Defuse Deceit With These Three Easy Strategies

Give others the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise: That’s the business world’s version of “innocent until proven guilty.”

And that’s why you should make sure your suspicions about others are not just the result of you being envious. Don’t be paranoid, either. People who don’t always agree with your pitch early on aren’t necessarily opposed to it; they just may not yet appreciate what you’re bringing to the table.

Occasionally, some people do only think of themselves and may attempt to thwart your persuasion efforts for self-aggrandizing reasons. They take credit for what’s not theirs, manipulate others and seem concerned only with personal advancement. They might act passive-aggressively by seemingly taking your side but then constantly undermine you through faint praise and nuanced critiques.

When that type of deceit happens, control your emotions. Deceitful people can offend your sense of judgment to such a degree that you’re motivated to go head-to-head with them on an issue in a public setting. Don’t. That’s what they want you to do. A public — or at least an office — feud, whether you win or lose, will delay and often derail your persuasion plans. Most of them meander on interminably, with no resolution and with others rapidly losing interest or at least feeling uncomfortable in group settings.

Additionally, your opponent is likely skilled in the art of deception and will turn public conversations around as if to question your intentions.

Here are three strategies to counteract a deceitful target:

1. Contain the deceit.

Keep other options in your pocket to accomplish tasks without your opponent’s input. Isolating opposition or foot-dragging to minor issues, while gaining momentum on the major elements of your persuasion effort, will allow you to make necessary headway — much like the army that maneuvers around a single island of resistance on the way toward its ultimate goal.

2. Shine a spotlight.

In meetings with others, ask your opponent to discuss his or her concerns. While it’s easy to be deceitful, presenting the facts and figures to defend the deception is much more difficult. This is why group meetings play an important role in honest persuasion exploration.

3. Pay attention to meeting agendas.

The deceitful will place their agenda items at the end of meetings, because they know that’s when the rubber stamp comes out and people are eager to move on. So make sure that those items are higher on the agenda; you will then control the conversation.


Influencing Groups: Why You Don’t Need 100% Agreement

When persuading groups, you don’t need unanimity or an overwhelming mandate to generate agreement; you need critical mass.

Consensus is something everyone can live with, not something everyone would die for. With that in mind, focus on the pragmatism of the numbers. That means that “being right” in your own mind isn’t sufficient. You may have all the facts and all the right conclusions, but that still doesn’t mean your idea will become reality in a group setting.

You must be cajoling and politically savvy. “Work” the system, just as you would “work” a room when you’re networking. You don’t want to meet everyone, just the people who can help you the most. (A politician wants to convince every voter to vote for him or her but is most interested in those voters who can deliver — through their own influence — thousands of additional votes. Hence, a union officer is more attractive to a politician than a union member.)

Groups are not sentient creatures as an entity, but they contain sentient creatures. The legal and marketing departments will have different views on your pitch than, say, the R&D and finance departments.

In other words, where others stand on an issue depends on the professional background they bring to the discussion and the impact a “yes” will have on their job, rank or career.

One of the weaknesses of group influence is that the task takes much longer because of such dynamics. You have to stay the course and, in some cases, outlast opponents who will eventually be transferred, promoted, retired, terminated, or otherwise obscured or overruled. Sometimes, no other way exists, so be prepared for a long-term persuasion arrangement in which you might need to create allies who recognize how they can prosper from your ideas.

Do You Recognize These Three Types of Stress?

Feeling stressed out right about now? To deal with stress, you first must understand where it comes from. The American Management Association identifies three basic types of stress:

1.) Individually oriented stress

2.) Interpersonally oriented stress

3.) Organizationally oriented stress

Let’s break down each of these stress types and explore where and how they originate.

1. Individually Oriented Stress

Face it, most of us create our own stress. It is internal, and very often one of the most challenging types of stress to overcome. Some symptoms of individually oriented stress include:

  • Fear of failure
  • Self-set deadlines
  • Long hours
  • Unrealistic expectations of self, career or goals
  • An overwhelming sense of personal responsibility
  • A self-perceived lack of self-control, personal support or feedback

You are your own toughest critic. As with most things, balance is a significant consideration. You want to take initiative and push yourself, but not to the detriment of your health or well being. (Go ahead: Ask me how I know.)

