Do I Always Have To Negotiate?

This week’s blog post appears on Executive Street Blog. Please click this link to view it.

Every now and then, I have a conversation with one of the leaders I work with who is frustrated with a lack of compliance and accountability in their company. The leader will say something like this: “I told them exactly what I wanted. I explained the reason we needed to do it that way and I am still not seeing the results I want. What is the problem?”

When I point out that perhaps they need to allow folks to weigh in so that they can buy in, I frequently hear a sigh and expressions of more frustration. “Well, that’s just a waste of time,” they might say. Or, “Sometimes I am open to feedback. But sometimes there is a reason I want it done a certain way. I don’t want to waste time in meetings trying to convince everyone to just do it.”

At the other end of the spectrum is the leader who constantly strives for consensus. What I hear from this leader goes something like this: “When I want to implement a change, I ask everyone to weigh in. Then, if there is disagreement, we all meet and discuss it until we agree. If we don’t agree, we don’t do it.”

While there is certainly a place for each of these approaches, there is also a third option: negotiate. The leader who chooses to negotiate begins by understanding where “they” are coming from and what is important to “them,” so that they can turn the discussion into a “we.”

While all three approaches lead to a “yes,” the meaning of that yes can fall anywhere within the following five levels of agreement:

1. Acknowledge the idea
2. See value
3. Buy in
4. Qualified yes
5. Commitment

In my experience, except in an emergency, the first leader I described — the “dictator” — frequently gets only to level 1; thus, the reason for non-compliance. The second leader described — the “consensus builder” — may get to level 2 and 3 occasionally. More often, they either get to the point of watered-down action or no action at all. On the other hand, the third leader — a “true negotiator” — is likely to reach level 5 most often. This approach, like that of the consensus builder, admittedly takes more time at the front end.

Therefore, the questions to ask in each situation are: Is this an emergency? If so, dictate. If this is not an emergency, how important is it to reach true commitment?


Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

Rewarding Innovation: Because Great Ideas Just Don’t Imagine Themselves

This week’s blog post appears on Executive Street Blog. Please click this link to view it.

An engineer friend of mine works for a large, highly innovative company. You know the type of company I’m talking about: the kind that introduces new products, offers unique services, and establishes effective processes with remarkable consistency. The kind of company whose employees get told over and over again, “You’re so lucky!”

But here’s the secret: luck has nothing to do with it. And here’s why:

Innovative companies, like my friend’s company, take creativity very seriously. Innovation isn’t an end result (for example, a successful product), it’s a plan of action, a series of concrete activities — including false starts — just enough of which lead to successful products.

For example, engineers at my friend’s company must set specific performance targets each quarter. Innovation points are an important element of these targets. Innovation points are earned based on specific actions, including coming up with ideas, testing the concepts, taking the approved concept forward to the patent stage, and developing a marketable product. Coming up with an idea and presenting it to an innovation review team is worth a $200 bonus.  If the idea goes forward beyond the initial concept, the employees earn $2,000. Not every idea is a winner, but the program stimulates enough profitable creativity to justify the investment.

This program got me thinking and searching. There are many, many public innovation awards, but I wonder, how common are internal innovation awards? How much innovation would we see if such programs were used more frequently?

Here are my questions for you:

  • What are you already doing to inspire and reward innovation in your company?
  • What might you begin doing, starting tomorrow, to inspire and reward innovation in your company?



Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

How To Recharge Yourself And Your Strategic Plan

What if we simply accept August as the time to recharge our batteries, then get a jump-start on strategic planning for next year?  This week’s blog post appears on Executive Street Blog. Please click this link to view it.

To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred in late July, when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun. They referred to those days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever or even catastrophe.

Today we think of dog days as the time of the year marked by lethargy and often inactivity. Here’s another spin: What if we were simply to accept August as the time to recharge? And then once our batteries are charged, get a jump-start on strategic planning for next year?

All of us possess an inner reservoir of positive energy. It is this positive energy that enables us to move forward. And the human body, like all other energy-powered machines, needs to be charged regularly.

Most of us think of recharging as taking time off. For some, time off means long walks. For others, it means sitting by the beach. Still others look for adventure. All of these methods give the body an opportunity to recharge.

And what about recharging the mind? Is it possible to recharge both the mind and the body at the same time? And, like everything else, is there a benefit to being intentional?

For me, recharging the mind comes from learning. Sometimes it’s reading about leaders that inspire me, sometimes it’s watching a Ted Talk on a topic totally outside what I know and see daily. Taking this journey outside the norm gives me a new perspective and the ability to ask better questions of my clients as they plan for the coming year.

Find your source of inspiration. Become intentional about recharging during these dog days of August.

Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain