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Category Archives: Leadership

Be a Successful Negotiator

How can you improve your skills as a successful negotiator? That was the topic of my speech that I presented on Wednesday, March 21.

You may think Donald Trump or your favorite political candidate is the best negotiator. In fact, you are your best negotiator. You’ve been negotiating since you were born and cried for food to the present when you negotiated for your job. Negotiating has been your way of life. People invented language to negotiate.

Room for improvement exists for any skill. These are the strategies and tips that I spoke about during my talk.


Have confidence in yourself as a negotiator. A negotiator is best when he or she is speaking freely. A negotiation is another form of conversation. How do you feel when a telephone solicitor reads a sales script to you? You know the solicitor has a one-way conversations in mind. Your needs, wants, problems, and concerns are not in the script. A confident negotiator converses with the other party.

Are You Negotiating with the Right Party?

Before you begin negotiations, ask yourself if you are negotiating with the right person. Does this person have the character, competency, and power to negotiate? If he or she lacks one of these, you’ve not found the right person.

Be Outcome Aware

Be outcome oriented when negotiating. Your negotiations can end one of three ways with these associated consequences:

Lose-Lose: Neither party benefits, and in some case the negotiations damage the personal relationships or the situation become worse. Two people trying to get the best of each other lacks food faith and can create new problems.

Win-Lose: A one-sided wins usually means that one party is has control over the other and is asserting  power, not negotiating for a mutual increase in value. These are episodic relationships and result is only as good as the power of the victor to enforce it.

Win-Win: The parties agreed to an exchange that creates new value that increases wealth, status, knowledge, or well-being. Each party has improved his or her reputation by negotiating in good faith and has built a relationship for future negotiations and agreements.

Prepare Your Thinking and Speaking for the Negotiations

Analyze the Situation

Do your homework by working on these four areas to negotiate at your best:

  1. Understand your position and define it by writing down your wants, needs, problems, and concerns.
  2. Understand the other party’s position by listening and asking questions to discover his or her wants, needs, problems, and concerns. Probe for hidden concerns by using empathy and avoiding value judgments.
  3. Figure out how you can most clearly state your position so that you will be heard.
  4. Create an organized list of the options you will propose for each term you will negotiation. For non-negotiable terms, prepare to politely but firmly say, “I will not negotiate on that item.”

Lead the Discussion

Remember that you are in a conversation. Keep reminding everyone at the table that you seek an agreement that serves the interests of all parties.

Keep a win-win outcome in mind by reviewing how the points of agreement are serving your wants, needs, problems, and concerns. A win-win is not necessarily a compromise agreement. Your aim is not to compromise. Your aim is to be heard, understand the other party’s positions, and explore the options that serve the interests of both parties. That could mean getting everything you ask for, agreeing to the other party’s proposal, or fashioning alternatives that serve you both.

While negotiating, listen without judgment to the other party’s options, in the same way that you intend your options to be heard. If an option is unacceptable, say so with the reason it is unacceptable, which can include, “I will not negotiation on that option.”

Keep Flow in the Negotiations

A good conversation needs the grease of small talk. While you will stick to the issues during direct negotiations, light conversation about sports or personal interests keeps the conversation flowing during breaks and downtime.

Your negotiating style shapes the agreement and builds your reputation. A reputation for an honest and direct negotiating style may be the most important result from the negotiations. Your good reputation will encourage the other party to honor the agreement and open the door for future agreements.

Be likable and watch your language. People like to do business with a cheerful and appreciative person and will avoid a curmudgeon.


Enjoy yourself as you negotiate. People will see your upbeat temperament and want to mirror it. Work to create an agreement that serves the interests of all the parties, including those not at the table.


Be a Better Facilitator, Be a Better Leader

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Facilitating is an important skill on the job, at home, and in your community.

If you want to lead, you need to be a great facilitator. I asked Jim Dowling, a great facilitator that I have the privilege to work with,

What are three practices that will improve my facilitating skills?

