The key to being understood as a manager is good communication. One of your key managerial responsibilities toward your team and company is to use clear communication to get tasks completed. This technique is covered comprehensively in our Line Manager course offerings.
While you may still be getting to grips with your new promotion, things can get lost in translation, so what you do and say are really important as it can negatively impact everybody if you don’t relay information with complete clarity.
As a new manager, you must ensure that your ideas and decisions are understood and known as a strong communicator is critical. It will help to build your team’s confidence in you and will energise them. If you’re not confident of being able to communicate clearly to your team in your new manager position you should seek training to improve.
In order to get tasks completed to a high standard and run a great team of enthusiastic people, first you need to understand why it is important to be understood:
• People like to know where they stand and what is expected of them. A manager that can instruct clearly and communicate positively will have an impact on how happy people are at work, creating a positive culture. See our new manager’s guide to imposters syndrome for details of how to avoid this and ensure that you keep communicating positively.
• If you aren’t clear people will fill the faps in their understanding with assumptions. This will inevitably lead to the wrong things being done sometimes and so either tasks not being completed correctly or needing to be reworked.
• You can see the bigger picture and understand how tasks will impact it. If you communicate this clearly to the team they will understand why they are being asked to complete tasks.
It is easy to fall into the mindset that something you’ve said has been misinterpreted as opposed to miscommunicated.
Great managers know that the responsibility for ensuring that they are clearly understood sits with them in 99% of cases. New managers need to understand that the onus is on them to communicate clearly AND ensure that they have been properly understood.
When a message needs to be conveyed to employees, the content and the goal needs to be crystal clear to avoid misinterpretation. In emails, written communication, instant message and tools like Slack, the human element is removed so your tone is interpreted through your use of language and punctuation.
• Use professional language, clear text and don’t leave things open to interpretation by using non-standard language (e.g. additional exclamation marks or continued use of upper-case words) where what you mean may not be clear to the reader.
• Make sure that you are clear about the end goal and how it needs to be achieved. A really good simple framework to use when you take up a new management role is to make sure to cover:
– What the task is
– Who needs to complete it
– When it needs to be completed by
– Why it needs to be completed
– Where it needs to be completed (if this is relevant)
If your employees ask for clarification make a note of what they ask. You clearly weren’t 100% clear the first time so this is useful feedback to reflect on and try to learn from.
• Avoid the use of company jargon that everyone isn’t completely familiar with. Acronyms are only great if everyone knows what they mean.
• Use the subject line. Be clear so that people know what the email is about. It will make it easier for people to search and refer back to specific headings. Avoid “Quick question” or “Re. Conversation yesterday”
To be fully understood as a new manager, you’ll need to look at the way you communicate face to face with your employees both verbally and visually.
We communicate differently in emails as we can edit them before we send them. In on the spot conversations if we say the wrong thing it will have a lasting effect.
To make sure you are being understood, here are some tips to put into practice when talking to your team:
This phenomenon occurs when someone assumes the person they are talking to has the same understanding as them. New managers have access to all sorts of information that they didn’t have previously and it is easy to forget this. Make sure that your team are starting from the same base of knowledge as you.
By listening carefully to your team you will learn what they understand already and whether they are clear on what you are asking them to so.
Asking questions and clarifying what someone is saying makes a huge difference. It tends to bring into the open lots of misunderstandings and half understandings. This is why is a foundational part of active listening.
The majority of communication when face to face with someone is non-verbal. Take care with your tone. For example, simple inflections in your voice differentiate questions from statements.
Don’t be afraid to use them. To clarify your point, sometimes words are not enough, and a visual aid or prop will help people to understand. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Use concise presentations or handouts that can be taken away for employees to refer back to. If your new management position comes with an office request a whiteboard so that you can easily draw diagrams.
To convey a message or to cement an idea, repeating the key points will help employees understand you and the expectations of them.
Storytelling is a great way to communicate ideas to your team. By telling a story or giving an example, your message will be understood more clearly.
Any conversations with employees will benefit from having a question and answer section. Their questions will tell you if they have understood what you have said.
By re-visiting the main points of your conversation, you can emphasise the message and ensure all parties are aware of what to do next.
Use email to summarise or reinforce your meeting if it was lengthy or important. Mention questions that were raised and what solutions you discussed so everybody involved fully understands. See our new managers guide to performance reviews for more details.
Learning to communicate clearly and concisely isn’t easy and takes years of practice. It is one of the key skills of line management so it is worth investing time and energy to improve your communication.
At various points in your career, you’ll find yourself having to have a difficult conversation with somebody. Sometimes at the receiving end, but as you progress to management it’s more likely that you will be the one instigating a difficult conversation.
There will be any number of reasons that a difficult conversation might be required from poor employee performance to conflict resolution.
As a line manager, it is your job to learn to be assertive and deal with these kinds of conversations upfront and with confidence. It is important for you to maintain a positive work environment and ensure that these types of issues are dealt with as soon as possible.
If it is not something you are used to doing, you may need to learn the art of assertive communication so you can drive yourself and the business forward.
It is one thing to know the effects of having/not having a difficult conversation with an employee, but it is another to know how to handle one.
An assertive management style is essential to deal with these sorts of conversations.
Here we explore some tips on how to prepare for and have a difficult conversation in relation to poor performance or badly executed tasks.
Be careful not to ambush somebody with negative information on the spot.
They probably will not receive it well and won’t be prepared for their own response which is likely to be very emotional.
People actually appreciate direct feedback without dancing around the actual subject matter.
