Business demands innovation, of being on the leading edge of any field. Intellect, intelligence or graduate degrees will never be substitutes for common sense, people sense and street smarts. This article is about business and its components and the role street smarts plays in business life- the ability to make active, positive use of your perspicacity, instincts and perceptions. Street smarts is simply applied people sense, the basis of any business association. Essentially, it involves assessing people and using that knowledge to get what you want. Its a talent you can learn...
What is a Business?
A business is an organized effort to sell products and services on a regular basis. You are not the only businessman on the prowl; for all you know, there could be thousands of other businessmen, dealing in similar products and services globally. In today’s world of cutthroat marketing, business is one big competition for a larger bite of the pie. Competition between manufacturers consists of developing products that retail stores want to stock. Competition between businesses or stores consists of trying to get the customer to buy their product instead of the one offered by the competitor. In such cases, there is a clear winner and loser. But in the larger picture, businesses compete to see which has the greater market share and is more successful. The best lesson anyone can learn from a business school is an awareness of what it can’t teach you - all the ins and outs of everyday business life.
There are three parts to an economy: Business, People, and Product Marketing. All three have witnessed an upheaval come this millennium. All three will be examined in this book in turn, after having set the stage for a study. This study has several important lessons to teach, so do understand it fully.
According to Edward de Bono and Robert Heller, the Millennium marked a watershed in that companies realized that after 2000, they would not survive long unless they joined a threefold revolution - in management itself, information technology, and global markets. The three feed off each other. Radical changes in management have become inseparable from those in technology. Without either, globalization could never have developed such power. The technology of information and communications did not create the triple revolution, but enabled it. Technology is expediting the onrush of organizations into brilliant new modes of management: not only global, but interactive, innovative, collaborative, anti-hierarchical, user-friendly. But technology and its suppliers are themselves changing at critical speed, which puts further intense pressure on managements. They cannot stand still: they have to ride the seemingly unstoppable crest.
The late Twentieth Century revolution in management did not spring full-born out of cyberspace. It was accelerating well before the Internet rewrote the business books: the first Website opened as late as 1993. The revolution is being driven by irresistible forces: fragmentation of markets, anarchic technologies, more demanding customers, intensified competition and general over-capacity have all helped to undermine the old principles of business economics.
Old-style physical strengths have been superseded by intangibles. As the battle switched to the arena of ideas, the IT revolution sponsored and then responded to management's inexorable progress into the era of 'globalization and knowledge'. Both depend heavily on the information powers of hardware and software and the connectivity of telecommunications.
Whether the purpose is measuring results, adding value, running sales and marketing, or managing people, the leadership of organizations now hinges on present and future digital breakthroughs.
Running a Business
The New Corporate Armory
The new corporate armory includes integrated database systems, 'virtuality' (in which
company, customer and supplier are wired together), mass customization and flexible organizational forms. These developments, along with many others, are changing the nature of management. A networked company is a different kind of company, and most managers are now appreciating the difference.
Managers are told that IT 'changes the way you compete.' So it does. IT companies, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, have taken the lead in developing brand-new managerial concepts and with their super speed and can-do culture - especially the can-do culture', the young electronic leaders 'are changing the rules of management.' Outside micro-electronics, the business world has been slow to follow these exciting paths.
Management strata are fewer, product life-cycles shorter, dress and manners more casual. But that hardly adds up to a revolution. As Peter Drucker points out, 'approximately 90% or more of the information any organization collects is about inside events.' If you think that can create victory, think again.
'Increasingly, a winning strategy will require information about events and conditions outside the institution: non-customers, technologies other than those currently used by the company and its present competitors, markets not currently served, and so on. That information may already exist: harvesting the data and, still more, making sense of the crop has been the essence of the alleged "information overload." Paul Saffo.
In running a business, the problem is not just the mass of information, but its management. The issue isn't managing costly hardware and expensive software, but managing incredibly cheap information to achieve enriching results - or to avoid impoverishment. Consider the tragic tale of Encyclopedia Britannica, whose sales halved in half-a-dozen years in front of the onslaught of CD-ROMs selling at a thirtieth of the price. You can't compete with a product that costs only $1.50 to make when your own requires $200-300. That information was available to Britannica but was disregarded; facts were not properly managed, and business disaster followed.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill time available. To become a successful businessman, you have to beat Parkinson. This holds good for internal meetings also. If you don’t nip it in the bud, the amount of work done at any meeting will be inversely proportional to the number of people in attendance. You will also find the number of subjects to be discussed expand to fill the available time. Use an agenda, and structure the meeting as an information gathering exercise within a stipulated time frame for the decision as to who will accept responsibility.
Most businessmen complain that their greatest frustration is not having enough time. The simple solution is to control your business day, rather than having it control you. A few tips on time management by Mark McCormack, author of What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, as well as by others are listed below:
Then stick to your schedule.
