Become A “Sales Consultant”

Become A Sales “Consultant”  and Take the Hard Sell out of Selling.

 

Sales force unite! It’s time to put to rest all the ugly sales stereotypes we have heard for years. Labels like “con artist,” “pushy,” and “one-sided” simply don’t hold true for the majority of individuals whose common traits are quite redeeming. Assertive, creating and caring are much more fitting descriptions of salespeople.

 

The stereotypical hard seller is becoming a thing of the past. It’s time we thought of ourselves as consultants, advisors who prosper and derive personal  satisfaction as well as financial success by meeting the needs of our clients. In the words of a very successful colleague, “The hard sell  turns me off, to say nothing of how my clients feel. I think people are smart enough to know what they need and want.”

A Different Approach

A sales consultant answers the question, “How can I apply my strengths to satisfy customers’ needs?” In the words of Debra Turner, a top marketing executive for DHL Courier Co., a sales consultant “asks questions, they listen, they see, understand, and move their products, services and ideas into place to meet the goals of their clients.” Ultimately, discovering ways to serve people becomes the main concern. If the job is done right, you don’t have to “sell.”

 

Consulting leads you to assess and resolve the problems of your clients. Therefore, you  must know your market. A sales consultant capitalizes on every opportunity to learn the product, market trends, clients’ industries and other pertinent information. Education in the form of trade magazines and seminars is a continuous investment.

 

According to Tim Hardy, account manager for XL Datacomp, Los Angeles, CA, “A lot of people in sales make the mistake of knowing just a little bit more than their clients do about the product.” This is short sighted. Assume that your clients have knowledgeable friends!  The more you know, the easier time you will have making sales because people will have faith in your words. “Knowledge is power!”

 

Consider your education a dual- purpose venture. You must study to be competitive but also to become passionate about your field of endeavor. Passion comes from knowing something so well that it becomes yours. Without passion, you can’t be consultative. In her book Selling on the Fast Track, Kathy Arronson, executive director of Sales Athlete, Beverly Hills, CA, expresses passion in finding educated solutions for her clients.

 

“The ability to solve problems creatively comes first from preparing yourself thoroughly by gathering all the information available to help you reach your goal, then by sorting or editing that information and using it to develop a fresh idea that best fits the needs of your clients’ prospects. If you do this, you’ll find that the fun of work is solving problems.

 

At JPA International, Inc. we feel that the consultative orientation sheds positive light on the seller throughout the entire selling process. Buyers don’t want to be intimidated or pressured into spending money on something they don’t need. They want to be listened to and advised on how to come out ahead. The best way to show you care is to listen—a consultant never forgets this.

 

In the final analysis, a sales consultant meets with success for being the kind of seller who knows his or her business passionately, knows the virtue of his or her product, knows his or her customer and, most importantly, knows how to put all these together so that everybody wins!

 

Ask about our presentation of a five-part plan uses to sell services as an executive and leadership development consultant and coach. This is a step-by-step program. One step follows directly after the one before it.

Delegation: Why You Can’t Just Say “Go Do It”

Delegation:  Why You Can’t Just Say “Go Do It”

There is a common belief when it comes to managing people—especially at the senior VP and executive levels—that the higher you are in your position, the less you actually need to provide any sort of hands-on management to your direct reports. The thinking goes something like this: You had to be bright and smart to get to this executive level. Similarly, the people who report to you directly must also be very smart, or they wouldn’t have gotten to their positions. Therefore, they should know their jobs, and you should rarely or never need to tell them what to do in very specific terms.

 

 

That’s the myth. Here’s the reality.

The level of involvement you need to provide when you assign a task does not depend on your job title or your ranking in your company. Rather, it depends on these three factors:

  • To what degree does this person have the skills and expertise needed to do the task? 
  • To what degree are you confident that your perception of the person’s abilities is actually true? 
  • To what degree does the person you have in mind agree with your own assessment?

Each time you delegate a task, you need to weigh these three factors and determine how involved you need to be. There is no one-size-fits-all.

 

The Five Levels of Delegation

Now, let’s clarify what it means to delegate, and then talk about why most managers are doing it wrong.