Assertively explaining the problem and allowing them to address it with an agreed action plan often leads to a very positive outcome.
You can’t tell somebody they aren’t performing to a good standard without explaining why and also providing concrete examples so that they don’t view this as your opinion.
If you can’t back up your assertion, it can come across as a personal attack or aggressive communication.
The line between passive communication and aggressive communication means balancing your feelings.
Stand firm on your reasons for the conversation but keep it fact-based without allowing personal feelings to get involved.
You want whoever you are having the conversation with to understand where you’re coming from while also allowing them time to process the information.
Listen to their explanation and ask questions where you’re not clear. This is especially important. If the conversation is difficult the natural tendency is to want to get it over as soon as possible. A recipe for misunderstandings and making things worse!
Try to stay calm and take the time to really understand them by using active listening. It might take a bit longer, but its nothing compared to the time that a broken relationship can take to fix! Also, it makes sure that the other person feels heard.
It is important that they feel heard in this conversation as well if you are to maintain your relationship.
When things are left unsaid in situations of conflict, your team may start to lose their confidence in you.
It is vital that they view you as someone who they can trust and who will deal with the difficult aspects of management head-on and not avoid them.
What may have started as a simple disagreement can expand and blow out of proportion if it is not nipped in the bud.
Obviously, if things get worse then this will lead to the need for a more difficult conversation further down the road so it is always worth dealing with these things promptly.
With everything else you may have on your plate, the last thing you will need is the stress of dealing with a difficult conversation.
Anxious thoughts about an outcome that hasn’t even happened yet can form when things are left to build up, and this leads to more stress. Dealing with the conversation promptly is the best way to get a good result and keep your stress levels low.
I things are left unsaid then staff will assume that they are progressing as they should and doing a good job.
This can lead to you redoing their tasks and putting more work on your own plate.
As a manager, your job is to have these conversations to benefit your team and individuals, but also to maintain a stress-free environment.
Assertive management means turning negative conversations into positive ones.
By taking a look at it from both sides you are able to see where it can benefit both parties with an end result in mind.
It could be you apologising for a certain failure or allowing an employee to see where they made a mistake.
An assertive conversation is not about placing blame but reviewing shortfalls, recognising your own faults and being accountable if you haven’t communicated your initial intentions well.
It also places accountability on others that are responsible and puts the ball back in their court to show drive and improvement.
Delaying difficult conversations means that time is wasted as the issue isn’t being dealt with.
In the instance of a conflict between colleagues, it is better to be assertive and mediate the resolution so everyone can get back to doing the work they are tasked with and stop spending time and energy thinking about the conflict.
There will always be some form of conflict in the workplace, but it can obviously become detrimental if it builds up too much.
Many people leave companies because they felt they weren’t being listened to and heard. Conflict resolution is about listening to both sides but being assertive enough to step in when it gets tough.
Once a difficult conversation has taken place, the stresses involved are lifted and the majority of the time, relationships actually improve.
People learn how to communicate with each other through having difficult conversations and taking this learning forward with them in future interactions.
Difficult conversations are not easy to have in all instances, but as a manager and as you get more practice being assertive and dealing with difficult people and your ability to communicate assertively expands, these conversations can start to feel less difficult and more rewarding.
Line managers play a crucial role in coaching, developing, retaining, and supporting talented employees.
This forms a large part of their HR-related activities. For more details, see – The Role Of Line Management In HR.
Coronavirus and the move to home-working have only made the role of line managers in coaching and development more important.
This article examines:
A line manager is someone with direct day-to-day responsibility for a small number of employees.
They provide a vital part of the chain of command. Relaying information up and down the organisation is a key part of their role.
Their responsibilities typically include:
For full details see our article: What Is A Line Manager?
Coaching and development describes the work organisations do to help employees improve their personal and technical skills.
In many cases, the terms “coaching” and “development” are used interchangeably, or as a single term, “Coaching and development”.
Technically they refer to different practices, and both are part of the broader category of “Learning and development”.
Let’s quickly look at each term a bit more closely.
Coaching is the process of instructing and training an employee to achieve a particular goal.
Many organisations offer coaching to employees they have identified as having the potential to achieve a senior leadership position.
As these individuals progress through their careers, the specific focus of the coaching will change depending on what their biggest challenge is.
Coaching is usually a one-to-one activity and explicitly targeted to the individual involved and their goals.
This one-to-one interaction allows the managers carrying out the coaching to build much deeper relationships with their team members, in addition to:
If you’d like to see coaching in action, this video has some great examples of coaching conversations.
Development is short for employee development.
It is the process by which employees in an organisation benefit from professional training to boost their skills and improve their knowledge.
Development does not just refer to optimising an employee’s skill set for one particular role. It is a broader term and refers to an ongoing programme of learning that employees will undertake as they move through their careers.
A well-designed employee development programme will:
A huge number of studies have been carried out on the impact that line managers have on corporate performance.
Almost universally these studies have concluded that the line manager/employee relationship is vital.
Both of these studies established the fact that team members with effective line managers value their managers greatly.
In many cases, a substantial part of the value of the relationship is generated by the line manager’s focus on employee development.
This YouTube video explains Google’s findings on the impact that managers can have.
There are 5 different areas that line managers get involved with staff coaching and development:
Line managers are usually responsible for the induction of new staff members.
They will show new staff members how corporate systems and processes work and ensure that they are appropriately set up (for example, with computer logins and the like) when they join the business.
Line managers will also often organise for new staff members to initially work alongside experienced staff members for a period of time. This ensures that the new staff member learns the correct way to carry out the task before working independently.
Broadening team members’ skillsets develops the individuals involved and improves team communication and resilience.
Line managers are often responsible for facilitating team members rotating through other roles and sometimes other departments.
The team member involved will get practical experience of roles and build their broader understanding of how the team and business works.
This can be done through formal job rotation or a job-sharing scheme that buddies up employees to learn from each other.
Similarly, as a team member becomes increasingly familiar with their role their line manager will be responsible for allocating them more challenging work to keep them engaged.
Line managers often provide informal coaching and mentoring for their team members, in addition to any formal schemes that they are involved with.
For example, a line manager might call a meeting during a lunch break. During the meeting, the team would discuss recent issues and look at ways to resolve them.
Alternatively, a regular conversation with a team member focused on an area for development can offer a very effective way to mentor a team member and develop their skills.
In many organisations, line managers have active roles in recommending team members for promotion and designing appropriate development programmes for them.
Line managers have the most detailed experience of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. They are the best person to build a development plan for that individual as they can compare the individual against the key qualities that they need in their team members
Depending on the organisation this development plan could include external training and courses, certifications and exams or attending conferences and seminars.
In the modern workplace, experienced line managers now take the lead in organising formal training courses. This can range from structured day run by internal experts to external courses run by professional accreditation bodies.
Line managers will work with their company’s HR department to deliver coaching and development to their team.
If you are a new line manager you should make developing a good relationship with your HR department a priority.
It will allow you to be far more effective.
The HR department is staffed by HR specialists and has overall responsibility for all aspects of HR within your organisation.
The other side of coaching and development is working with difficult or under-performing team members. This will involve some problem-solving and planning from HR and the individual’s line manager in order to build a plan appropriate to the situation.
This could be a simple as having a simple, direct conversation about the issue and opportunities for the individual concerned to change.
At the more serious end of the scale, this would involve formal, documented conversations with the individual and detailed plans being agreed by both parties to solve the problem.
To succeed in a line management role, you should put team coaching and development high on your to-do list.
Research has shown how highly team members value this.
Make a start today, and your employees will thank you with better retention and higher performance.
Not everyone will like you.
That is a fact of life.
Throughout your career, you will have to work with all sorts of different types of people.
Some you will get along with, some you won’t.
You will need to learn to deal with hostile people/audiences.
A hostile audience is simply anyone who has an issue with your topic or with you as an individual.
They may be hostile by nature, or there may be an underlying reason for their behaviour.
The thing you need to remember is that hostile people are just like you and me, but they are feeling helpless, wronged, or overlooked for some reason.
To better understand hostile people, check this article that lists the following types of a hostile audience:
The more you understand the reason for their hostility, the more you can adjust your approach to deal with their issues.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
Knowing your audience well is crucial to your success.
A hostile audience will not agree with you. They may even be working against you.
Lets look at some tried and tested ways to deal with hostile audiences.
Humour works well when you don’t overdo it.
In his book, “You Just Have to Laugh,” the stand-up comic David Naster emphasises the importance of humour as an effective tool in dealing with difficult people.
“Laughing can be an incredible emotional release, and it eliminates the negatives that cause tension in our lives,” says Naster. “When you laugh, you blow out internal negative garbage.”
Using humour will make your audience less tense and consequently less hostile.
No matter how much you disagree with someone, you still may have some points to agree on.
It might be harder than finding common ground with people you already get along with. However, it will pay off when you can connect with your hostile audience.
Try to find the aspects that you can agree on with hostile people. You can do this by focusing on shared interests.
For example, if you meet with an angry customer, ensure that you both are working to resolve the issue and focus on that. Your common goal is the customer’s satisfaction.
Do not set unrealistic expectations for your communication. You are very unlikely to be able to convert a hostile audience completely to your way of thinking. Aim to change their minds on a few key points.
Being clear from the beginning about your goals will spare you disappointments.
Plan your goals and be flexible about them.
Since your audience is set against you, they will question every piece of information presented to them.
Be prepared with facts, statistics, and resources. Do your research beforehand.
When discussing a problem with a hostile audience, try to present realistic, actionable solutions. When you offer a solution, make sure that you are committed to it.
Promising your employee a raise when he’s aware you can’t afford it is not very wise. He will figure out that you are just trying to win him over with false promises.
Being honest with your hostile audience may not win you the conversation right away, but it will build trust in the long term.
Do not attack your audience or their position. Do not let them turn you into a hostile person.
When they ask you provoking questions, try to remain calm. Stay professional and don’t indicate that their negative attitude has hurt you in any way.
When you are relaxed, you are in control of the conversation. Everyone prefers to work with calm people.
Throughout your communication with a hostile audience, make it clear that you are looking for a win-win outcome.
They need to know that you are determined to solve the problem in the best possible manner for both sides.
It’s not about you winning an argument – you just want to reach the best possible outcome.
Communication through computers, emails, and messaging has become very cold and impersonal.
Connect to the human aspect of your work relationship.
Go out for dinner or drinks with your difficult colleagues and learn more about their personalities. This will help you a lot when you are dealing with them in challenging work situations.
Logic and basic reasoning are the best way to sort out objective, technical problems.
Evidence-based reasoning is hard to disagree with. When you use logic to solve a problem, you appeal to your audience’s rational mind. This makes them set emotions aside and analyse things before reacting to what you are saying.
The rule of connectivity states that the more we establish a connection with people, the more we can persuade them. Building a bond with your audience will make them more comfortable around you.
The hostile audience is not hostile towards you on purpose – there are certain reasons triggering their behaviour.
