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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

What restaurants can teach us about communication





Restaurants confuse me.

They have thirty things on the menu. But I’d only ever choose ten of them. Why have the other twenty?

Then, after I’ve finished eating and am full, waiters keep bringing hot food from the kitchen for other diners. But I’m full. How can they be hungry?

And then it hits me: other people are different to me. They like different things. Just because I’m full doesn’t mean they are. I might be at the finish line, but they haven’t started yet.

And people are different aren’t they?

A teacher and his apprentice are at a busy train station. The teacher turns to his apprentice and asks if she she can see any two people who look identical. The apprentice could not. The teacher tells the apprentice that’s because everyone’s different and we can only see their outside. The differences are even greater on their inside. And so, it’s important to understand them, so you both enjoy chatting.

Obvious, yes. But worth remembering when you’re communicating:

  • Preparing a communication for someone important? Ask what they want you to talk about. Don’t just trot out what you think they want 
  • In a sales meeting? Ask about them, their company, what’s annoying them, what they would prefer things to be like. Trust me, they’ll prefer this to you starting with “We were founded in 1922” 
  • In an argument? Just because someone annoyed you doesn’t mean they intended to. So, if you react to them angrily, they will be surprised, defensive… and maybe even aggressive to you. So work hard to see things from their point of view, so you can find an outcome you are both happy with. Remember, it’s more important to find a solution than it is to prove you’re right 

Action point


What’s the next thing in your diary?

Preparing a communication for someone important? In a sales meeting? In an argument? Doing a different type of communication?

Remember: work hard to see things from their point of view. Ask them what it is. Do that, and you’re much more likely to reach a great outcome for you both.


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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Outstanding communication, especially WHEN IT COUNTS





Have you ever been on a workshop that you knew would change your life? Then, put your notes in your desk drawer…

… only to forget all about them, finding them by accident a few months later?

The trouble with wanting to change how you act in certain situations is that, next time the situation arises, you might forget what you’d planned to change.

And this isn’t our fault. After all, there isn’t much we can do if it doesn’t enter our head when it matters.

Well, actually that’s wrong.

It is our fault. We should have remembered. And the only way to remember when it counts, is to have a reminder when it counts.

For example, let’s say you want to remember to include Calls To Action at the end of your emails. That means you’ll need to remember when it matters – in other words, every time you’re emailing.

This means you need a reminder every time you’re sending an email.

The solution? Change your email autosignature. After all, you see it every time you send an email. It makes it impossible for you to forget. So now, instead of it saying “Cheers, James”, it now says “Our actions: XXX. Cheers, James”. Your reminder is now front-of-mind, because it’s front-of-face.

See how it works? All I did is ask myself “what am I looking at every time I do this thing I want to change?”; and then put my reminder there.

Other examples:

  • Want to smile more when you’re making presentations? Well, your eyes will be looking at your presenter notes. So write the word “smile” all over them 
  • Fed up with attending boring meetings that don’t have a desired outcome? Change your standard meeting agenda templates – insert a box at the top, containing the heading “Desired outcomes”. Next time you print the agenda, you can’t miss it 
  • Want to remember to cover a few key points in a meeting? Get the thing you’ll be making your notes on during the meeting – your pad, iPad, etc – and write a reminder on there. The other person won’t mind. And you won’t forget 
  • Got in the bad habit of turning up to meetings unprepared? Put a recurring calendar reminder every Friday morning – “Preview next week’s meetings – for the ones I need to go to, do the prep now. For the ones I don’t, decline now” (this is always a popular tip!) 

This Tip is a good one. It’ll help you improve; and without effort. In fact, I bet you’ll remember it for a few minutes.

But will you remember it when it counts?

Action Point


  1. Identify one improvement you want to make (for example, to your emails) 
  2. Think what you’re looking at when you do this thing (your email autosignature) 
  3. Put a reminder there so you always remember when it counts

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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The best 4 ways to handle price in a negotiation




One of the questions people ask me most often:

What can I do when someone says "Can you do anything about price?"

Well, one response is "Sure. I can put it up if you'd like?"

And this might work! But it mightn’t be for everyone. So here are some other things you can do:

Convince yourself. Most importantly, convince yourself that your price is fair. After all, If deep-down you think it's too expensive, you won't handle their concerns very well. And if you don't think the price is fair, chat with someone about it – your boss, colleagues, customers… anyone. Help them help you feel comfortable about it

Discuss price last. If I tell you the price of something is 20.000€, do you think that sounds a good deal? Well, you can’t tell, can you? It depends what you’re buying – it’s cheap if it relates to a new helicopter; but expensive for a sandwich. So, focus first on the thing you’re selling. Be clear on the benefits it’ll bring them, and how valuable these will be. When you then mention price, they see it in context, and that it’s cheap compared to the value they’ll be getting

