49. Solve Problems and Negotiate, Getting What You Want While Your Customers Get What They Need with Special Guest, Andrew Sykes
Today’s show is about Solve Problems and Negotiate, Getting What You Want While Your Customers Get What They Need with Special Guest, Andrew Sykes, CEO & Founder of Habits at Work. Listen to the show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Andrew [00:00:01] To sell and to lead essentially means similar things: To help others get what they need, to solve their problems, while you get what you want. If all salespeople and leaders did just this, imagine what would be possible for our customers, for our employees, and our businesses – everyone enjoying a win-win relationship, accelerating our business and our customers’ success.
Don [00:00:28] My name is Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions, and author of the book “Thrive by Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.” I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement, and I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized, and validated. Employees who feel safe are happier, healthier, and more productive. Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers, and we offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges. And you’re listening to Thrive by Design, a podcast created by E3 Solutions to give managers, CEOs, and leaders the tips, strategies, and tools needed to create an engaged culture at work.
Don [00:01:16] Welcome. I’m your host, Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions. We are thrilled to welcome back Andrew Sykes, an expert on leadership, organizational performance, and business development, to conclude his four-part series on high-performing habits at work. Andrew is the CEO of Habits at Work, a Chicago-based firm that helps people create and master high-impact work habits, and spent years researching workplace habits that make business performances thrive.
Don [00:01:49] Today, Andrew will wrap up his Habits at Work series and speak about how to solve problems and negotiate, so that you get what you want while customers get what they need. Welcome back, Andrew. Great to hear your voice again.
Andrew [00:02:02] Always my pleasure, Don.
Don [00:02:03] Andrew, for the benefit of our listeners who might be new to your work or just joining us, can you briefly recap the 11 habits? And then we’ll dive into today’s focus, which will cover the habits of how to solve problems and negotiate. What are the 11 and why 11?
Andrew [00:02:21] Don, we’ve spent now 15 years looking at the behaviors and actions that leaders, managers, and sellers can take, and researching which habits make the biggest difference to the relationships we have with people, the business outcomes we get for our companies, and our own personal effectiveness. And we found that there are a small set of habits that, if you practice them, allow you to show up as a magnetic human being who’s highly effective. And we’ve spoken about many of them on our previous conversations.
Andrew [00:02:54] The first habit is asking for, receiving, and using feedback. We call it the habit of getting good at getting great at anything. It’s a foundational habit.
Andrew [00:03:04] Other habits include listening empathically because we fall in love with people who listen with their hearts. Asking the right questions is another great habit. So is planning and prioritizing to make sure we do the right things in the right order. We’ve all experienced ineffective or boring meetings, so the habit of running effective meetings is a very powerful one in business.
Andrew [00:03:30] We’ve also spoken about the habit of self-care. We call it the 11th habit because many people and companies leave it until it’s too late or until the 11th hour. But, looking after your own health, happiness, and security allows you to show up and be powerful and in performance in everything that you do at work.
Andrew [00:03:50] Last week, we spoke about three habits that create trusted advisor status: the habit of telling stories, the habit of presenting ideas, and the habit of building trust. And today, we’ve got to share with you two more habits.
Don [00:04:04] Well, thank you, Andrew. And those last two habits, these high-performing habits at work, focus on how to solve problems and how to negotiate. Now, why are learning these two habits critical for leaders and managers? And is the order of which these habits appear of any particular significance? This is our last episode in the series. Does this signify that these last habits are particularly important or not as important? What is the role of their order?
Andrew [00:04:31] OK, well, let’s first address the order, and the answer is the order doesn’t usually matter. What matters is that you’re practicing the right habit in the right moment. And these last two are not the most important, although all 11 are important. As an example, it does though sometimes make sense to ask questions first before you listen empathically. But generally, what we are asking leaders to do is to choose the right habit at the right moment to get the right outcome.
Andrew [00:05:02] And why are these last two habits important? Well, leaders are, by definition, tasked with bringing about a new future for their companies and their customers. And that means that they have to be good at solving problems. And because leaders have to deal with so many competing priorities and requests from employees and from customers, they are always negotiating. This is something they should learn to do well, so that they can get what they want while others get what they need, and enjoy the process, and look forward to the next negotiation.