Researchers have delineated what I have come to call the five levels of delegation. Here they are:


The common perception is that as a top-level executive, you are supposed to primarily operate at levels 4 and 5. In fact, you may feel that it’s actually insulting to simply tell your people what to do—especially with detailed instructions—and expect them to do it.  Well-intentioned consultants would say you are “micromanaging” and that is bad.

Furthermore, you may believe that the people who report to you want to take charge and be at level 5 as much as possible, even in the absence of sufficient information. (And often, this is true; some team members will be looking to make a good impression on you, while others will sincerely want to take a load off your shoulders.)

Unfortunately, delegating directly to level 4 or 5 often leads to breakdowns. This is especially true in today’s organizational culture, in which change and disruption are the norm. In an environment like this, it’s illogical to expect direct reports—no matter how competent they are—to become knights who go forth on their own, find the holy grail (without a map and maybe without even understanding what a grail is), and report back when they’re done.   It never worked like that in the past, and it definitely does not work like that today.

Very often, people who get knighted go forth and do their best based on what they think the boss expected. Then, when they bring the results back to their boss, the boss says, “No—that’s not what I wanted.” They look bad, the boss is frustrated, and the blame game begins.

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To avoid this scenario, you need to ask yourself: How badly do I really need this task that I’m delegating to be carried out perfectly? The more important the task is, the more you need to ensure that your direct reports truly have the skills, experience, and information they need to carry it out.

If the task is crucial, this means having a conversation with each person involved, asking lots of questions, and making sure that the person is capable of doing the job. Do NOT simply accept “Don’t worry, boss, I can do this.” This is what people think you want to hear, but it’s not what you need to hear.

Frequently, people won’t admit up front that they’re unprepared for a task because they’re afraid that they’ll get fired or they want to save face. Other times, people aren’t even aware that they’re lacking key skills or data (which is a dangerous—and these days, common—situation). This is why you can’t accept “I can do this” at face value.

 

It’s important for you to understand that every human being has blind spots, and the most dangerous ones are:

  1. They think they know and they don’t
  2. They don’t know what they don’t know.

Part of your job is to help the people under you identify and address their blind spots, without making them feel stupid.  And part of their job is to be open to your masterfully helping them gain awareness of their own blind spots. Your ability to do this, and their ability to accept and learn, will increase tenfold the expertise that each of you have to offer.

 

Remember: Most people in the job market who get promoted fast have a narrow band of expertise in one area, but may have little or no knowledge outside of that area. Others are great generalists but have never actually gotten their hands dirty doing things that are relevant to today—not three years ago. When skills and experience are lacking, or your direct reports don’t know how to make good decisions (another skill that needs to be taught), you can delegate at level 5 until the cows come home, and it will keep coming back to bite you in you-know-where.

What’s more, your team, who only want to succeed and to help you succeed (assuming that you hired well, treat people with respect, and demonstrate your own competence) will become very demotivated when you keep saying “Jump,” they keep saying, “How high? We can and will do this!”, and then you’re disappointed in their results.

So don’t just say, “Do it.” If necessary, be ready to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and really find out the details of what’s needed. How do you know when to delegate and levels 4 and 5?  The answer is powerful: you and the team or other individual both agree with candor, and the results that you and the other(s) want show up.

Also, make it clear to your team that it’s their responsibility to be open with you—for instance, to say, “I’m not exactly sure what you want me to do,” or “This is what I plan to do step by step—is that what you want?” or “I have expertise in this and this, but THAT will be new to me—can we meet weekly and update?” Then reward their openness by giving them the support they need.

 

Delegating wisely + communicating well = success

Now, let’s circle back to my model of management, and look at it in relationship to another model by Michael Hyatt. Hyatt outlines these five levels of delegation on his blog:

 

  • Do exactly what I have asked you to do: Don’t deviate from my instructions, since I have researched the options and determined my preference.
  • Research the topic and report back: After we discuss it, I’ll tell you what I want you to do.
  • Research the topic: Outline the options with the pros and cons for each, and make a recommendation. If I agree, you can move forward with that approach.
  • Make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop.
  • Make whatever decision you think is best. No need to report back. I trust you.

