view.

  1. Use Overblown, Emotive Language. Bypass logic and go straight for the emotional jugular.  Scare tactics work much better when the language is all bombast and hyperbole.

  1. Do A Trump.  This combines the first four rules and it means simply open your mouth and whatever crap comes out is just fine.  Someone out there will believe it.  Make sure you talk loudly, too.

OK, you get the picture.  If ever a lesson was needed on how not to communicate, they are doing a grand job of it.

I don’t want to be communicated to like that and I don’t want to communicate like that.

If I hadn’t already called it the Communication of Catastrophe, I’d call it the Communication of Exclusion.  I feel excluded when I’m talked at; I don’t feel engaged.

Just think what would be created in our companies if we all used these people as role models on how to communicate. 

Communication isn’t about catastrophising the issues; it’s about creating dialogue and allowing a variety of points of view without vilifying those who disagree with you.

Most of us struggle with communication at some point – it might be about delivering a difficult message or managing your own or someone else’s conflict.  It might be about a team communicating remotely and how easy it is for things to get missed.  Or even a team all sitting in the same room – things still get missed.

The list is endless of ways in which communication can go awry and the last thing that would help resolve these concerns is for anyone to emulate the Communicators of Catastrophe that invade our homes on a seemingly non-stop basis.

So here are my Anti Catastrophe Rules.

  1. Listen.  And when you’re finished listening, listen some more. 

  1. Have an opinion but don’t shove it down people’s throats.  It’s an opinion, not gospel.

  1. Allow other’s their opinions too, without making them wrong.

  1. Always look for common ground so you have something to build upon.

  1. Be willing to let go your picture of how things should be, so others can have a win.

OK, you get the picture.  Notice how much quieter and calmer it is reading those rules as opposed to the first set.

Effective communication is one of the greatest skills we can have to create collaborative, collegiate, open places to work.  Home life is a lot better, too, the more thoughtful our communication.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication One and Two Day Courses as well as our Elite Five Day Communicate with Impact courses.