Don [00:05:42] And we work with this as well, Andrew. This is such an important point in our work in our boot camp for managers related to employee engagement. We ask them to come alongside the employee when there is a problem, not to necessarily just admonish them, tell them they made a mistake, but even to approach it, solve the problem through curiosity. What do you think we could do that would change the outcome if we were going to do this again? What should we do differently to make it an open question as opposed to simply saying, Wow, Andrew, you made a mistake. The project was a train wreck. I don’t know what we’re going to do now, but we’re going to have to solve this problem. The solving problems through a positive frame and a frame of curiosity is a huge win for a manager.
Andrew [00:06:23] I couldn’t agree more. It points to what we often call the expert track. The longer you’ve been doing something, the more likely you are to think that this problem today should be solved in the same way that we solved a similar problem yesterday. But the world is changing so quickly that it’s no longer true that what worked to get you here will work to get you to the next place. And so curiosity is a perfect mindset for the habit of solving problems.
Don [00:06:54] Yes, I remember now, Andrew, in a previous episode. It was such an interesting notion that experience can be a detriment to a manager, to an employee, because it gets us locked into a track where we think we know the right thing to do. And that’s a case where experience actually can become a negative.
Andrew [00:07:10] Especially, Don, when we have that kind of automatic experience where we’re just focused on the outcome and not on the process of how we do things.
We have the saying, which is: Automatic experience is the enemy of mastery, whereas deliberate practice or intentional practice with feedback from a coach is the genesis of genius.
Andrew [00:07:34] And it’s never more true than in the area of negotiations, our second habit for today. And in our work at Habits at Work and my work at the Kellogg School of Management, we estimate that even experienced leaders leave at least 10 percent of value on the table whenever they negotiate. And if you think about some businesses, that can add up to millions, or in some cases, billions of dollars of lost revenue or profit margin each and every year for exactly this reason you point to. We get so accustomed to doing these things in the same way, that we don’t see the newness of a particular problem or negotiating opportunity.
Don [00:08:12] Well, let’s dive in. What is the opportunity around how to tackle problem-solving in a way that is different from what managers and leaders are typically doing?
Andrew [00:08:22] There are so many approaches to solving problems, Don, but I think the gist of this habit is not solving problems, period, but solving them in a new way as judged by or from the point of view of the customer.
Andrew [00:08:36] And I’ll give you an example of that. Like when I rent a car, you know, I imagine: What problem is the car rental company solving for me? Well, the obvious answer is helping me get around in a new city where I don’t have a car. But actually, from my point of view, there are many related problems that I have. One is finding my way around a new city. The second is, and it’s an internal frustration for me, getting the car from the rental agency quickly and without hassle, and being able to return it without having to fill it up with gas at a gas station that I don’t know where it is, or being charged a fortune for that privilege.
Andrew [00:09:13] In this case, I would like the car rental company to solve all of my set of problems related to being in a new city and renting and returning a car. And if they looked at the problem from my point of view and asked, How could we solve it differently from this customer’s point of view? they could do that by considering, for example, what I’m doing right before I get in the car, what I’ll do right afterwards, and solving not only my functional needs, but my emotional needs as well.
Andrew [00:09:42] For example, how would you like, Don, to rent a car from a company that has someone standing at the exit of the airport with your name on a sign like you would enjoy if you rented a premium car service? And your rental car is right there for you to literally step into curbside at the airport with no paperwork other than just showing that you are who you say you are with your license. And the GPS is included in the car as a standard feature, maybe with the address of your first meeting preloaded that you could put in online already there for you, so you can go straight to your first meeting. And when you return the car, just drive right up to the passenger drop-off at the airport. Call the car rental company on the way and someone meets you to take the car from you, and you walk right into the airport.
Andrew [00:10:33] And you may say, Well, Andrew, that sounds wonderful, but it also sounds impossible. And I’ll tell you that I’ve enjoyed this kind of service from rental car companies in other countries, and it is possible to scale provided you understand that many customers like me are willing to pay a premium for these extra problems to be solved. In my case, I was happy to pay 25 or 50 percent more for the car to have these additional problems solved and embedded in the service. So, if you consider the problem to be renting a car at the cheapest possible price, you’ll not consider solving the many annoying problems that the highest-using car rental customers like me and you face every single day.