 

While my model looks at the five different ways to delegate a task, Hyatt’s model looks at the issue from a different angle: It tells you how to communicate your expectations at each level so that your direct reports are absolutely clear on what you want.

 

When we put the two models together, here is what we get:

All stages of this model are empowering.  When people don’t know what to do and you tell them, they’ll be grateful—and they’ll also be more likely to give you the results you want. When people know exactly how much and what type of input you need from them, they’ll be more efficient. When collaboration is indicated, a good dialogue will enable your team to make the best decisions possible. And when you conclude that a person or team truly is capable of handling a task without your input, you’ll avoid over-managing.

Delegating—and communicating your expectations clearly and smartly when you delegate—takes work. However, the payoff is huge. It will make your team respect you more, and vice versa. It will maximize your performance and minimize your costs. And it will ensure that despite change, disruption, and sometimes utter chaos, you will get the job done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Does Your Coach Pass the Test

Coaching Traits

Does Your COACH Pass The Test

Assessments are a powerful tool in the business coach’s arsenal. Done correctly, they provide objective data and feedback that coaches can use to help clients identify opportunities for positive change. They can reveal both the big picture and personal idiosyncrasies that clients may need to either tone down or use to greater advantage. In the right hands, assessments can transform an individual or an entire corporation for the better.

However, done incorrectly—as they too often are—assessments can actually do more harm than good. That’s why prior to selecting a coach, you need to know some facts about the assessment process.

 

Start Here

First, let’s talk about what a test battery is. It means that your coach will conduct multiple assessments (more on this shortly). In selecting the most effective battery, a good coach will ensure that:

• Each assessment makes a clear contribution.
• Each assessment relates to the reasons why you desire coaching.
• Each assessment coordinates with the others, providing an in-depth understanding of your needs, strengths, and perceived weaknesses.

It’s very important to understand that not all assessments are alike. In fact, some have very little validation. One of the most popular assessments that organizations use today was vetoed for use in research and dissertations for this reason at the graduate school where I received my degree in industrial organizational psychology.

In addition, when it comes to conducting assessments, not all coaches are alike. I strongly believe that anyone using assessments needs to receive very thorough training—years of it, not just weeks or months. Coaches who lack this training will misuse even the best tests. In addition, they will be at the mercy of venders who promote worthless or even harmful assessments. Again, it isn’t enough for coaches to choose the most popular assessments, because some of the weakest and least statistically valid assessments are the most popular today.
 

Smart Assessments

Finally, even if an assessment is robust—meaning that its results are truly valid—coaches need to use it effectively. This includes:

• Clearly explaining the purpose and process of each assessment to clients beforehand.
• Describing the results of each assessment in language that clients can understand.
• Showing clients how to translate the findings into concrete, positive steps.
• Describing the strengths and limitations of each assessment so clients can give the results the proper weight.
 

Choosing A Coach

With these points in mind, how do you select a coach whose assessments will do good rather than harm? Here are two questions to ask up front:

1. Ask if the coach plans to use a customized test battery or merely administer one or two tests.

If a coach claims that a couple of assessments and an hour of information-gathering will be sufficient to develop an action plan, look for another coach. It takes at least four to five assessments for a coach to develop a well-rounded picture of a client.

In addition to asking how many tests the coach will administer, ask the purpose of each one. Also, ask how each assessment relates directly to your needs or your corporation’s needs.

2. Ask the coach what will happen after the assessments.

Too often, coaches provide the results of an assessment but offer little or no interpretation of these results. (One reason is that assessment reports can be very sophisticated, and many coaches themselves don’t fully understand them.) This is dangerous, because it means that the assessments won’t translate into insight and increased self-awareness. Instead, they have the potential to do serious damage.

In one case involving a Fortune 100 company, a coach gave a female senior executive a very powerful assessment. This woman, while definitely needing improvement in some areas, had worked extremely hard to pull herself up by her bootstraps and to succeed in a challenging job. However, her coach at the time interpreted the assessment results in a very superficial and negative way that left her feeling discouraged. The report itself was very murky, and a negative tone came through in it as well.