When hostile people start feeling comfortable around you, they will express their ideas freely. You will know the reasons behind their hostility. Then you will be able to understand the situation and adjust your approach.
Let’s also have a look at three very common mistakes that people make to help you avoid them.
We’re wired to react to aggression with even more aggression. This is “fighting fire with fire”, which results in destruction and compromised relationships.
No matter how experienced you are, you may still fall into this trap because it’s part of your human nature.
We can avoid this by preparing and training ourselves before interacting with someone who’s hostile. There are techniques we can learn to help us succeed at confrontations without fighting back with aggression.
Here are five principles that we can learn to put out the fire:
· Listen, paraphrase, and empathise
· Never react in anger
· Never defend yourself
· Redirect the focus
· Develop exit strategies
Practising these principles will give you the calmness needed to handle a hostile audience.
Ignoring the elephant in the room means ignoring the reason for that person’s hostility or delaying the bad news you need to deliver.
This will annoy your audience more. Address the issue as soon as possible. This will quickly disarm your hostile audience. They may even calm down just because they feel seen and understood.
A common mistake is to invite your hostile audience to ask questions at the very end of the conversation.
Some of the questions will probably stir up negative feelings again, and if this is the last thing they hear, that is what they’ll remember.
Instead, save some time at the very end of your meeting to summarise your ideas. People tend to disproportionately remember what was last said, so try to end the conversation with your points.
Getting a hostile audience to listen to you is your ultimate goal.
By following these techniques, you can make any hostile audience more easily manageable. Once they listen to you, you can start convincing them with your ideas. You may even move them to a neutral audience, or better a positive one.
Dealing with a hostile audience cannot be avoided. It’s part of our professional life and can be make or break for your career.
Luckily there are tried and tested methods to calm hostile people down and win them round to your way of thinking.
Are you afraid to ask your boss for approval for that project you have been dreaming of bringing to life?
The ability to influence your boss is a crucial part of a high-flying career.
Learning the art of influencing your peers and other stakeholders is a skill that we’ve looked at in previous articles on influencing.
In this article, we will look at how you can develop the skill of influencing upwards so that you can build an excellent relationship with your manager.
Managing upwards will get you more ‘Yes’s from your manager and make you more influential throughout your organisation.
Managing upwards is looking for ways to make your boss’ job more straightforward.
It means understanding your boss’ responsibilities and helping them accomplish what is expected of them.
Managers manage down, helping subordinates achieve what is required.
Managing upwards is the same concept applied to your boss.
For obvious reasons, it is a great way to develop your relationship with your boss.
For more detail on managing upwards, see this excellent HBR article.
Managing upwards done well can be compared to having the wind at your back at work. Everything just seems to go that little bit more smoothly.
Developing solid and constructive relationships with those senior to you will offer benefits throughout your career.
Having the ear of senior management will allow you to get buy-in for your ideas and projects much more quickly.
Other benefits include:
Improved visibility with senior management is likely to lead to more explicit recognition of your achievements and rapid promotion.
Happy people are generally more productive and more satisfied.
Having a good relationship with your manager will remove one of the main possibilities for stress and unhappiness at work.
You need to be on the same page as your manager to influence him/her positively.
Spend a little time trying to understand what makes them tick. Everyone is different.
Do they like detailed reports, or do they prefer a summary?
Email or phone? Most people have a preference for one or the other.
Understanding these types of things will make things run more smoothly between you
Find out what your manager’s key issues are.
Then look at your career goals and see if you can find out where they overlap. That is a great place to start managing up.
You can’t help with all of your bosses goals. You have to choose where you can best help them.
Suppose you can find an area where there is an overlap with your goals. That’s the place to start. You’ll be most motivated.
For example, if one of your goals is to improve your data skills and your boss has a problem with reporting and data, that’s an area to focus.
You’ll effectively be ‘killing two birds with one stone‘.
Learning to listen is essential to managing upwards.
Things change, and your manager’s priorities will change with them.
Listening means you will be able to adjust your approach as things change.
Results speak louder than words.
If you deliver consistently for your boss, they will notice. Reliable, dependable team members are always highly valued.
Your boss will be able to trust you to deliver.
If you do what you say you will, your manager will increasingly listen carefully to your opinions.
Managing upwards is not the same as taking over your boss’s position in the company.
It doesn’t mean assuming 100% of your boss’ responsibility. It means understanding the issues your manager is facing and suggesting and/or implementing fixes for SOME of them.
Remember, you don’t know all of the issues and tradeoffs that your boss is facing.
When you come up with suggestions, present them as that.
Don’t be overconfident. There is probably plenty that you don’t know about the situation.
If you try to force your ideas on your manager, they will understandably resent this and push back.
For more advice on how to present your ideas to your boss, see this article. https://hbr.org/2014/12/your-boss-wont-say-yes-if-emotions-are-running-high
You need to tailor your approach to different people.
Just because an approach has worked in the past with a previous manager, that doesn’t mean it will work in the future.
Managing upwards is influencing, it isn’t manipulative.
It is simply putting yourself in your manager’s shoes and then thinking about how you can help them to meet their targets.
This will make you a more valuable employee and increase your influence as a result.
Next time you’re in a meeting with your boss, look for clues as to what is concerning them. Give them some suggestions for ways that you could help them improve things and see how they react.
I bet they’ll be delighted.
Do this a few times and deliver on your suggestions, and they’ll start to see you in a whole new light.
In this summary of “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, you will learn the six principles of influencing people, how to use them and how to defend yourself against them.
Influence is a fantastic book and the defining study of this subject in our view.