2. Interpersonally Oriented Stress

When people feel unappreciated or misunderstood by superiors, peers or subordinates, hard feelings take root. Stress also can occur when people believe their colleagues aren’t performing up to par. Open communication works best when battling this type of stress.

I believe no one intentionally shows up at work and says, “Man, I’m going to mess up today!” Most people really want to do a good job. If, in fact, you have an employee who is constantly forgetting to provide the follow-up support necessary to close deals, take the time to show that individual what needs to be done and why. Just don’t berate him.

3. Organizationally Oriented Stress

Employers can create stress in the following ways:

  • Providing unrealistic demands
  • Placing too much emphasis on competition
  • Setting unclear job requirements
  • Not giving enough credit for accomplishments
  • Failing to follow through on expected promotions
  • Providing little information about career paths
  • Allowing workplace politics to fester
  • Avoiding participation in decision making
  • Creating poor work conditions

Managers can easily fall into what I call the “insatiable more” complex, meaning they always demand more and more in terms of business performance. This often can be an exercise in futility, because of all the variables impacting your business.

Four More Ways to Bounce Back After Hearing ‘No’

In a previous post, I wrote about four ideas to help you recover from hearing “no.”  I will now present four more ways to bounce back from rejection.

Here we go:

1. Perform a self-assessment.

Heed your own counsel. Is this the first rejection you’ve received regarding your pitch? Or have you been turned down several times making the same pitch? Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern. Is a pattern emerging?

2. Immediately do something you’re skilled at doing.

Whether it’s writing a memo, coaching a coworker or giving a talk, go do something in which you know you’ll be successful. This success-immediately-after-defeat strategy is a great way to reinstate positive feelings and get them working again in your brain. Even if it’s a small victory, it’s still a victory.

3. Forget about perfection.

Rather, focus on success direction. Set parameters of success, not “either/or” outcomes. Think about your results as the volume nob on an amplifier instead of the “on/off” switch. You turned in a great project and your boss called it “solid” but not “stupendous”? Don’t worry about it. Who uses the word “stupendous,” anyway?

4. Evaluate your entire body of work.

Hank Aaron had a lifetime batting average of .305; Joe DiMaggio, .325; Ty Cobb, .366; Lou Gehrig, .340; Babe Ruth, .342. Those guys failed approximately seven times out of every ten trips to the plate. Not only are they in the Baseball Hall of Fame today, their names are woven into the fabric of our language. If, when is all said and done, people refer to you as the Joe DiMaggio of new products, or the Hank Aaron of project management, or the Babe Ruth of marketing — well, you’d be in some pretty sweet company. Focus on your whole career, not one or two errors in the field.

The next time you hear “no,” don’t be so hard on yourself and make the necessary strides toward getting to “yes” next time.

A Two-Step Process to Measure the Unmeasurable

“You can’t measure morale!” somebody once tried arguing with me. “You can’t measure enthusiasm!”

OK, fair enough. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. That’s why I have a two-step method to help prove the unprovable:

1. Describe an observable behavior that you believe is an indicator of the desired result.

2. Count the occurrences.

It’s that easy.

If you’re seeking sustained high morale, perhaps you’ll choose to measure whether people are on time for staff meetings, or you might calculate what percentage of the staff is displaying positive emotions during a meeting. If you’re seeking efficient and effective teamwork, count the number of times people come into your office asking for you to settle disputes. If you’re trying to build positive repute, keep track of positive media mentions.

Is this a perfect method? Of course not. But it certainly is better and more accurate than using intuition alone. And the results might be compelling enough to help you prove your point.

How to Argue Effectively

I remember a long-ago staff meeting in which I was asked to share my thoughts on a proposal I didn’t much care for.  I knew, though, if I blurted out something like, “I think this is a horrible idea that could potentially debilitate our market share,” I wouldn’t have done myself any favors.

So I kept my emotions in check and learned a valuable lesson about how to make a valid point in a staff meeting that can potentially change the future direction of a particular initiative.

