Smart People + Smart Leadership = Happy Customers? by Lucy Freedman

Interpersonal Intelligence for Technical Organizations

By Lucy Freedman, developer of the SYNTAX of Influence, co-author of Smart Work (the second edition of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence, is available at HappyAbout.com or Amazon. ).

Originally published at http://svforumelsig.blogspot.jp/

When I first started my business, a mentor quizzed me about what it meant to have a business. Does coming up with a great idea make it a business? Clearly no. Does having a product make it a business? What about an office, employees, marketing? No, no, and no, he said. You have a business when you have a customer.  Aha.

lucyfreedman

In the world of technology, we can get so focused on the product or process that the relationship part of the business receives a minimal amount of mindshare. Sure, when we need to make a funding pitch, attract a key executive, or give a customer presentation, we put attention into those relationships. Even then, it’s typical of technologists to be mostly content-oriented and not so focused on tuning into the interests of their audience.  There’s room for growth.

While the ability to relate well with funders, talent, and customers is important for business success, the internal communication in a company is equally important. What customers and VC’s really want is for the product to work and meet their needs in a timely and cost-effective way.  For that to happen, managers and teams need to be able to get on the same page and come up with solutions and answers. Knowledge needs to be mobilized. Deadlines need to be met. Problems need to be solved. All this takes communication that is both focused and flexible.

The Challenge

The kinds of interpersonal intelligence that allow people and teams to collaborate well tend to be underdeveloped in engineering organizations for three main reasons.

  • Engineers are generally not drawn to learning “soft skills”
  • Engineering leadership is mostly made up of engineers
  • Most interpersonal skills training is oriented more toward personal growth than practical business interactions.

As a result, efficiency, accurate and relevant sharing of knowledge, and delivery to the customer are often hampered by turf battles, planning disconnects, and just plain miscommunication.

Is this just a depressing downer, condemning engineering organizations and their customers to clunky communication, relieved only by those special high-tech + high-touch individuals who can navigate well both technically and interpersonally? Although many are resigned to this state of affairs, there are lights flickering here and there.

Bright Lights and Good Books

In fact, at a past Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Community meeting, Ron Lichty presented a “Crash Course” based on his new book with co-author Mickey W. Mantle, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams  (Addison-Wesley, www.ManagingTheUnmanageable.net ). They address important considerations for people who move up the technical ladder from writing code to managing people.

Another new and highly recommended book on this subject is Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman (O’Reilly Media, 2012). It’s very entertaining reading and addresses expanding circles of influence, from your own team to the organization to the user community.

A few years back,  Michael Lopp wrote the insightful and humorous book, Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager (Apress, 2007). Michael gives practical advice for many of the situations that recur in software development. He names some of the types of people you’ll run across – such as Mr. Irrelevant, Laptop Larry, Curveball Kurt, the Snake, and Free Electrons. Cleverly written, full of useful homilies.

What all of these books have in common is the practical experience of the authors, who have lived what they are writing about.  They share illustrative stories that those who follow in their footsteps will easily relate to.

De-coding How People Work

As an outsider who can’t code my way out of a paper bag, I have been taking a different approach for the past few decades of working as a consultant, coach, and facilitator for high tech companies.  Programmers understand the structure, or syntax, that is required for code to work. I have studied the structure, or syntax, that is required for human communication to work.

What I have discovered is that the smart people who know how to code have an easier time learning interpersonal skills when they have access to the proper syntax for communicating. Hundreds of engineers have experienced and applied the SYNTAX model to their workplaces. People who considered themselves non-people-oriented have shown that with several relatively small changes in their communication, they can achieve great improvements in their working relationships.

This is not about sentence structure or grammar. If you consider that people are pretty systematic in how we organize our perceptions and our behavior, it makes sense that you can detect each person’s syntax, and hence, get more predictable results with them. There’s also a structure, a syntax derived from studying outstanding performers, that makes communication work better. Our model, SYNTAX, represents that architecture so that people can easily learn it.

It’s explained in detail in the book Smart Work, which I co-authored with Lisa Marshall. If you are interested in getting a look at it, or even writing a review, please contact me at syntaxoffice@syntx.com and I will gladly share it with you.

Smart Leadership

When leaders in an organization start practicing SYNTAX principles, or some of the other excellent suggestions in the books listed above, they create a climate where it is much more natural for others to collaborate productively as well. It’s a matter of good design of human systems – whether writing effective, clean code for applications that will benefit people, or holding effective, clean meetings where work gets done and agreements are solid, it’s about designing intelligent human systems.

Whether through the stories and rules of the road derived from experience, or through applying a systematic, structured approach to interpersonal behavior, everyone benefits when a technical organization develops its conscious competence at communicating.

Engineering is about solving real-world problems and creating innovations that make a difference.  It takes smart people working well together to do this successfully. With smart people, smart leadership, and outstanding communication, you get happy customers. That, plus your satisfaction at meeting your own high standards, makes it worthwhile to master the softer skills.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucy Freedman is Founder and CEO of Syntax for Change, working with change leaders in technology companies to spread collaborative leadership throughout their organizations and to their strategic partners. Lucy has trained and certified both internal and external facilitators who have implemented Syntax programs in companies such as Agilent, HP, Sun, Oracle, EDS, Tokyo Electron, Intel, National Semiconductor, and Cisco Systems. Visit SyntaxforChange.com for an explanatory video and to request a complimentary sample chapter of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence. Direct email is lucy@syntaxforchange.com.