Provide options. Don’t say ‘it costs 20.000€ – want it or not?’ They might say ‘not’. Instead, offer 2-3 different options, each with different price-points. That way, if they think one price is too expensive, they can choose a cheaper option

Be prepared. Pre-prepare your response to them saying "That’s too expensive. Can you do anything about price?" It's a key part of your prep to be able to deal with this. Here are a few ideas:
  • It depends what you compare it to. We've agreed that a successful outcome to this project is worth over 1million€ to you. The price is only 20.000€ – that's a Return On Investment of 50:1 
  • I could reduce the price if you wish. What part of my proposal would you like me to remove? 
  • But we spend lots of money on other, less essential things - for example, X and Y. Why can’t we transfer budget from them to this? 
  • Yes but how much would it cost if we did nothing
  • Yes but how much would it cost if we did nothing, and our competitors did something
  • The biggest cost here is if we did nothing. How would you advise we overcome this? 

There are some people who enjoy discussing price (though, in my experience, not many).

But it’s an essential skill to master. Yes, your customers want to feel they've got a good deal. But so do you. So, your aim is to arrive at a price that both of you think is fair.

That means you've got a win-win. And that ensures you'll keep trying and they'll keep buying.

Action point


Got a price negotiation coming up? Prepare – a lot, if need be – how you'll handle it. Remember, the first step is convincing yourself the price is fair. After that, it's a question of working on the scripts you’ll say to present your price in the most compelling way.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

How to handle questions you dread being asked





Every time you communicate, there are things you dread happening…

What if somebody asks a question you can't answer? Or they don't agree with you? Or they want to know about a topic you're discussing later? Or ask the question you're dreading coming up?

It’s easy to think you dread these things happening.

But that's not right.

Instead, what you dread is your inability to deal with it. That rabbit-in-headlights feeling of "Oh no. What do I say now?"

This is, of course, good news. Since you dread not knowing how to respond…

…work out in advance how you’ll respond.

That way, you’ve nothing to dread.

For example, if someone asks about a topic you’re discussing later, you could say "That's a great question. But let me explain a couple more concepts to you first before I answer it. My answer will make more sense then."

Or, when someone asks a question you haven't prepared for, you could say "There are a couple of ways I could answer this. Before I do, let me check – what's behind your question?"

Or if somebody says something hostile, you could reply with "Why do you ask that?"

These are just examples. You’ll create your own scripts, of course. But it's essential you do. After all, you’ll have to create them at some time - either calmly at your desk beforehand; or panicky in your presentation, when everyone’s watching…

I know which I'd prefer.

And which they’d prefer.

Action point


For your next communication:

  • identify the things you're dreading them saying 
  • script how you’ll respond 
  • practise saying this script out loud beforehand… 

…That way, the first time the words come out of your mouth isn’t when someone’s watching you.

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Thursday, 1 September 2016

What kind of teacher are you?



Teaching is a critical part of your job.

From inducting new starters to upskilling your successor; from leading your team to leading change; from training groups to coaching individuals… The more successfully you teach, the more successful you’ll be.

Over the years, I've helped tons of people teach better. And I've found there are broadly three types of teacher.

Which one are you?

#1 – Teacher

The first type is the Teacher. Their sole focus is the teaching event.

Like the Leader who does a one-off roadshow to explain her new strategy, ending with a summary slide - ‘This is everything I’ve just taught you’.

Or the Trainer who ends his workshop with a Happy Sheet focusing only on the workshop – ‘How would you rate the day? Did you enjoy the day? Was I great today?’

Sound familiar? I imagine so. It’s by far the biggest category.

#2 – Action Causer

The second one is the Action Causer. These people want their teaching to cause action.

For example, the Leader whose strategy presentation's last slide says "Immediate next steps". Or the Trainer who ends the workshop with everyone completing their Action Plan.

#3 – Habit Changer

The third type is the Habit Changer. These people see their role as being to change people's long-term behaviours. So they’re like Type #2’s Action Causers in that they want to cause actions. But they also want those actions to keep happening.

And they recognise that, since habits are long-term things, their colleagues will need long-term support to change them.

So, the roadshow/workshop will end with – and then be followed by – things like:

  • Action Plans 
  • Templates for people to follow, so they always do it the new way 
  • Accountability Sessions, where people share successes, learnings and challenges 
  • Identifying in advance things that might cause people to revert, and pre-empting how to overcome them 
  • When people adopt the new way, lots of reward and recognition 
  • When people revert, immediate stepping-in to stop it 
  • Peer review 
  • Follow-up coaching 
  • And so on 

So my question again: of the three types, which are you?

Now a more important question: which would you like to be?

And if your answers to these two questions are different…

Action Point


… How will you change your habits so you change how you teach others? Some/all of: action plans, templates, Accountability Sessions...?

How about frequent reminders, to keep it front-of-mind.



** If you liked this post, then click here to continue reading about the professor who stood before his philosophy class...***



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