The state of the information revolution mirrors that in management itself. What needs to be done, and what works elsewhere, is evident. The problem is sluggish response, which is an ugly feature of hierarchy: information can only move in steps up and down hierarchical pyramids: each step imposes delay and effort. Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster, of Boston Consulting Group, argue instead for 'hyperarchy'(sic) - and they offer a prime example: the World Wide Web.
Within a totally flat structure, all information on the Web is available to everybody who has access. Also hyperarchical is 'the pattern of amorphous and permeable corporate boundaries characteristic of the companies in Silicon Valley' - the pattern described above. The options are expiring fast. Quite soon, the choice will lie between the new model or nothing. A new breed of company is emerging to lead the Triple Revolution. These businesses are customer-driven in a new sense: they not only respond to customers' wants, but they place the customer in the driver's seat by, paradoxically, leading the customer in directions chosen by management. That paradox springs from innovation. These companies are made dynamic by brilliant ideas, conceived in quantity, realized at speed, and all aimed at both creating and serving the market. If you are not part of the hyperarchy, get there pronto.
These new leaders are steeped in state-of-the-art information and communication technology, either as its suppliers, its users and/or as both. They have emerged and are emerging in all countries, all markets and all industries. They have shattered the mould of the world economy. Are you one of these? According to a famous 1960s projection, the world economy was supposed to fall into the hands of 300 mega-multinationals. Instead, it is the mighty who are in danger of falling - and many have.
They have tried to avoid their apparent fate. But whether it is shattered profits (Shell), achieving turmoil by takeover (BMW), inability to grow businesses (Siemens) - the list of giant victims rumbles on and on. In the future, size is less relevant than speed, and muscle less important than litheness. In the real world, lumbering elephants are exposed by the aggression of speeding midgets. No matter how hard they try (IBM) the old-line companies, even those that have pioneered the new technology, cannot win the sprint championship - and that is increasingly the only race in town. Keep your racing spikes handy.
That places unprecedented pressure on the mighty. The Internet affects them in two painful ways. First, cyberspace has brought global competitiveness within the reach of any entrepreneurial spirit, even with modest resources. Second, the same technology has become a decisive weapon for revolutionary companies, strong on people policies, low on hierarchy, fluid, flexible and fleet. Often created by the entrepreneurial spirits mentioned above, these new competitors have decisive advantages over the mighty and muscular.
They even have money, in millions and billions. The insane boom in Internet stocks in 1999 had an eminently sane side. It enabled the new entrepreneurs to lay their hands on super-abundant capital, priced with wonderful cheapness. The cash hoards of new heavyweights like Microsoft, moreover, surpassed those of the old-line leaders. Well-financed, well-staffed, and well-managed, the revolutionaries have nothing to fear from corporations which were once cushioned by their wealth and fixed assets.
Financial services show vividly what must happen on a widening front. Virtually every company in banking, or insurance, or home loans follows the same strategy: 'down-sizing' and 'restructuring'. Piece by piece, the profitable business is being chewed away by newcomers like First Direct, which pioneered telephone banking in Britain, and Charles Schwab, the investment king of cyberspace.
In every industry, many more upstarts are starting up every month, every week, probably every day. Whole sectors will fragment and reform, much like computerization itself. As that industry churned, IBM lost its stronghold in hardware (which none of its big time rivals had been able to dislodge) to little PC and workstation rivals. It fell behind in third-party software, too, losing out to Microsoft and swarms of other midgets (then).
In services, beaten to the punch by upstart EDS and another tiny crowd, IBM was confronted by converted accountancy practices. In microcircuits, start-up Intel has left IBM in the dust - and so on. Each of the King's challengers seemed insignificant on entry, only for the fastest to emerge as new giants, billionaire companies whose wealth is created by equity markets and predicated on the ability to mine still more paper gold.
Nature abhors a monopoly, and so does technology. Even Microsoft is under a multi-pronged threat. Technology is many-sided and no respecter of persons or the past. Both economics and applied science work against industrial establishments. History tells that it is desperately difficult, anyway, to reverse such rolling tides. Even King Canute failed. The revolutionaries, led by the Silicon Valley Guevaras, are much younger people, who carry no baggage, make up their traditions as they go along, and discard them just as rapidly.
Established companies in the establishment industries have great difficulty in changing: metamorphosis is beyond their capability. Just embracing the new technology of marketing and selling will not avert nemesis. The technology is essential, and most companies have been abysmally slow in adopting e-commerce breakthroughs. But management processes also need revolution. Today you cannot afford to delay decisions for months while committees deliberate, back-burners get overloaded, and defensive people cover their backs. Nor dare you frustrate the young, bright and ambitious by resisting, second-guessing and eventually killing their ideas.
Do that, and they will react like today's promiscuous customers. They will vote with their well-shod feet. The troubled giants face a dual retention problem. They stand to lose both their best clients and their best employees, very possibly to existing upstarts, or to start-ups of the employees' own. The initials SAP should be engraved on every mega-company's heart. They are already more than likely to be engraved on its mind, for SAP's enterprise-wide software systems have been installed by blue-chip after blue-chip.