We would strongly encourage you to read it in full if you are looking to improve your influencing skills.
We would also encourage to take a quick look at our previous review of ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
The main idea behind “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” is that humans react predictably to certain triggers. Understanding what they are and how they work will make you less easily manipulated against your will.
Six principles make people more likely to comply with a request.
Of course, they won’t all work all of the time. Understanding your audience is the key to knowing which technique will work best.
This principle states that “Humans have the natural urge to repay gifts and favours, which they have received.”
When someone does something for us, we feel an obligation to repay them in some way. We feel obliged to them until we have repaid them in some way.
Businesses use this principle in giving free samples and small gifts both before and after purchases.
To defend yourself against this principle, learn to identify the true intention of the requester.
If someone starts to make demands after giving you a gift or doing you a favour, recognize that it was probably not a real favour.
We tend to remain consistent with our commitments once we have made them.
For example, if you agree to a small request, you are much more likely to agree to a larger request in future.
One study compared the response rate when asking people to put a large sign encouraging safe driving on their front lawn with people who had previously agreed to put a small three-inch “Drive carefully” sticker in their home window.
Those who had previously agreed to the small sticker were four times more likely to agree to the large sign on their front lawn.
People wanted to remain consistent with their prior commitments and so were much more likely to agree.
This rule is the basis of writing down your goals. Writing them down acts as a form of commitment and so increases your chances of sticking with them.
People are influenced by what others do. This principle means we tend to follow what others are doing.
When we are unsure how to behave or react in a certain situation, we look to others for answers. We assume that if lots of people are doing something, it must be correct. This is why we tend to buy popular products with lots of customer reviews.
This principle is widely used.
TV shows add laughter. Hearing others enjoying themselves makes us more likely to enjoy a program.
Bartenders ‘seed’ their tip jars at the start of the night with some money. Thinking that others have previously tipped a bartender will encourage others to tip them.
This principle means that we prefer to say YES to the requests of people we know and like.
Friendship and personal relationships have a strong influence on our choices. Hence salespeople trying to strike up a conversation and make small talk before they try to make a sale.
We tend to like physically attractive people, people who are similar to us, and those that we associate with success, praise, or co-operation.
This principle states that people are more willing to follow the directions of someone in a position of authority in a hierarchy.
We obviously are heavily influenced by people senior to us in our work hierarchy. See this article for full details of workplace power.
In addition, we generally trust people with authority whether we are part of their hierarchy or not. Think of the way you respond to doctors, lawyers, business people, police officers, etc. This tends to
The fact that they have expertise and authority in one area seems to have a ‘halo effect’ on all their decisions.
This means that it is always wise to ask yourself if someone has real expertise in this specific area.
This principle states that we value and desire things more when they appear less available.
For example, in an experiment by Stephen Worschel, people rated chocolate chip cookies better when they came from a jar having two cookies rather than a jar having ten cookies.
This principle is used in limited-quantity products, limited-time offers, and auctions.
The answer is that it depends on your intentions.
If you apply the above principles in someone’s best interest, then they are ethical.
For example, the current drive to encourage people to get vaccinated against coronavirus uses some of these techniques, but they are being used in the audience’s best interests.
However, if you apply them to try to persuade someone to do something that isn’t in their interests (buy a car that isn’t a good fit for them), it is unethical. It is then manipulation not influencing.
Ultimately if someone knew what you were doing, and why you were doing it, would it make them trust you more or less?
That is the acid test for your behaviour.
Learning to influence people ethically is a fundamental career skill for all of us.
You can use the principles from this book to positively influence others while protecting yourself from deception.
Whenever you meet someone next time, pick one or two principles and give them a try (ethically, of course!). You might well be surprised by the results.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.” Mahatma Gandhi
Conflict is an unavoidable part of life. Whenever there are groups of people, there are conflicts.
Learning to deal effectively with conflict is a vital part of developing your influencing skills.
For many people, the word “negotiation” has negative connotations, as they find it uncomfortable.
Negotiation does not have to be a negative experience. Learning to reach a win-win outcome can turn negotiations and/or conflict into opportunities to build positive relationships.
This article will show you what a win-win outcome is and how to look for one in any situation.
“Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” Stephen Covey
Win-win is to find a mutually acceptable outcome for you and whoever you are trying to reach an agreement with.
Neither side gets everything that it wants, but both sides gain more than they lose.
It is a way of handling an issue that should allow everyone to move forward happy that they’ve been considered and leads to net positive outcomes.
Seeking win-win outcomes:
Win-lose, on the other hand, is not the optimal solution to conflicts.
Imposing your will on the other party may be possible in some circumstances, but it is not advisable even then.
A win-lose attitude means that you seek to win regardless of the loss to your colleague. It is a competitive, zero-sum approach that often leads to manipulative behaviour.
Seeking win-lose outcomes leads to:
Let’s have a look at a couple of examples of win-win and win-lose in action.
Your boss asks you to stay late to finish an urgent task when you plan to meet friends. Your boss knows about your plans.
A win-win approach
Your boss says, “I know you have plans for today and I’m really sorry to ask you to stay late to finish this project. If you agree to stay, I’ll make sure that you leave early next week to make up for it, and perhaps you could meet your friends then.”
This is a difficult situation where someone is going to be unhappy. However, the way your boss has approached it, he has also given you something and is trying to help you organise a fun night out with your friends.
This way, your boss gets the project done one time, and you get your night out with friends, even if it isn’t on the night you had hoped for.
In taking you into account and giving something, he is creating a positive work environment and trust.