When I arrived later to gather information and conduct my own assessments, the woman was very nervous, and it took a great deal of effort on my part to persuade her to agree to go through the assessment process again. She was so pleased this time that she brought me the original assessment that caused her so much pain. I went through it carefully with her, tying it in with the feedback from my own battery of assessments. When she understood the whole picture—both her strengths and the beliefs and behaviors that might be getting in her way—she took ownership of the information. She’s now positive and confident, is clear on what she wants to achieve in her career, and is effectively grooming herself for those next steps.

In another case, a corporation brought in a psychologist and “expert” to assist a department troubled by infighting. The person’s solution was simply to give an assessment to everyone and then tell each participant, in front of the rest of the team, what they were doing right and wrong. There was no discussion on how to change their behavior to resolve differences positively; instead, the coach just got up and left.

The group was shell-shocked, and some members were devastated. Somehow, their top boss was referred to me, and after much debate about inviting a psychologist into their presence, they decided they were willing to try. Following my testing and feedback, the group went from hostile to eager to totally onboard, and the infighting ended. To this day, their now C-Suite-level boss and others from the same original team turn to me when they need to communicate delicate feedback or information, require team coaching, or are preparing for a restructuring.
 

What to Look For

Good coaches give feedback that is not just accurate and constructive, but also empathetic and insightful—especially when it involves perceived weaknesses. People are excited about learning more about themselves, but many are also nervous about exposing what they deem to be their weaknesses. When coaches give feedback properly, it allows clients to step outside themselves and view themselves as a whole entity. Good coaches discuss weaknesses as openly as strengths, because those very “weaknesses” often have contributed as much to a person’s success as what we call their strengths.

For instance, I have another client who is in a powerful position in a Fortune 500 company, making decisions that impact many other people at the global company. One assessment I gave this client was an emotional intelligence assessment called the MSCEIT. This test reveals how well clients perceive, use, understand, and manage their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. The assessment revealed that he was very weak in accessing and integrating emotion accurately. However, another sophisticated assessment I gave him allowed me to determine that he was highly ethical.

Earlier in his life, this man saw the damage that emotion can cause, and decided to stay focused on reasoning and analysis. This emotional detachment gave him the ability to steadfastly do what he and the corporation agreed was best for the organization as a whole, despite the emotional reactions of others. Combined with his high level of ethics, it allowed him to become very successful. However, it also led to problems. For instance, because he kept his emotions at arm’s length, other people frequently perceived him as doing the same thing to them. In addition, many perceived him as manipulative.

 

In our work now, we focus on how he can best show his ethical self and learn to experience and show compassion, while allowing others to see that he has no other agenda than doing what is best for the company. He is also learning how to be transparent in appropriate ways, which is encouraging others to do the same in return. It’s been fun and personally heartwarming to watch him unfold within himself and at the same time begin to read people and respond to them more accurately. He still meets with resistance, as his job is to institute major change, but people—including his boss—now better understand where he is coming from, and are joining forces to support him. In the process, they’re learning how to better embrace the disruptions that are necessary for everyone to grow.
 

Summary

Clearly, assessments can be a powerful tool for good—but only when the right person conducts them.

So don’t automatically assume that any coach and any assessment will do the job. Instead, seek out a coach who has years of training in using assessments, will custom-tailor a battery of well-validated assessments to your specific needs, and will translate the results into practical information you can understand and positive steps you can take. Your coaches won’t be shy about testing you… so don’t be hesitant about testing them!

Success as an Introvert

Success as an Introvert

Joan Pastor, Ph.D., Published in The Los Angeles Psychologist, July-August 2014

Understanding the introvert and the extrovert is essential for distinguishing those personality traits which are damaging or conducive to the introvert’s success in life. That understanding is key to working with patients who exhibit high introversion to the detriment of their happiness and general well-being.

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Introvert vs. Extrovert

People often assume introverts are quiet, do not like people much, are in their heads a lot, and shun group activities. Many assume extroverts are the exact opposite. In truth, the differences between introverts and extroverts have little to do with these misconceptions. Instead, it has much to do with what I call “the allocation of energy.” Individuals who are introverted tend to feel energized by their thoughts, their ideas, and internal analyses. Introverts feel more energetic and passionate about their work when the energy comes from within.