SAP has a hold over this top-level market that is reminiscent of IBM's prowess with
mainframes. The analogy is appropriate, since the German company was founded by four engineers who broke away from IBM when its management frustrated their project. The enormously expensive contracts which SAP now fulfills have taken its sales to $5 billion and its market value to $xxxx billion, in multiples of IBM’s net worth. Every one of SAP's contracts represents business which might have been IBM's.
The Double Loss
The double loss of clients and people is today's problem as well as tomorrow's. The law
of nature would suggest nothing different. The braver and better course for larger corporations is to embrace and manage change: to ride the revolution.
No blue-chip behemoth has attempted this. But the failures provide no reason for not trying: quite the reverse. Otherwise the survivors risk the same fate as more than half the original British companies in the FTSE 500, who have simply dropped out of the list, after only 15 years. The next 15 will be even deadlier for would-be dinosaurs, richer still for their young and thrusting predators. On one prediction, 80% of the Fortune 500 is faced with dwindling or disappearance over the next few years.
Bizarrely, their managements may be congratulating themselves on having raised 'shareholder value' even as their companies head for a great fall. Business Week calculated that IBM would enhance Share Holder Value (SHV) only by selling no less than five major businesses - including PCs - to focus on services, etc. 2004 saw that happen. But sell-off exercises merely repair the devaluation wrought by past neglect of the real, intrinsic worth of businesses. IBM's PCs once had an Intel-like quasi-monopoly. Successive PC managements (changed far too often) devalued the strategic strength of a marvelous brand. Sold off, the PC business, along with IBM's other suggested discards, might have remade itself into a revolutionary operation - a real challenger to the upstarts (Compaq and Dell) who were allowed by IBM to seize advantage after advantage.
Michael Dell’s true success lies in the design and creation of business systems that achieve non-financial prodigies of performance, e.g. Dell has brought inventory down to eight days, a third of Compaq's. The proper target for management is optimization of the system to achieve best-of-breed performance on all significant measures, internal and external. The SHV thus created lies in the ability to generate superior revenue and profit growth over time.
The Knowledge Powerhouse
Taking the share price as objective puts the cart far ahead of the horse. And if putting the business unequivocally first also does wonders for the 'discounted present value of future cash flows', so much the better for everybody - including shareholders. Giving such priority to the business means priority for information and communications technology, for the simple reason that moving the organization from conservative to visionary demands reconstructing all its processes around the knowledge powerhouse.
If you, leading the organization cannot grasp that truth, you are not a visionary, and the outlook for any reform plans is worse than uncertain. The acid test is whether those at the top, with you, are ready and able to move into the strategy zone (or out altogether). In that zone they look ahead, they oversee, they inspire. But they don't even try to 'manage' in an operational sense. They entrust younger men (and many more women) with the task of remaking the corporation, by removing hierarchical levels and customs, slaughtering sacred cows, and speeding up all processes.
The operators will move towards the virtual ideal, in which customer, corporation and supplier are indivisible. That sounds complex, but is actually based on simple principles and activated by approachable and readily available technology. After all, what is more natural than sharing information with your business partners and your own colleagues? And what is more sensible than acting on that information to achieve the optimal results for everybody engaged in the business system?
Where Do You Fit In?
It has taken a large chunk of this book to explain the how, when and wheretofores of how today’s businesses are being run. Niche markets exist and you could decide on selecting something from Health Products and Wellness. Nanotechnology products are quite the rage. In all cases, start any new business of on the right foot by making an early commitment to quality in everything you set out to do. Study the market and major players and pinpoint best practices. Start with the best, and work hard to keep that edge. Most importantly, be prepared to grow your business slowly, and take the time to learn and improve before you get bigger. Analyze the reasons for your success, and allow a depth of management to develop.
Maintain both a healthy growth rate and healthy profitability. Once you’ve become established, you can then diversify horizontally - apply your expertise into related fields of business. You can then hire the employees you need to fill in any gaps in product knowledge. Once you have diversified horizontally, you can expand internationally. How much you wish to expand is your call and today, going international is more than possible.
The challenges of starting a business and running a business are totally different. In the latter case, momentum has to be created and maintained. Remember, the moment you install a machine, it is obsolete as a newer version would have reached the market. This is an ongoing process and leads to economies of scale, which is outside the remit of this book. In other words, the biggest single problem is the business systems in place within the company. Unless you are on guard, you can find that systems which develop in the formative years of your company can later have the effect of choking the life and vitality out of the same company. You must know how to mentally jump out of your corporate structure and look around at the demands of your
business as faced and dealt with by others.