A win-lose approach
Your boss says that if you don’t say late, there will be consequences for your career. He just imposes his will on you.
He does not consider your situation. Although you will probably comply, it’s unlikely that you will trust him or be particularly positive about your job in future.
You ask your boss for a salary increase, but you don’t know that company resources are limited, so a salary increase won’t be possible.
A win-win approach
Your boss explains that company resources are stretched, so a raise will not be possible in the short term.
However, they say that they will make sure that you are given more responsibilities and authority to put you in the best position for when an increase might be possible.
While you don’t get the raise you are looking for, your boss is showing empathy for your situation and helping you to be best prepared for the future when a raise might be possible.
While you may feel frustrated that you don’t have the raise that you wanted, you will leave the interaction feeling positive about your boss. He has shown empathy for your situation and is helping you achieve what you want.
A win-lose approach
Your boss flatly refuses the salary increase, saying that it’s not possible.
This will leave you far more frustrated than the example above. While you’ll still be in the same situation (on your original salary), you’ll now be less positive about your boss.
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Seeking a win-win outcome requires you to consider the needs, aims, and interests of the other side.
This approach turns a negotiation into a way to build and reinforce relationships.
In their book “Getting to yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” Roger Fisher and William Ury of Harvard Business School described a good negotiation as “wise and efficient, and which improves relationships. Wise agreements satisfy both parties’ interests and are fair and lasting.”
There are five different ways we can use to reach a win-win outcome.
Focus on solving the problem, avoid blaming the other person.
Remember that your disagreement is with the other person’s opinion on this one item, not with the person.
Getting a win-win solution requires you to express your point of view clearly so that they can understand how you see the problem.
However, if you focus on how you see the problem, they will not take the point personally, which keeps the conversation open and productive.
Equally, when they explain their position, be sure to use active listening techniques to understand how they see the problem.
“What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?” This question ultimately drives all our decisions and arguments. Our interests are what triggers our actions.
When negotiating, if you focus on the other sides interests rather than their position, you’ll have a far more constructive discussion.
The negotiation is there to find the optimal solution for everyone, so don’t get hung up on positions. Focus on interests and getting to the best solution for everyone.
It is helpful to explain why you think what you think to the other side.
To help them understand your viewpoint, it is beneficial to give them as much information to support your perspective.
A successful way of resolving differences is to generate and discuss a variety of potential options. To create and sort options:
Very occasionally, it won’t be easy to find common ground.
If the outcome is genuinely (this is very rare!) binary, there may not be shared interests.
When this happens, it is helpful to use objective criteria to reach a conclusion.
If both sides can agree to the criteria, they can ensure that their interests are considered.
To ensure that this works well, the criteria should be:
If an objective outcome isn’t possible, you might want to think about deferring the decision to an independent but mutually acceptable third party.
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A win-win solution is not always appropriate.
There are times when it is impossible to get to a solution that satisfies all parties, or it just isn’t an appropriate time to be negotiating at all.
For example, once a decision has been made, the entire focus of a team should be on executing that decision as quickly and effectively as possible.
During a decision-making process, thoughts and ideas from the entire team should be actively canvassed. This is the time for team members to provide their input.
Once a decision has been made, it is unhelpful for team members to be questioning the decision. Discussions at this point should not be encouraged.
Similarly, occasionally you meet someone who has a diametrically opposed view to you on an issue. You should engage with them and look for a win-win solution, but sometimes it just isn’t possible.
In this case, it is often better to ‘agree to disagree’ ultimately. You can’t spend your whole life negotiating and discussing.
If the discussions have been thoughtful, you may walk away with more respect for the other person even though you didn’t reach an agreement.
Finding a win-win outcome is an essential career skill.
As you rise through an organisation, you will face more and more ambiguous and multi-faceted decisions, and so this becomes an increasingly valuable skill.
Before your next discussion with someone you disagree with, take 5 minutes to think through ways you could facilitate a win-win.
Whatever the outcome, we’re willing to bet it will be a lot more productive conversation.
‘The best investment is in the tools of one’s trade’ Benjamin Franklin
Influencing and persuading are critical skills to develop during your career. They expand your impact and ability to get things done.
Of course, in order to actively listen, you need to get the other person talking.
This article looks at open-ended questions which are a straightforward, effective way to get the conversation started.
Open-ended questions are questions where the asker is seeking a detailed answer and which can’t be answered with a straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Its counterpart is a closed-ended question. That is a question that invites a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.
Open-ended questions are generally explorative in nature. They invite the respondent to take their time and add detail to their answer.
Closed questions are generally specific to a particular point. The way they are asked does not usually invite the respondent to expand on the topic. They are seeking a quick one-word answer.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
All of the open-ended questions are inviting detailed answers, whereas the close-ended questions are inviting short responses.
As with all tools, there is a time and a place to use open-ended questions.
They’re not appropriate in all situations.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using them.
Open-ended questions are very good at gathering detailed responses.
They are great to use when you are looking for detailed, expansive answers.
Open-ended questions are also perfect when you are:
Open-ended questions do not limit users to answers from a few options.
When you ask an open-ended question, you are signalling that you are interested in the other person’s views and opinions.
You would like to spend some time hearing and discussing their views. This is a great way to build rapport with someone.
Making people feel valued and ‘heard’ is a vital part of relationship building. For more on this, see our review of “How To Win Friends And Influence People”.
There is a time and a place to use an open-ended question.
Let’s look at their disadvantages so that you can see when it would be a bad idea to use them.
Asking an open-ended question is a signal to the other person to spend a little time answering the question.