Extroverted individuals truly need and like people (Fishman, Ng, & Bellugi, 2010). Extroverts gain energy when they can interact with others; they literally take energy from their interactions. Regardless of orientation, the ultimate result of one’s social proclivity in life, introvert or extrovert, is that one feels more energized, bigger than oneself, better about oneself.

One should not blindly label an introvert as shy, socially phobic, anxiety-prone around other people, a strictly thinker- type, or overly analytical. Although some introverts do have these traits, each person is unique and must be worked with in a different way.

Is It Nature or Nurture?

Does Mother Nature decide whether you are introverted or extroverted before you are born? The answer is not clear. Genes definitely influence whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, but there is no single “introvert gene.”

One way scientists investigate this question is by studying twins. Identical twins share all their genes, while fraternal twins share only half. So far, twin studies show the effect of genes is pretty significant (Bouchard, Jr, & Hur, 1998). But it is equally clear that, as stated above, no single gene makes you an introvert. Instead, being introverted or extroverted (or both—being “ambiverted”) is the result of various combinations of genes. Research indicates introverts are extremely vulnerable to sensory overload. It has been postulated that this causes withdrawal from external stimuli, including people interaction, as a means of self-protection (Schaefer, Heinze , & Rotte, 2012; Wired Up, 2005).

Although a lot of evidence shows that introverts are wired differently from “party” animals (i.e., introverts have more activity in brain regions we use for problem-solving, making plans, and recalling events; Soglin, 1999), how individuals express their personality also may depend on where they live and how they were raised.

Coaching the Introverted Child

As a parent of an introverted child, one mistake to avoid is encouraging the child stay with their friend(s), while not addressing the anxiety he or she may feel in a large group. While we live in a social world and much of our livelihood and independence requires interacting with others, a parent could mistakenly push an introverted child into being “more social” or extroverted. This is not necessarily wrong, but it has to be done very, very carefully.

Highly introverted children need a great deal of coaching in terms of social skills, and the expectations should be set so that children feel comfortable and self-confident when they are with other people. When they do interact with others, they understand and believe that “I just happen to gain more energy from my inward thoughts, but I’m still able to interact with people in the world.”

Introverts as Leaders

Introverted people are capable of being public personas (e.g., Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, J.K. Rowling). They learn to use specific skills for being “on” when they are interacting with other people. Nevertheless, key differences between introverts and extroverts are easily detected in social situations. Introverts will tire more quickly in groups of all sizes. They need much more alone time to go inward, to restore their energy, and to replenish themselves. An extroverted person can interact for much longer in social situations and with much greater enjoyment because they gain energy from people.

Some of the best leaders in the work place are often introverted. Their strength is the ability to look at situations and to think about them deeply, plan or think things through before they respond impulsively, and cultivate the strengths of both extroverted and introverted employees.

Another advantage introverts have in today’s workplace is that business is Internet/technology-based, requiring the ability to work in front of the computer for long periods. Social media is often a source of great comfort for the introvert. In the past, business was done mostly on site, in meetings, e.g., sales people generally sold in face-to-face meetings. As a consequence of advancing technology, today’s introverts can become quite successful in their own businesses.

Helping the Introvert/Extrovert

Helping introverts or extroverts involves both leading them to understand the source of their energy and examining their strengths and assisting in creating a more balanced lifestyle. Introverts need to be more socially engaged, and extroverts need to learn to withdraw and reflect.

This approach helps introverts and extroverts take advantage of their strengths and develop themselves to operate optimally in the world, while simultaneously maximizing their personal happiness and satisfaction in life.

 

Joan Pastor, Ph.D., is licensed in both clinical and industrial-organizational (business) psychology. For more information, please contact her through The Healthy Brain and Body Centre of Beverly Hills or JPA International, Inc. She can be reached at Joan@JPA-International.com or US 1-760-945-9767. Her latest book is Success as An Introvert for Dummies.

References available on request from the LACPA office, lacpsych@aol.com.

 

 

References

Bouchard TJ Jr, Hur YM. Journal of Personality. Genetic and environmental influences on the continuous scales of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: an analysis based on twins reared apart.
1998 Apr, 66(2): 135-49.