As hinted earlier, flexibility in a company is a must. You need to actively encourage innovative ideas, and, more importantly, let the people who come up with the ideas become involved in their success. This will invariably require crossing arbitrary boundaries, even forming special teams with some members drawn from different organizations within the company. You have to be able to practice corporate flexibility, not just preach about it. This extends to corporate policies also, official and unofficial. As you grow, you have to be able to adapt your maturing company’s conventions and wisdom to new concepts. This is not easy, as companies are by nature conservative and precedent following. You need to do something completely and refreshingly different to maintain vitality and interest. McCormack suggests you hire people who are smarter than you are in their particular area of expertise. You then reach a stage where you no longer have to sell yourself, but the company’s services. Strive for consistency. If flexibility is the means of growing a company, then consistency of performance and growth is the end. In general, the following policies have been found pragmatic and rewarding:
Riding the Revolution is most difficult psychologically: the technological, financial and economic inhibitions are as nothing compared to the fear of the unknown, the clinging to the past and the worries over risk that stop managements from taking this plain route to the future - and to prosperity:
These principles animate a truly contemporary management. But they are only a beginning. Faced with inescapable complexity and constant, managers have always sought for immutable guidelines (like Hewlett-Packard's 'The H-P Way') and for permanent business systems (like the innovation processes at 3M). In both companies immutability and permanence eventually produced unresponsiveness and conservatism: the length of 'eventually' depended on the personal strengths of the leadership. In the Age of the Triple Revolution, that is no longer enough.
Mutable, transient, responsive and revolutionary organizations are paradoxically the only corporate life-forms that promise to be lasting. They depend on an excellent infrastructure of information and communications, working in combination with killer apps that use the infrastructure to transform processes and businesses. There are no certainties in this formula. But an uncertain world provides limitless opportunities for internal and external breakthroughs, for phenomenal payoffs at fractional costs.
We, The People
Success in business depends on an accurate knowledge of how people will react when faced with a decision whether or not to do business with you. Since forewarned is forearmed,
you have to learn how to read people. This is the primary ingredient of being street smart.
Learning to read people is one of the most important skills you can have in your inter-
personal life. Whether you’re focusing on professional success, friendship, romance, marriage, career or parenting, understanding how to read people will give you the ability to make sound decisions and develop incredible insight into people’s lives. With practice, your ability to
understand the core motivations, desires, and thoughts of others can become so accurate as to
border on an invasion of privacy (lifetrainingonline.com).
Preparing Yourself to Read People: There is no quick fix in learning to read people. You want to get right into learning the latest body-language interpretation techniques and principles, but as with most things, you need to first build a proper foundation.
The first step in learning how to read people is gaining a general understanding of the makeup of others and surprisingly…ourselves. Without understanding the walls people build up around themselves, as well as the barriers that we put in our own way, we will never be able to successfully read people.
People are Like Onions:
Chris Joscelyne and Erich Jaeckel compare people to onions, with multiple layers. The latter’s analyses and follow up are more compelling:
When it comes to revealing ourselves to others, people are very much like a four-layered onion. The outermost layer is that part of our personality that we reveal to strangers - the most superficial aspects of who we really are. An example of this can be seen when we talk with a stranger sitting next to us on a bus. Trivial topics like the weather, current events, sights and sounds around us are typical things we feel willing to talk about.
Around our friends and some acquaintances we feel comfortable enough to peel back that outermost layer to reveal the next one. For example, if you were chatting with a coworker this time, you would probably feel more comfortable revealing more about yourself. Your attitudes towards work, certain emotions and your general thoughts about life are some of the things that might come up in conversation.
The third layer is reserved for those with whom we have an intimate relationship with, such as a close friend or spouse. In many cases, intimate relationships take time to develop, and with that time, trust is earned. Imagine now sitting on that same bus next to your spouse or significant other. The depth of what you reveal this time is much greater than any previous layer. Your goals, personal problems, and fears and so on, all fall within this layer.
The fourth and innermost layer contains that part of ourselves that we don’t share with anyone. It contains our deepest and sometimes darkest thoughts and secrets that we would rather not acknowledge. The fact that we are trying to come to terms with many of these things ourselves makes us not comfortable sharing them with others.
The extent to which you can ‘read’ someone is determined by how many of their layers you’re able to get them to reveal. And here’s a little secret: a person will reveal their layers in direct proportion to you revealing yours. This is the onion theory in a nutshell.
Removing Our Own Barriers
The second part of preparing ourselves to read people involves removing the barriers that keep us from accurate ‘people-reading’ (ibid). The two barriers are our prejudices and our projections. When people think of prejudice, mostly the racial kind comes to mind. The racial kind is not entirely what is being discussed here. Anytime you make an opinion, whether it is positive or negative, without knowledge or examination of the facts, you are being prejudiced. If you come up with some preconceived notions based on race, color, political alignment, or even the way people dress, it taints your ability to accurately read others. Our prejudices can be based on our fears, feeling threatened, upbringing or a myriad of other things.
Closely related to prejudice is projection. We tend to close ones eyes and minds to things that are uncomfortable or disturbing. We tend to ‘project’ our view onto a situation because it is easier to deal with. For example, a parent noticing a child’s slipping grades, lack of appetite, and tendency to come home late, might try to shrug it off as puberty or new-found love when it’s clear to everyone else that it may be a drug problem - something that the parent is unwilling to accept. When we are emotionally committed to someone or something it can blind us from the truth of a situation, leading us to an incorrect reading of someone.