We discussed these points:


A facilitator uses authority to persuade the participants to trust the process. Authority comes from having an agenda and using transparent protocols for the meeting. By setting down what will be discussed and how it will be discussed, the facilitator creates the authority to keep the discussion on track and civil. People will trust the process when they believe the everyone will be heard and have a voice in the meeting. The reluctant will take part when they believe the group will respect every person and give opinions a fair hearing.


Speakers say a lot at meetings, covering points on and off the agenda. Fatigue from listening and learning can disrupt the connection between the speaker and the audience. People absorb knowledge at different rates. It’s the facilitator’s job to keep the speakers on track and help everyone with their listening and learning. A great facilitator periodically summarizing what the speakers have said. Speakers appreciate a summation during the meeting if the facilitator respects the speakers’ authority on their topic and keeps the speakers the focus of attention.

A great summary distills the key points and ideas delivered in a logical and memorable précis that links back to the theme of the meeting. It states how the audience can benefit by what was said and shows how it relates to the purpose of the meeting. The facilitator summarizes, builds bridges, and tells the audience the next steps outside the meeting.


A great facilitator knows the temperature of the audience and the speakers. How are the speakers reacting to the audience? How is the audience reacting to the speakers? People are excellent at taking the temperature of people, because we’ve done it since birth and know an uncomfortable situation. The art of taking the temperature is knowing what to do when it get hot, cold, or stormy. The facilitator is the social lubricant for the meeting and a condenser that focuses and re-channels discomfort or ill-will. If the concepts of the speaker roil the audience, the facilitator identifies the discomfort, names it to the audience, and relabels it to remove its power and move on to the next point. For example, the speaker states why the unemployed members of the audience are not getting jobs and tensions rise. The facilitator steps in, acknowledges that the discussion is uncomfortable and why, says why the speaker’s key points relate to the topic, and moves the audience and the speaker on to what’s next.

If you want to be a better leader at work, at home, or in the community, learn the skills of a great facilitator and practice them.

Turnaround, Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games by Mitt Romney

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Why I Read This Book

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is running for president of the United States. I wanted to learn more about him. I remember his father George W. Romney, former Governor of Michigan. Romney Sr. sabotaged his own campaign for the presidency with the unfortunate but true remark that U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Vietnam had brainwashed him on the war. He was a different kind of candidate for office, and I wanted to know what kind of candidate is Mitt.

The organizers of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics thrust the roles of president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC)  as Mitt Romney tells the story. Financial scandal inside of SLOC required the organizers to replace its leaders with an independent leader free from the appearance of corruption. Mitt was their choice.


Mitt Romney has an elegantly simple formula for leadership that consists of vision, values, and motivation. The leader defines the vision and the group values, while motivating the group to execute the mission consistent with the vision and values. A leader derives 20% of his authority from his or her title and 80% from the decisive action he or she takes.

These are inspiring thoughts and shows that Mitt has empathy for the member of his team. This quote from his book reminds me of his father’s unfortunate brainwashing comment:

One of my early decisions would have a big impact on how the organization viewed my leadership. … Think about it: when you take a job to perform a service, not to earn a paycheck or win a jackpot, you don’t really care a lot about how people think of you. You have the absolute luxury to do exactly what you think is right. p. 56

The more fortunate wording about caring about people and doing what is right would have been,

a service job requires you to focus on people, because they are your #1 concern. Your task is to persuade people  your vision is right.

If Mitt refers to not caring about the negative comments by outsiders and soon to be outsiders, he’s still off base. I believe a core skill for leader is to stop those people from becoming active enemies by listening to their concerns and showing your decision incorporates those concerns even if you reject their advice. Better a pacified critic, than an active enemy.

Another core skill for a leader is to recognize that the people you lead know their interests and needs better than you. A leader is not elected to do exactly what he thinks is right. He’s elected to serve the people’s values, interests and needs while moving them to towards his/her vision. Abraham Lincoln envisioned a union without slavery and Barack Obama believes gays have the same civil rights as heterosexuals. But, leaders persuade people that doing right will best serves their values, interests, and needs. People don’t want leaders to tell them what is right.