If you are short on time, you should probably avoid using one.
Open-ended questions allow the respondent to answer in all sorts of different ways. They are general in nature.
If you need a specific answer to a particular question asking an open question is risky. You may not get the answer that you need.
Ask your questions clearly and concisely. Try to ask your question directly so that the person you’re asking is clear on what you’d like to understand.
If you are inviting them to answer at length, it’s essential to make sure they’re talking about the correct point, so try to be precise.
Try not to ‘lead the witness’.
If you’re asking an open-ended question, try to be neutral when asking the question. That way, you are more likely to get the other persons genuine view.
If you signal your preference when asking the question, you’re likely to alter their answer and also make the question more closed.
For example, asking ‘Can you tell me why you think this problem arose?’ is something you might typically ask when trying to resolve a conflict, rather than asking ‘Do you think that this problem arose because of issues with XXX?’
Don’t rush the person you are talking to.
Let them take a little time, and if they pause to think don’t rush to fill the pause. You may cut off their answer halfway through and lose some valuable details.
A great way to show that you’re really interested in what the other person has to say is to ask them to email if they have any thoughts later on.
We’ve all had the experience of thinking of a great answer after a meeting has finished. Usually, we won’t then send the thought to the person we were speaking to as we think that the time has passed.
If you let them know that you’d really appreciate any further thoughts that they have, then you’re signalling your real interest in the moment, and also increasing the chances that they will email you any follow-up thoughts that they have.
Open-ended questions are a hugely valuable tool. They can transform your relationships and management up and down your organisation.
Next time you’ve time to prepare for a meeting, try to think of three really good open questions to ask and see how much difference they make to the interaction.
They are a great basis for exploring someone’s issues and so starting to move towards a win-win outcome for everyone.
Self-confidence affects all areas of life.
Without it, people struggle to make significant progress in all areas of their life.
It has a cascading effect on all aspects of our daily life.
For example, it directly affects resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. If you’re not confident you can get through something, the chances are that you won’t even try.
If you have learned that you are resilient and can overcome problems, the odds are that you will be.
The opposite is also true. A strong belief in yourself about achieving something actually increases the chances that you’ll do it and do it well.
In an increasingly complex and unpredictable world, being confident that you will be able to overcome emerging issues is often the difference between progress and stagnation.
So, how do you develop self-confidence? What is it anyway? Are you born with self-confidence, or is it something you can develop?
We explore the answers to these and more questions below.
Self-confidence is a general view of how likely you are to accomplish a task or goal based on past experiences.
According to psychologist Albert Bandura, “self-confidence is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”
How you perceive your skills, abilities, and judgment obviously affects your self-belief and so your view on how likely you are to succeed at any given task.
The benefits of self-confidence are shown across the board.
Unhelpfully lots of people use these terms interchangeably. They actually refer to different things but they’re all closely related.
Self-confidence is your faith in your own abilities.
Self-esteem is your feeling of self-worth. This is not just about your abilities but relates more broadly to your sense of self.
Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you have the capacity and skills to achieve your goals. It is more specific than self-confidence and refers to behaviour.
Self-confident individuals display several unique characteristics that set them apart from others.
Assertiveness: Self-assured people set and maintain clear boundaries. They know what they want and ring-fence their time and resources to achieve their goals.
Decisiveness: Self-confident people make calculated decisions and follow through when executing them.
Taking risks: Self-confident people take more calculated risks. Why? Because they expect their actions to yield successful outcomes.
Saying “NO”: Self-confident people have mastered the art of gracefully saying “No.” Rejecting unnecessary requests that eat into your time improves your ability to focus on what matters, leading to better control over your time, and your emotional and mental health.
Open body language: People with self-confidence have open and inviting body language. They go through life with their heads held high, and shoulders squared regardless of the challenges in their lives.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after challenges or setbacks. Resilient people typically dare to pick up the pieces, learn from their mistakes and move on.
Trying something again when you’ve failed several times requires guts. That’s where self-confidence comes in.
Research shows that self-confident people are more likely to bounce back and that they do so faster after a setback. Their belief in their ability to succeed allows them to do this.
They chalk up failures as learning opportunities and use the lessons to build back bigger and better.
While genetics play a role in shaping a person’s character, its contribution to confidence is less than you might think.
Self-confidence is earned.
You develop self-confidence. You learn that you can and will overcome problems as you go through life and experience new challenges and situations.
A result of this is that it is known that early childhood experiences have a significant contribution to self-confidence. As a child, you learn that you can overcome problems and keep going.
Yes. You can have too much of a good thing.
Excess self-confidence ultimately tips over into overconfidence.
Overconfidence distorts a person’s abilities and can lead to a number of problems .
Do you regularly take on more than you can handle?
When you frequently take on too much and fail to deliver, that’s a clear sign of overconfidence.
People with too much self-confidence display other unmistakable traits as well:
Any one of these traits on their own doesn’t say much. However, having more than one may mean it’s worth thinking about this further.
Overconfident people are often resented and disliked. In the short term, they get things done. However, as people often feel coerced into complying rather than going along willingly, this is a short term benefit but a long term problem. This article talks about coercive power.
Do you tend to shy away from projects with more responsibilities? If so, it might be a sign that you have low self-confidence.
People with low self-confidence shy away from challenges. Confusingly they also tend to accept whatever is thrown at them without pushing back as they don’t have the confidence to do so.
Other characteristics of people with low self-confidence include:
Self-confidence is a learnable skill and comes from four primary sources:
1. Mastery experiences: Completing a difficult or new task boosts self-confidence and primes you to attempt bigger projects in future.