Waiting Patiently with an Empty Cup
Jaeckel believes that the key to effectively reading people is by being completely objective - having an empty cup so to speak. Overcoming our biases, prejudices and projections allows us to be completely objective. The last important step is learning to be patient. Don’t fill your cup up so fast that you rush in drawing your conclusions. It’s the same thing in learning to read people. As you learn the techniques to interpret peoples’ body language and environment, resist the urge to jump to conclusions. If you think for example that they are defensive because they have their arms folded - well maybe they’re sitting under an a/c vent and they’re simply cold. Are they lying because they’re fidgeting and seem nervous? Well, possibly they need to go to the bathroom real bad. In other words, hold off until later for your final decision.
Reading People is as Much a Science as an Art
The science deals with an understanding of the mechanics and principles involved in people reading; For example, you study all the cold, hard facts about what a specific mannerism could mean, what a certain tone of voice might suggest, or how the context of a person’s
environment may influence their behavior. However, knowledge of the basic principles is only
half of the equation.
Once the principles are understood, open up the right brain - that part of yourself that does not think in terms of linear thought, words, or mathematics, but instead with patterns, colors and abstracts. This is the art.
Those who are successful at combining the two become amazing people readers.
The 4 Principles of Reading People:
Establish the Baseline:
However Malcolm explains that in many cases, these ‘thin-slices’ of experience from which we draw our conclusions are often incorrect. What he wants us to do is to control the
‘blink’ response and retrain our brain, consciously at first, to look for meaning behind the
impression. Through experience, this blink response will become very accurate. When you begin sizing them up, don’t overlook anything. This is where you notice the small details about the person: their hair, their walk, their fingernails, their body language, the clothes they wear. Always ask yourself, “what is this telling me?”
For example, hair can tell a lot about a person. In women, short stylish hair could denote someone who is creative, artistic, or expressive. Because maintaining perfectly styled hair is expensive, it may signify wealth. If that isn’t the case, then their willingness to spend a lot of their money to maintain their coif might show vanity, or a need for acceptance, even insecurity.
Less styled short hair on the other hand could mean practicality.
For men, professionally styled hair usually goes hand in hand with the desire to show status and power. If combined with expensive clothing and accessories, this is usually a sure bet. Most men do not have the time or desire to regularly have their hair styled at a professional salon. Because it deviates from the norm, this is a good example of something to look out for.
Every detail of a person’s appearance can offer further clues into their interests, beliefs, emotions and values. There are too many details to list here, so we’ll discuss a few of the things you should be looking out for.
As explained earlier, any trait that stands out from the baseline needs to be noted. Note that a deviation from the baseline is not only things that stand out on the individual, but how that person stands out as a whole compared to what the norm is around them. With extremes in appearance you might ask yourself: are they seeking attention? Trying to imitate someone they look up to? Being rebellious? Are they self-centered and are insensitive to others? Have they just not been taught how to dress and act in an appropriate way? Or do they just lack common sense?
Be aware of things like physical characteristics, jewelry, makeup, clothing, accessories, hygiene, and piercings/tattoos etc. Again ask yourself, “what is this telling me?”
Since the publication of Julius Fast’s Body Language in 1970, hordes of people began to see crossed legs, folded arms, facial tics - specific behavioral traits - in a whole new light. Even in our time, a generation later, many people are still conscious about crossing their arms in a meeting so as not to appear ‘closed’.
Body language, like appearance, can only be correctly analyzed when viewed against the first two principles of reading people: finding the baseline and recognizing patterns. Thinking that you’ll be able to ‘make’ someone, off of one or two bodily quirks, is not realistic. You want to look for consistency. Body language is only effective as you begin to observe more of the person’s character, and to know their character you must recognize patterns, not just in their body language, but in everything that has to do with them.
Bundling the Behaviors: Noticing the Patterns of Action
A good determinate of a person’s core personality is how they act when they don’t have
to ‘act’. Take the workplace for example. Is he polite and charming to his subordinates when the boss is around, only to show his true colors when she leaves? Seeing how a person behaves in different situations will help you to further understand what they are all about. Study their interaction with different people, such as with children, co-workers, normal day-to-day people, their family and friends. This will tell you a lot about them.
The saying, “You can tell how a man will treat you by the way he treats his mother”, although not always the case, does have a measure of truth to it. Many of us have been on dates where they are wonderfully polite and charming with you, only underhandedly being rude to or badmouthing the people serving you. Watch for veiled acts of inconsistency. Their charming, delightful personality may not be so charming and delightful as the novelty of the relationship wears off.
People behave a certain way based on their wants, needs, or values. We tend to project these values and wants on others because it is a source of validation. Athletes value those with strength and stamina. Artists value creativity in others. If your way of showing love is buying others gifts, then I would bet when people buy you gifts you feel loved too. What someone consistently does for others or seeks out in them can be a big help in determining what they desire or value. Realize that sometimes, because of fear, anger, or duress a person will act out of character. Remember the principles of baseline and recognizing patterns.