Fishman, Inna, Ng Rowena, Bellugi, Ursula. Cognitive Neuroscience. Do extraverts process social stimuli differently from introverts? 2010 Nov, iFirst, 1-7. Epub: www.psypress.com/cognitiveneuroscience DOI: 10.1080/17588928.2010.527434.

Schaefer M, Heinze HJ, Rotte M. Neuroimage. Touch and personality: extraversion predicts somatosensory brain response. 2012 Aug, 62(1), 432-8.

Soglin Becky. University of Iowa News Services. Brain activity differs in introverts and extroverts, UI study shows. 1999, Mar. epub: http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/1999/march/0329intro-extro.html.

Wired-up. Lemon juice experiment. 2005, Mar 18. Issue: 22. Note that this is an online demonstration of research published in peer reviewed journals.

Conflict Resolution

The most needed skill is the ability to solve problems—especially people problems.

Today’s business environment is a greenhouse for conflict: a heterogeneous work force growing more diverse by the day, intense competition at home and abroad, an economy which could go either way. Add to this the highly diverse and dynamic field of internal auditing, which because of the very nature of the work, creates the overwhelming potential for conflict.

No matter how much you learn about conflict, no matter how excellent your skills become in handling it, no matter how great a master you are at even avoiding it, the truth is you’ll never get rid of conflict. Anytime you get two people together who think they’re even halfway intelligent, you’re bound to have some differences of opinion.

But here’s good news, too. Even if you can’t totally rid yourself of opposition from and between others, there is much that you can learn to do to manage these conflicts. We grow the most through learning how to work through our differences. We learn we can disagree with someone but still like him—or at least respect him. We see that the best friendships and the most creative working relationships are those that allow differences of opinion. The six steps below will increase your ability to work through differences with others in all areas of your life and restore the ability to be a team in the workplace and at home.

Prepare

If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is to try not to speak or to take action out of anger. That’s pretty difficult, because like many people, I am most encouraged to give a piece of my mind when I am hot under the collar. Unfortunately, my mind is definitely on hold when the emotions take over, and when reason finally returns, I invariably regret having given in to impulse.

Whenever possible, put distance and time between your reaction and action so that you can let sanity return to think things through. If there is a way to give both you and the other party time to cool off when tempers flare, do so. The best way to prepare yourself when you know you are going to meet with someone where emotions will be high is to do a “dump sheet.” Take a legal-size pad of paper and pen and find a place where you can be alone for five to ten minutes (that might be the hardest part). Then write down all your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, concerns, worries, anxieties, emotions, hates, biases, prejudices, nasty words—anything and everything that is on your mind and in your heart at the time. Do not censor anything. It is critical to get it all out on the paper.

Doing a “dump sheet” allows you to move from a subjective place to a position of objectivity. It allows you to see what is really bothering you and why, to see if you are making a mountain out of a molehill, and to see the best strategy you can take with the person to whom you will be talking. Once you have done your “dump sheet,” the best course of action will become clear to you.

Clarify the problem

When you do sit down to discuss differences, it will be to your advantage to state your case briefly, perhaps with documentation, and then ask for the other side of the story. Try as much as possible to suspend all feelings and judgments and give the other person a fair trial in your mind. At this stage, the goal is to get communication going, not to make any final decisions. If you have a person who is reluctant to open up, ask sincere, open-ended questions related to the situation. Good open-ended questions are, “What do you see the problem to be?” or “Your opinion is important: what do you think?” Then sit still and say nothing. Let there be silence. Eventually, they will realize they won’t get away with a mere “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know.”

Asking questions and being genuinely interested in the other person’s feelings about the situation are critical to getting to the root of a problem. But the single most powerful communication tool to use for reestablishing rapport and getting to the truth is to paraphrase. You may not agree with their point of view, but you are really trying to see it from their vantage point. That will encourage them to do the same.

Study after study shows that frequently summarizing what the other is saying when in conflict does more than any other communication skill to promote harmony and reestablish rapport. In fact, when extremely successful sales people were studied closely to see what made them different from the average salesperson, they found that the superior salesperson paraphrased and summarized an average of four times in a seven to eight minute conversation.