Don [00:11:17] As someone who rents every week, often several cars in different cities, that just sounds like a dream state.
Andrew [00:11:24] Doesn’t it? Yeah. And I think, you know, solving problems is about thinking about the transaction itself like renting a car, but also thinking far beyond that.
What social or emotional needs can I fulfill for my customer beyond the utility of my product? What simultaneous problems can I solve for my customer that my product is not designed to solve, but that I’m uniquely able or placed to solve because I’m right there in front of them at some point in time?
And the obvious example that comes to mind for me is Starbucks providing free Wi-Fi. Now, they didn’t do that out the gate. It took them a while to come to that decision. Now, again, we both travel a lot, so consider just how outrageous it is that airlines today still charge their customers for Wi-Fi on a flight. Do you really think that the marginal revenue from charging for Wi-Fi is less than all the additional seats there and tickets that sell on each plane if they were the first mover in providing free Wi-Fi on their flights to their customers?
Don [00:12:28] I think that’s something inevitable that is going to be headed our way. But right now, for me, it’s not even the problem of paying for the Wi-Fi, Andrew. It’s that they say they have Wi-Fi. You get on, and it doesn’t work, so no matter how much you pay, nothing changes and nothing happens. It is very frustrating when you realize, and I don’t want to go on a riff on airlines, but they’re more controlled by the folks with the green eyeshades trying to squeeze another penny out of every dollar than they are the customer experience. And you know that’s true by the seats and how uncomfortable they are, the seat back pockets that won’t hold anything but a credit card. They just don’t care. And it’s very frustrating.
Don [00:13:01] But look, let’s dive into this next habit about negotiation. Some of our listeners might be surprised to learn that a recent LinkedIn survey revealed that 40 percent of American workers don’t feel confident in their negotiation skills, that nearly a quarter of them said that they’d just skip it altogether.
Andrew [00:13:20] That’s not surprising at all. People have so many weird ideas about negotiations, and what it means, and how it makes you look. Well, I could think of negotiations from a different point of view. For me, it is the art of getting what you want, while making sure that your customer gets what they need, and feels like you’ve been fair, and they look forward to the next encounter. Now, if that’s what you’re producing, you’re making your customers feel great about the experience and get what they need. Why would you feel like you need to skip that or feel like you’re not confident about it? It’s really an act of service.
A good negotiator for me delivers on other people’s human need to win or to feel like they’re winning, and allows them to do that and feel like they’re doing so, while still being able to get what you want. And it really is about creating a win-win for everyone and being fair in the way that you deal with people.
Andrew [00:14:20] There are a couple of big ideas in negotiations that I think many people miss. The first is setting an ambitious goal that addresses all of the goals that you have for your customer and all of the gaps in their alternative plans – you know, the plans that they have but don’t include you if they don’t buy your product. What will they miss if they don’t use your service? What revenue will they not get? And we’re often so worried about asking for a little bit more than last time that we miss the fact that often the right thing for a customer to do is perhaps spend 10 times what they spent with us last year. But, because we were afraid of looking greedy, maybe, we actually miss out on the opportunity to serve our customers if that’s what they really need to do.
Andrew [00:15:08] And secondly, we don’t generally prepare well for negotiations. This is one of those expert traps we’ve been talking about. Preparing means having things we can give or offer, and many things that we can ask for during a negotiation. In this way, we can trade and barter and allow both sides to enjoy the benefits of winning in a conversation, all the while, protecting and ensuring we come close to achieving our key ambitious goals for a negotiation.
Andrew [00:15:39] See, when we lead a negotiation, we signal strength and we gain this anchoring advantage by putting our offer on the table first. But, if we quickly follow that up by conceding early and often, ensuring we have things to give away or enhance the offer during a negotiation, we then signal that we are fair, we’re reasonable, we’re flexible, and we’re generous. So, while our customer is gaining some of these smaller advantages, we gain the big relationship advantage, and in particular, we increase our odds of achieving our key goal.