The first step is to remain calm — unemotional, even. Don’t change your facial expression or display body language that shows you disagree with something being said. Simply and politely interject and casually reframe the issue under discussion: “If I may interject here, I think the real question we should be asking ourselves is … ”

Then provide three points supporting your position, and reinforce each one with a fact, statistic, or anecdote: “Why would we want to enter an already overcrowded marketplace with a new product that strays from what we do best? First, we’ll be behind all of the existing manufacturers in the market, and that’s not a place we’re accustomed to being. The latest user surveys suggest we are the go-to brand in all of our product categories; we won’t be with this new one. Do consumers really need or even want another choice? Research shows they already think the market is saturated. Also, some of our current customers might question why we’re moving away from our niche. We’ll be like Coors deciding to sell bottled water in the Nineties.”

Finally, make a recommendation: “I’m in favor of pouring our resources and talent into a new product that will strengthen our current market share and not erode our credibility with consumers.”

If your persuasive tactics are met with skepticism or downright ignored, bring in the heavy artillery: “Do we have data and examples that prove there is a need for the type of product you want to develop?”

If your targets are unable to come up with satisfactory answers, great. Your work here is done. But if they engage your artillery with their own, inquire about the source of that information. Perhaps the firm used to gather market research has been the target of other companies regarding its questionable data gathering.

This process works in non-meeting situations, too. Consider the people who work at a Kia dealership and need to convince BMW loyalists that Kia’s K900 luxury model (with a base price of $50,000) is an overall better value than that 528i sedan they’re driving now. Those salespeople don’t want to waste their time and energy talking about Kia’s lengthy and successful tradition of making mainstream, economy-friendly cars; they must focus on the fact that Kia is a luxury automobile maker, too, and emphasize that from visual, drivability and technological perspectives, the K900 compares favorably to the 528i. But add in options, and you’ll be paying a lot more to outfit that Bimmer with what comes standard on the K900.

Why More Than One Point of View Is Critical to Persuasion Success

The weather in Wisconsin is finally turning spring-like, and this past weekend’s 80-degree temperatures reminded me of a funny story about persuasion:

Although my wife and I enjoy fishing together, we are the antithesis of Bassmasters participants in that we fish from a pontoon boat complete with snacks and frequent naps. We basically put our living room on the water and call it sport. The one thing we do share with the pros is fancy “fish finder” technology. We, too, have one of these expensive black boxes that provide sonar‐created pictures of what’s under the boat.

Fast‐forward to a warm early-June morning as Amy piloted our pontoon living room through a tight channel on Wisconsin’s Whitewater Lake. While she kept a careful eye on the finder, I busied myself preparing the tackle for our day on the water. “Mark, we need to stop here,” Amy said excitedly, “I’ve never seen so many fish!”

“But we never fish here,” I growled like the character Quint in the movie Jaws, as I made my way to examine the sonar image.

It was an unbelievable sight. The underwater world around us was exploding with fish. Big fish, little fish and the most picturesque drop‐offs and covers. It was amazing. This was going to be a great day.

After two hours of fishless‐fishing we couldn’t understand what we were doing wrong. I studied the finder, still teeming with aquatic life.

We were fishing the simulation.

Yep, we had just spent two hours fishing the computer‐generated quintessential fishing paradise created by the marketing geniuses at Garmin!

All of which brings me to this: If you want to hear “yes” more often, you need to have the right “read” on the territory. To do that, practice convergent validity — that is, the idea of getting three points of view before you make a decision or take action. Don’t just take one customer’s viewpoint on your new product or service; get input from three customers. If there is a performance issue with your sales process, observe it for yourself, ask a customer about it and then go to someone else, too.

Trust me. The fishing will be better.

Why Consensus Is Overrated

Sometimes the most compelling path to persuasion isn’t via group buy-in. In fact, dissension in the ranks can establish you as a bolder leader.

Leaders are paid to achieve results. Period. They often, therefore, must make tough decisions — decisions that others might shy away from or try to drown in a group setting. U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower didn’t call a meeting before launching the D-Day invasion of Europe, and US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III didn’t ask permission from the control tower prior to landing Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after geese disabled engine power.

In other words, leadership doesn’t happen by committee. When the situation warrants, you need to make the tough call. So the next time you’re in a meeting and consensus regarding your ask seems unforthcoming, be the voice of reason for the group and render a decision that you know will result in the right outcome.

You lead by creating results from which the majority will benefit — even if the majority doesn’t agree with you at that moment.