Beyond the Words: What People Are Really Saying
Vocal attributes play an important role in determining what someone is really saying. These traits in many cases contain hidden messages that require you to pay attention. Someone with a loud voice may indicate a need to control their environment. Like a drill sergeant, they use their voice to intimidate and dominate. Sometimes it can be for reasons of trying to compensate for something they think they’re lacking. Short guys tend to speak louder and deeper than guys almost twice their size. This combined with his need to talk over you shows his insecurities. Realize that a loud voice could also mean a loss of hearing or that they’re inebriated. Remember to take everything into consideration.
A soft voice also could have different meanings. Don’t immediately dismiss the person as someone who lacks confidence. It may mean they’re tired or depressed. It may show that they have a calm-assurance about them. It may also show their arrogance in the sense that they feel you need to listen more if you want to know what they’re saying. Think about all the possible reasons for rapid or slow speech, mumbling, different intonations and emphasis, an unemotional, pretentious or whining tone of voice. Each of these may reveal something deeper than what was first expected. Look for the matching of one’s vocal attributes, with their body language and words.
Beyond vocal attributes, understanding verbal gymnastics is the other half of what people are communicating in their speech patterns. For example, always question why someone is leading you towards or away from a topic of conversation. Are they showing conceit by trying to find an opportunity to brag? Are they showing compassion through their leading away from gossiping about someone?
The way someone answers can also be used to control or direct a conversation. Try to interpret why they could be rambling, changing the subject, giving a long drawn-out or a short answer, or not simply not responding at all.
As always, question deviations from the norm. Someone who rarely uses profanity might, with specific people, use it frequently. This could indicate they’re seeking acceptance, or trying to present themselves as someone they’re not.
Interpreting Their Environment
One of the best sources of people reading is the person’s environment. So many clues can be discovered here, such as hints about their job, education, religion, culture, hobbies, marital and family status, political alignment, friends, and wealth. You’d be surprised at what someone can learn about you, just from them reading your environment, that it can be quite embarrassing.
Because most of our time is spent at home or at work, these areas provide an accurate source of reading into peoples lives. If you can get exposed to both of these areas, and
compare the two, very precise conclusions can be made about them. For example, noticing a discrepancy between their work and home environment, shows that their public image is quite different from their private one.
Reading the workplace environment starts with the geographical location of someone’s home in relation to their work. A father who moves his family downtown to be close to work could indicate that he’s a workaholic, is self-centered, or ambitious. However the proximity might also show that the parents are interested in providing their children easy exposure to cultural opportunities or that the shorter commute means more time with his family. It is through studying both the home and workplace that a more telling story will develop.
Now begin to study the job itself. Why do you think they’ve chosen it? What does it tell about the person? Their education or drive? The fact that they’re a medical doctor may show a desire to help others, indicating someone who’s compassionate. However, they might only be interested in the status of such a job. Someone who becomes a doctor because of pressure from his father, well, this tells a whole new story.
The items at the workplace that people surround themselves with are also very telling. In many ways, these items are a microcosm of the person’s life.To give you an idea, consider some of these items:
Because the home is where the heart is, a person’s living area reveals volumes about them. As with the workplace, consider the location, the neighborhood, and the items within and without. What are they telling you? Some important items to consider are books and reading material, items on the refrigerator, collections, photos, artwork, children’s toys. Take note of the layout and decorations of the home.
Someone who wears very expensive clothes, but has a very humble home, may reveal a desire to appear differently to others. Look for things where a person’s home is in contrast to their public persona. The bigger the gap the greater the desire to appear a certain way.
Like the home and workplace, a persons car will reveal a lot about them. But as always, take it in comparison to everything else. Like clothes, having an expensive well-maintained automobile may at first indicate wealth, but taken in context with a run-down home may again show a desire to maintain a certain public image. A messy, disorganized car usually indicates a messy, disorganized person. I also tend to notice the little sticker that oil-change shops put on the upper left corner of the windshield. Seeing the actual car’s mileage being much greater than that indicated by the sticker may show a lack of awareness, complacency, or laziness.
The Social Environment
Where do they spend their free time and who with? Where a person tends to regularly ‘hang out’ as well as the company one keeps will tell you more details of their personality and interests.
The Socioeconomic Environment
A persons socioeconomic environment and background is a major key to determining one’s behavior. Remember to be aware of your prejudice. As I spoke of in the last post, prejudice may taint your ability to read someone successfully. As with everything else, the socioeconomic environment needs to be considered within the context of everything else.
Delving Deeper Through the Art of Questioning
Through the process of recognizing patterns and refining your assumptions, there comes a time where you need to delve deeper. If you are setting up a date with someone, at a job interview, or just trying to get to know the person better, learning the art of questioning is very handy. The types of questions that should be asked are those which help confirm or contradict the assumptions that you’ve made throughout this process. Don’t make it sound like an interrogation. Do however, make it a natural part of the conversation. Remember to ’seek first to understand, then to be understood’.