2. Social modelling: This is how most people learn in early childhood. Seeing other people similar to you succeed will in turn raise your belief that you can also succeed.
3. Social persuasion: Receiving encouragement or positive feedback from other people alters your mind’s perspective and allows you to start believing you can achieve a goal.
4. Psychological responses: Moods, emotions and physical health affect how self-confident you feel. For example, somone who is exhausted is likely to be less confident about taking on a demanding project.
Work from the inside out. For example, when your boss asks if you can handle a particular project, take time to evaluate your skills and current time commitments before you answer.
That way when you answer you’re doing so from a position of having thought things through and so a position of confidence.
Comparison destroys self-confidence.
There will always be someone more affluent, more intelligent or more accomplished than you on one area, but remember you don’t know what’s going on in the rest of their life.
If you have to be competitive, make it with yourself. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday. Are you doing better or worse?
Focusing on your growth and how far you have come is a great way to boost your self-confidence.
A healthy body does wonders for your self-confidence.
You will feel better and that will show itself in everything that you do.
Following a simple regime of healthy eating and exercise will boost your confidence pretty quickly.
If you’ve successfully achieved a goal in the past, then you can do it again.
Make a list of past accomplishments that you are really proud of and keep it close.
Go back to it regularly for inspiration. Remind yourself of the awesome things you’ve done in the past to inspire what you can do now.
If you failed at your goal in the past, what can you learn from it?
This is closely related to point 2 above.
Self-confidence is about handling new and uncomfortable situations.
Therefore, doing small things that stretch you every day is a great way to improve your self-confidence.
This can take any form. Strike up a quick conversation with a stranger, try a new hobby. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, even a little, and you do it anyway it’ll help.
How you dress influences how others perceive you. It also impacts how you perceive yourself.
Research shows that wearing different clothes leads you to think and act differently.
To boost confidence, dress how a confident version of yourself would. Go for clothes that accentuate your best features.
Setting and achieving goals, even small ones, significantly increases self-confidence.
Your brain will increasingly believe that you can achieve your goals.
As we talked about above, this starts a virtuous cycle of accomplishments and expanding self-confidence.
Setting unrealistic goals can equally lead to a vicious cycle of failure and reducing self-confidence.
Positive self-talk if a product of positive thinking. It fosters self-compassion and the ability to take on new challenges.
For example, instead of telling yourself, “This is impossible,” or “I can’t do this,” rephrase it into “I can do this” and “Anything is possible if I set my mind to it.”.
Remember you don’t ‘have’ to do anything. You ‘get’ to do something.
This might feel silly at first, but posture affects how you feel about yourself. Try power poses that can alter your frame of mind.
According to research by Ohio State University, sitting up straight can help you feel more self-confident about the task at hand.
Self-confidence improves every aspect of a person’s life, but it is earned.
With it, you can accomplish more at work, improve relationships and, more importantly, improve health and well-being. Use the tips above to foster and develop yours.
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Stress is a natural reaction to concerns that you might not be able to meet the demands and expectations being put upon you.
A certain amount of stress is normal. Life doesn’t always go as you want it to.
Being stressed for a short period will improve your performance.
However, ongoing chronic stress can have serious implications for your physical and mental well-being.
In order to be resilient and effectively manage life’s ups and downs, you need to learn how to manage your stress and look after your physical and mental health.
This article gives more details on the relationship between stress and resilience.
As many as 70% of adults in the United States admit to feeling stress and anxiety daily and so there is plenty of research on ways to manage your stress levels.
The trick is to figure out what works for you.
Planning your day will give you a sense of control and purpose. It will help you to get away from the feeling of just fighting fires all day long.
Learn time management and the importance of planning is a great place to help get your stress under control.
Maintain a balanced, healthy diet. Make sure you are drinking sufficient water.
Avoid excessive caffeine and sugary snacks. They may give you temporary relief in the form of an energy boost but the crash will come and leave you feeling more tired.
A healthy diet will give you the energy you need to keep going.
People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience stress and anxiety.
Being physically active has a very good impact on both our physical and mental health.
All exercise helps whether it’s a walk around the block, a bike ride, or a trip to the gym.
Regular exercise will help you to keep your energy up and your stress levels low.
Stress can make sleep more difficult. Sleep can make you find difficult situations even more stressful.
Some people can get into a vicious circle of poor sleep, leading to more stress and even poorer sleep.
If you are having a difficult time it is important to make time for sleep.
Much like sugary snacks, cutting back on sleep is a short term strategy that will ultimately make things more difficult not less.
A study finds that people with few social connections are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
If you are having a tough time don’t cut yourself off from others.
Spending time with others is a great way to manage your stress.
It even better if you know them well enough to discuss the issues that you’re facing.
Ask them for their advice. Most of the time just talking about the issue out loud will help reduce the anxiety and stress.
What is it that’s getting you stressed? Many people find that writing things down, or journalling, actually reduces their stress.
It stops their mind from spinning and allows them to keep things in proportion.
Take a pen and
Working from home can mean lots of video calls.
Zoom burnout is real and you need to manage it.
Keep an eye on your calendar and decline invitations if you feel that you’ve just got too many calls in a day.
Learning to use relaxation techniques is vital to help you through very high-stress days.
Many of these techniques are well known. The challenge is applying them consistently.
Methods we would recommend looking at are:
Managing your stress levels is vital if you want to perform at a high level.
Taking 30 minutes daily to do so is a very wise investment. It will make you far more resilient to lifes ups and downs.
Image credit: Pexels.