Seek areas of agreement

Once you have gotten all sides of the story, it is now time to see if you and the other party have any areas of agreement. One thing I have learned is to take a big sheet of paper (those legal-size pads really come in handy), put a dividing line down the middle, and together list the issues you agree on and those you don’t. If it is in your interest to promote agreement, then make sure to think of all the possible little things that you both agree on and write them down, encouraging the other person to do the same.

In the “Disagree” column, write down only the main issues. This process has the psychological effect of making the areas of agreement look greater and the areas of disagreement look smaller. It also helps you both to see whether you at least agree on what’s important; i.e., if you share common values.

Take responsibility

If the above three steps occur, taking ownership for how you might have contributed to the problem becomes the natural next step in the process. Most of the time, all parties involved in the discussion contributed to the problem in some small or large way. What do you do if the other person has a poor history of telling the truth or keeps throwing blame? It is important to assert to this person in a professional and clear tone of voice where you see his or her contribution to the problem. Then, take responsibility for your own portion. Finally, reiterate in summary form where you see his or her contribution.

If you have gotten this far in the communication process and still get nowhere, then it would be best to end the meeting and try again later. You can also try using a mediator. If the other side seems open to working with you, as soon as you see how you have contributed to the situation, own up. This will often take the other person off the defensive and increase the chances they will own up as well. I have learned if I own up even for something small, such as not communicating clearly enough the importance to me of being on time to staff meetings, the other party may be more willing to admit that they are late because staff meetings are a waste of time.

That will allow us to then look at how meetings are not working (and what both of us can do to make them more productive). Taking ownership often means allowing honesty to come to the surface and it is important not to take it personally. Remember, honesty is best for getting to the real difficulties and moving into problem-solving.

Become focused on results and ask, “So, what can we do to resolve this situation?”

Find solutions

Finding solutions becomes a lot easier once trust and agreement areas have been established. A critical component to reestablishing the ability to work together at this stage is to engage in some form of brainstorming. Unless you have the absolutely perfect solution already at hand, it is a wonderful skill to develop when building trust and camaraderie.

The goal in a conflict resolution session is to find a solution through a combination of both parties’ ideas; if everyone involved has contributed to the solution, it increases the chances that everyone will buy in and follow it. However, if you feel you must take a firmer guiding role, offer options. In our society, options make us feel we have a choice, even if they are over small issues. For example, if you and the other person have come to some agreement that involves you doing some follow-up work, you can say, “Would you like me to get back to you Thursday or Friday?” A simple option, but it increases the spirit of collaboration. Remember, when there have been difficulties, small efforts do make a difference. You can also use options to show you mean business. I have seen some fast changes in troublesome individuals who are always bothering everybody once they realize that one of the options is “no job.”

When a solution has been found, it is important to write it down, especially if this is a problem occurring in the workplace. Also do a final summary of what occurred in this meeting together. I am constantly amazed at the number of times people remember the whole situation completely differently from each other, let alone the details. A written record (even if just a few words) and a final mutual summary of what went on will do a lot to prevent problems later on.

An encouraging word

Now that I’ve given you all this great information, how would you like a strategy that will be much more fun, has long-term results, and will bypass most of the work above? Psychologists see it as one of the most powerful tools for shaping behavior.

What is this great invention? Positive reinforcement. To use positive reinforcement effectively requires a change in how you look at the other person. Try not to speak out of anger. Instead of focusing on the things he or she is doing wrong, start looking for the little things that are steps in the right direction. Then reinforce them. The reinforcement has to be something that will have impact and it should be applied as soon as possible after the positive action occurred. Praise, recognition, and being included in decision making usually have an even greater impact than money. Also, once you begin bestowing money, it’s hard to take it away.

Be creative in coming up with reinforcements. We have looked at the practical and the clever ways to make peace a little faster and easier with our colleagues and our friends. In the final analysis, the best strategies will only succeed when we can remain objective and check if our own perspective is correct. The biggest gift we can give when confronted with a troublesome situation is to keep pointing the finger at ourselves and asking not, “Who me?” but “How me?” Each time we do so, we become a little wiser. And if you ever find your ego in danger of becoming inflated, just think of what Napoleon once said to his troops as they prepared for battle. He said, “Men, there is someone wiser than each of us, and that is everyone!”