Andrew [00:16:16] And finally, last, but not least, when negotiating, a key habit is to always offer three side-by-side options from which your customers can choose or consider. And there’s a lot to say about why this rule of three is almost magical. But, it’s the right balance between offering people what feels like enough choice and giving them the sense of flexibility, while not overwhelming them with decision fatigue. So, there’s a lot more to the art and the habit of negotiations, of course. But these three elements go a very long way to ensuring a win-win outcome for everyone.
Don [00:16:53] I really liked this. And I liked especially the point about having three options. It does fit with the research around what is called working memory in the brain. What can we hold onto? And visualize a juggler who’s got three batons in the air. And three batons, they can do really, really well, which is what working memory does. But, you throw that juggler the fourth, the fifth, or the sixth, and it’s much less likely that act is going to be successful. And it’s also true for working memory. So, we don’t want to crowd working memory with things that we can’t negotiate, move around in a fluid way, without having to write something down. I love that.
Don [00:17:26] So, Andrew, you helped us today in these final two habits: solving problems and how to negotiate.
Don [00:17:32] I just want to just briefly touch on what we talked about in the three earlier episodes with you. The first one was episode 39 in our series, and it was habits on how to become a magnetic leader. How to ask for, receive, and give feedback, to listen empathetically, and ask the right questions. In the next one, we talked about preparing to perform – that is planning and prioritizing, do the right things at the right time, how to run effective meetings. And that 11th habit, that self-care habit, the one that many, I think, leaders underperform on, is just taking care of themselves, and how important that is to their performance as a leader.
Don [00:18:07] In the last episode last week, we talked about how to become a trusted advisor by telling stories, presenting ideas, and building trust. And now here today, we are on to more of the 11 habits: how to solve problems and negotiate those problems.
Don [00:18:22] Now that our Habits at Work series is complete, I’m wondering if you’ve met any business leaders that represent what you consider to be a high form of this art.
Andrew [00:18:31] Don, I’ve had the luxury of meeting many wonderful people who practice these habits and are extraordinary as a result.
Andrew [00:18:37] But, one person who comes to mind is someone I know who you know, too. She is my speaking coach, a Vistage chair, and a dear friend, Mikki Williams. People would describe her, and she would describe herself, as a little outrageous, but she’s also one of those magnetic people who others flock to. They like being in her presence because of how she behaves. She’s a firm negotiator, no doubt, but she leaves people feeling like they got what they need and much more.
Andrew [00:19:04] And the enduring effect is that people say this about her, and would say the same about you, when you leave a room, if you practice these habits. They would say: She’s so much more than I expected based on first appearances. And when people practice these habits, their behaviors become the more impressive part compared to their first impression and more impressive than their first impression could ever be. And isn’t that something we’d all love as human beings – is that we get better over time rather than our first impression being the peak?
Don [00:19:40] I agree, Andrew. I always say, in the area of communication, that long after the audience has forgotten the content of your slides or your speech, they will remember what it was like to be with you. And that’s that sense of presence, I think, that impression that you’re talking about.
Andrew [00:19:55] Absolutely.
Don [00:19:57] Thank you, Andrew, for being our guest through this four-part series on high-performing habits at work. It’s been truly enlightening.
Andrew [00:20:08] You’re so welcome, Don. The series has been an incredible amount of fun. Every time I’ve shared something with you, you always have something to share about the research in neuroscience, which I love about you. And, may I say, my experience of you and your team is that you are magnetic, charming, and wonderful people. Your customers are very lucky to have you.
Don [00:20:25] That’s very kind of you, Andrew. I appreciate that very much.
Don [00:20:29] That’s it for today. I’m your host, Don Rheem, and thank you for listening. Next week, we will speak with a very special guest, my wife, Dr. Kathyrn Rheem, an expert on Adult Attachment Theory and director of the Washington Baltimore Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy. Dr. Rheem is a certified emotionally focused therapy trainer, supervisor, and therapist, and has trained hundreds of mental health clinicians in EFT nationally and internationally. Dr. Rheem will talk with us about how Adult Attachment Theory affects the workplace environment and what it means for engagement.
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