Making Your Decision
After all the cards are laid on the table, and you have established the baseline, recognized patterns, and challenged and refined your assumptions through questioning, then and only then should you make a final decision. It’s the combination of many details pointing in the same direction that will remind you that you’re on track. Being that reading people is a science and an art, use the facts that have presented themselves and couple it with your intuition. If you do this, you will rarely be wrong about someone. Now you need to come up with the passion. Practice will create this passion.
Human communication is an extremely complex exchange. While speaking, a person
produces around 75-100 verbal and nonverbal cues per second. With the average person capable of only processing around 7 bits of information at one time, it’s no wonder that so many of us can be deceived! There seems to be some limitation built into us whether by learning or by the design of our nervous systems, a limit that keeps our channel capacities in this general range - determined by George Miller, author of ‘The Magical Number Seven.’
Because of our apparent limitation in conscious processing, the average Joe can only detect lies with about 50% accuracy. The skills that you’ve learned on reading people brings this level to around 65%. Through mastery of the techniques presented here, your ability can increase to 90% accuracy!
The Principles of Lie Detection
The process of detecting lies is found in Behavior Analysis. For the purpose of lie detection, behavior analysis is the study of the verbal and nonverbal cues of truthfulness. Since lie detection is a subset of reading people, it follows the same 4 principles as discussed earlier.
Unlike what you may at first suspect, you are in fact first studying what truth looks and sounds like, not deception. After establishing how they behave when they’re being truthful (the baseline), you’ll recognize any departure from this ‘normal’ state - which may be a lie!
Begin by creating a framework of non-invasive questions to establish his baseline behavior. Ask questions in which you’re sure he’ll tell the truth, like directions to a place, good restaurants, historic sites, etc. Since none of these questions are invasive, he has no incentive to lie about these things. While you are listening to him, pay attention to his voice, eyes, body language and facial expressions. Where does he look when he’s describing his favorite dish? What are his hands doing as he’s explaining? What’s the general pitch and tone of his voice? Is he leaning toward or away from you? Does he tend to overly gesticulate? When you feel pretty confident that you recognize his baseline, you can now ask him the questions that you really want to know. It’s at this point that you want to look for those patterns that aren’t in harmony with his baseline.
Clusters of Deception
Verbal clusters are generally the least reliable of all the deception patterns. However, combined with the other clusters, they can improve detection accuracy. The main issue with verbal patterns is that they can be rehearsed, but this can be avoided through spontaneous questioning. Standard clusters are:
There are two psychological reasons behind the source of these patterns. The first is the brain’s inability to differentiate a real physical threat from a perceived one. This awakens the ‘fight or flight’ instinct and explains the hostility, anger, evasiveness or physical attempts to move away from you.
The second reason is that psychological stress increases anxiety so much that it cannot be stored internally anymore. This leads to an external overflow, explaining the fidgeting, hand rubbing, sweating, lip licking, leg bouncing etc. When you see ’stress overflow’, ask yourself what it may mean. If it arose as a result of your questioning, then it may point to deception.
Micro patterns are all expressed on the face and the eyes.
In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) eye-accessing cues are used to help recognize patterns of thinking. By the direction of where the person’s eyes are looking, you can determine whether they are using vision, sound or kinesthetic (feeling) to trigger their thinking.
If this represents a person facing you then when they look up and to the left (your upper right) they’ll be accessing a visual memory. Up and to the right (again, your upper left) means that they’re visually constructing (imagining) something. To your right, they’re remembering a sound, to your left, they’re creating a sound. Down right, the person is accessing a bodily feeling or emotion. Down left (your down right), they are accessing inner dialog (talking to themselves).
If, for example, you were asking your child where they got the candybar, and they look to their ‘constructing’ side, then you can be sure they’re fabricating the story. Keep in mind that this is reversed for left-dominant people (left-handers). So before you can use this, be aware of which of their sides is the dominant one.
Clearly the most difficult to master, however if you do, this can give you a 90% success rate at detecting lies. In the nineteen-sixties, renowned psychologist Paul Ekman began decoding the language of facial expressions. He organized them into a syntax of language which he termed “action units” - the set of all distinct muscular movements that the face could make. This totaled to only 46 individual movements, but in combination with each other, the face is capable of producing over 7000 unique expressions!
The FBI and CIA use Ekman’s methods to determine any deception from suspects during interrogations. And their ability to perceive it is amazing. This is due to the fact that some of the muscles involved in expressions are not under conscious control. This happens when we feel strong emotions, but wish to suppress or hide them. Those expressions of emotion appear fleetingly on our faces. It probably explains our intuitive feelings that someone is being dishonest, because subconsciously we’re picking up on these expressions. These ephemeral, almost imperceptible looks are called “micro-expressions.”