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How To Sell To Indecisive People by Amy Walker

 

Amy Walker Pic(First Published at http://amywalkerconsulting.com/blog/ on September 16, 2014)

They want it, they need it, but they just can’t commit!  It’s tricky.  I get it.  We don’t want to lose the sale by giving up too soon.  But we don’t want to be strung along missing out on other sales while we do everything in our power to get this person to sign.

Client uncertainty

The first key to selling to indecisive people is to recognize what type of indecisive person they are.

1. People pleaser: People pleasers want to make everyone happy with them and have a very hard time saying no.  Because they are taking you into consideration, they have a hard time getting clear on what they want.  You can sell to a people pleaser by manipulation, but DON’T!  You will have more cancellations, and dissatisfied clients if you take this route.  And both of those are expensive.  Instead use verbiage like, “It seems like you are having a hard time deciding.  If you take me out of the picture, what would you most want to do?  Because even though I would love to have you as a client, I wouldn’t want you to decide to work with me unless it is absolutely what you want.”

2. Co-dependent: Co-dependent people struggle to make decisions on their own.  They want someone else’s input.  Sometimes that other person really does need to be involved in the decision and sometimes they have no business being involved in the decision.  The key to selling to this type of person is to find out who the other person they need to talk to is.  The second step is to ask, “Does this person play a role in (your business, your household management, your daily hair styling etc.)?”  If they do play a role and should be involved in the decision, simply ask, “Can we get them on the phone or schedule a time when the three of us can meet?”  If they are not involved ask the question, “What do you think they will say, and why is it important to you to talk to them first?”  Honestly, I could write an entire article on how to close this one, but for the sake of keeping this article from becoming a novel we’ll leave it at that.  This will give you some crucial information to get the conversation started.

Accounting3. Over Analyzer: This person needs a lot of details!  They will want to read everything you have printed, they will want to interview your clients, they will want to scope out your website, and they may want to pull a back ground check on you.  To sell to this type of person DO NOT ask them to make a decision before they know what they need to know.  You will break rapport.  Asking this type of person to act without information is like asking them to jump off a cliff when they don’t know what is at the bottom.  Instead, ask the questions, “What do you feel like you need to know in order to feel good about this purchase?”  “What other questions can I answer for you?”  And “What type of information would you like on this?”  They may need to read through information on their own, but whenever possible try to get all of their questions answered during your meeting.  Make sure you set a follow up call with a very firm date and time.  Set the follow up call for a day or two later.  Don’t let them go a week, because during that time they will come up with another question, not have an answer and decide that it isn’t going to work for them.

4. Feeler: Feelers need to feel good about the purchase and no amount of logic or information will replace them having an internal confirmation about what is right to do.  These people will need to pray about it, sleep on it, consult their crystals, do muscle testing, or any other host of things that are completely unrelated to your conversation.  Believe it or not, I am a feeler.  I do get a lot of information and ask questions so I can see the big picture, but when it comes down to it, if I don’t get a good vibe, I will not work with someone.  But that is not the kiss of death!  Feelers need an internal confirmation, but they can also get that pretty quickly.  You just need to ask them questions that will get them looking inside right now.  Use phrases like, “I understand and I want you to feel good about this decision too.  Can I ask you a question?  As we have gone through the information about (my product, service etc) what is your heart telling you?  Are you feeling comfortable with me?  Do you want a few minutes alone to check in and see if you feel like this is right?”

Green light5. Green Lighters: This group wants the perfect time.  They want the stars to align.  They want all of the lights to be green before they start out.  This is the most challenging group for me to work with.  I will have people who really want to coach with me and just need to wait for the right time, and a year later they are saying the same thing and again the next year, same conversation.  It’s crazy!  Your goal with these people is to help them understand that if they choose not to move forward, they will not receive the benefits they are looking for.  I do everything I can to close these people on the spot because I have found they are the least likely to close at a later date.  I will ask them questions like, “Why does this feel like the wrong time?”  What would need to happen for this to feel like the right time?”  If they say something like, “The fall would be better.”  Don’t accept that answer!  They are just trying to put off making the decision.  If they have something concrete like, “I’m having a baby in 3 weeks and it’s not a good time.”  You will want to accept that answer, it’s legit!

All of us are indecisive at one point or another.  Don’t get frustrated with your clients, just patiently resolve their concerns.  They are human and so are you!  If you want to attract people who are more ready to make decisions, get clearer in your own decisions.  Don’t ask people to do what you are not doing.  What brand of indecision shows up for you?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Walker is an International Executive Business Coach and CEO/Founder of Amy Walker Consulting.  As a Featured Professional Speaker she has shared the stage with some of the top names in the industry including Willie Jolley and Delatorro L. McNeal II.  Amy is a Master of Sales and has written sales scripts for billion dollar companies and organizations.  She has been regularly featured on television, radio, and print.  Amy is passionate about Women in Business, Making Businesses Thrive, and Balancing Business and Family.  She is the happily married mother of 5 boys.
Website: www.amywalkerconsulting.com
Facebook:  Amy Walker Consulting  – https://www.facebook.com/AmyWalkerConsulting
Twitter: @amywalkercoach – https://twitter.com/AmyWalkerCoach
Instagram: amywalkercoach – https://instagram.com/amywalkercoach/
Youtube:  Amy Walker Consulting – https://www.youtube.com/user/awalker2911
Linkedin: Amy Walker – www.linkedin.com/in/amywalkerconsulting

 

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