For example, distinguishing between a fake smile, one that can be performed at will, and a real smile, which is generated by the unconscious brain, comes down to awareness of the action units involved in a genuine smile. The BBC which provides a test to determine if you can determine a genuine smile from a fake one through recognizing these micro expressions: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/index.shtml
As you learn to establish the baseline behavior of honesty, recognize deception clusters that deviate from this baseline, progressively refining your assumptions through questioning and observations, you will be well on your way to becoming an amazing lie detector. Remember to look at things as a whole. The more patterns you can discover that seem to point in one direction, the more accurate your detection will be.
Gaining the Upper Hand
The whole point in reading people is to use the information culled to your advantage. This will tilt a business situation so it is to your advantage, however slight. You would have gained the tempo, as chess players would put it. You need to analyze the situation calmly and dispassionately, while striking at the opportune moment. You have to think on your feet when an edge must be taken advantage of or it could disappear forever. When such an opportunity arises as the tiniest crack, the trick is to make your own good luck and turn that crack into a crevice.
A crisis has two sides. First comes the potentially damaging face, which turns the average person upside down. The various reactions open a small window, which, if assessed correctly, could become an edge of opportunity to profit from. Act rather than react. Passage of time can often alter a situation totally. Part of being opportunistic involves waiting for the right circumstance to present itself. Remain detached and disciplined, another aspect of being street smart. This will always keep you a step ahead. This is why some people advance rapidly in an organization while others languish indefinitely in the boondocks. Climbing the corporate ladder becomes easier. Toyota’s corporate ladder, shown below is, at best, daunting. But it is an exception, not the norm.
The Thrust Behind Product Marketing: Power Sales Negotiation
Negotiating power plays a major role in every type of negotiation, whether it's labor, political, or a buy-sell negotiation. Both the buyer and the seller have power in a negotiation. Power is each side's perception of its strength or weakness in comparison to the other, says Kevin Davis. This perception of power affects the ability of each party to achieve its own goals, and the more negotiating power you have in comparison to that of your buyer, the fewer concessions you'll have to make.
For each party in a negotiation, there are eight sources of power. These are need, options, time, relationships, investment, credibility, knowledge, and skills. To remember the eight sources of power just remember the acronym NO TRICKS, he adds.
How to Get More Negotiating Power
The factors remain more or less the same, barring a few. You require more N - power. For more Need power, uncover more important needs. Think of a prospect you're currently working with, and the problem they have that you can solve. If your prospect decides to do nothing, how much will it cost them? If the cost is significant, you have Need power. If it isn't, you don't. And if you don't know what it will cost them, you didn't uncover a need. Can you get back in there and find out the answer?
For more Options power, you want to influence your prospect's buying criteria early in a sales process. Strive to make the strengths of your offering important to your buyer before the
Find out if Time is a factor in the negotiation.
For more Investment power, get your prospect more involved in the decision-making process. Instead of giving them a brochure of your product, take them to one of your installations and show it to them in action. The more energy your prospect invests, the more committed they'll be to reaching a decision - and the more investment power you'll have.
For more credibility power, get testimonial letters from your biggest customers. Ask your best customers what they have found unique about your product and the results they've achieved. You might be surprised with what they tell you!
For more knowledge power, ask more questions throughout the sales process so you learn more about your customers' needs. To test the validity of the information, have more than one source of information from inside your customer's business. Then, if a purchasing agent tries to pull the wool over your eyes with misinformation, you'll be ready.
For more skill power, become a student of negotiations. Ask the best negotiator you know how he or she does it. Buy a book or tape program. Attend a seminar. You too can be a great negotiator, but it won't happen by accident. In sales, when you sharpen your skills, you make more money.
Michael Schatzki adds a few more tips to closing a deal. He asks,
How many times have you heard:
He adds, “Every time you hear statements like these, you're in the middle of a difficult sales negotiation. How you handle that negotiation will determine whether or not you close the sale and how profitable that sale will be. In order to give you a real edge every time, I have listed below some key points taken from my sales negotiation training program.”
The customer will delay you and skim you for your impatience.
There are certain other aspects that will help sales:
McCormack suggests that in negotiating, take the time to acknowledge their feelings. Let them know you understand their reasons for taking a position, and express your interest in working alongside them to put everything together in a way that will benefit both parties. Deadlines are sensitive pieces of information in any negotiation. A buyer’s deadline known to the seller can be valuable as the desire to get the deal done can be cultivated with the buyer. Keep in mind whether your position would be best served by a formal, legal agreement or a simple letter agreement. Both approaches have their pros and cons and it depends more on the nature of the negotiation than any other factor. Speed of execution of any agreement is critical.
The Paradox of Business is that the better you think you’re doing, the more you should be concerned. It’s when you are dwelling on past glories that you’re most likely to slip up in the present. Never rest on your laurels. The Tyson Gay-Asafa Powell-Usain Bolt competitions are good examples of this assertion. Each win is a stepping stone for the next. That’s what champions are made of. Become a champion in your field.
Justus Daniel Eapen is a policy level Organizational Transformation Consultant with over 25 years experience in Banking & Government.