Mitt grew up in a Mormon family dedicated to service to his family, church, and community. Mitt’s father, mother, and grandparents practiced service and staked their reputations on service. Yet, in the end, Mitt writes a capstone to his philosophy on service in the paragraph quoted above about not caring a lot about how people think of you. George Romney would have written that differently.

Mitt writes a lot about his family’s history.  He is a dedicated family man, and wants to be respected for those qualities.

I read his book to learn about his leadership examples, ideas, and style gained in business.


Bain Capital

His recollections on becoming a successful business person take second place to those about his family, though his boss at Bain Capital, Bill Bain, influenced Mitt enough to be quoted throughout the book:

  • Trust your gut, because there’s a scientific basis for it.
  • Show you care about money, and your team will also.
  • Round team members’ flat spots (counter a member’s weakness with another’s strengths) and round flat sides (get someone else to do what you don’t do well, attributed to Tom Stemberg of Staples). Curiously, Mitt approves the advice, then writes he didn’t have time to follow it with SLOC.
  • Most things can be fixed, but smart or dumb is forever. A curious sentiment for a leader to harbor.

Mitt Romeny shares the formula that he used at Bain Capital to turnaround the companies in financial distress, writing that he used that same formula to save the 2002 Winter Olympic:

Perform a strategic audit – a complete review of every aspect of the business that can take months.

Build your team – select the right people, build unity, and motivate them.

Focus, focus, focus – don’t try to do too many things; do what’s important and do that well.

Guiding Principles at SLOC

Mitt published in the book the excellent guiding principles of SLOC that were place on every SLOC desk.


  • Involve all appropriate stakeholders in each project/issue.
  • Think horizontally, not vertically, within SLOC’s structure.
  • Consider other viewpoints and find win-win solutions.
  • Emphasize and recognize team success.
  • Be helpful to others.

Pride and Passion

  • Seek Gold Medal performance in your own job.
  • Love what you do.
  • Relish each small victory and achievement.
  • Realize you impact on history while at SLOC.


  • Be honest, direct and respectful in all your communication.
  • Accept feedback, avoid defensiveness.
  • Seek prompt resolution to issues with others in a personal and professional manner.
  • Listen more, talk a little less.


  • Be loyal to those not present.
  • Do what you say you will do.
  • Don’t have hidden agendas.
  • Respect and value diversity in others.

Fun and Celebration

  • Take your work seriously, not yourself.
  • Encourage laughter at all meetings.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Look for opportunities to include others.
  • Celebrate those who demonstrate SLOC’s Guiding Principles.


I learned that Mitt Romney is a person driven by details and a sense of entitlement. He is an expert at identifying and categorizing details and then prioritizing those categorized details to achieve the goal. He is a terrific networker. He knows how to round the skills and experience of experts in business, government, social welfare, and people management to achieve goals.

One example of his family’s reputation for categorizing and prioritizing is his paraphrasing from his great-grandfather Miles P. Romney’s biography:

Loyalty to country and to his church was a cardinal virtue…. His was the assumption that men should be students of both state and church government in order that they might intelligently carry on in harmony with the fundamental law and discipline of each and not be like “dumb driven cattle,” exercising no mind of their own. p. 9

A Romney presidency would a presidency driven by his personality to categorize details and to select the right people to achieve goals. The question is can a turnaround formula successfully used at Bain Capital and SLOC work govern the American people?

The Way of the Actor: a path to knowledge and power by Brian Bates

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Can Actors Teach Us?

Charlton Heston's Major Dundee

Scholar Brian Bates likes to write about his associations with actors and actors’ associations with us. Moving past his fixations on stars, Bates recounts memorable stories actors told him.

Transcending Time and Experience

Charlton Heston, for whom Bates has great admiration, describes the end of a day’s shoot on the remote Mexican desert site of Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee. Heston and his fellow actors in full battle dress galloped through a desolate village on the way home for the evening. He saw people peering out from the windows of their homes at his troopers and realized their presence and dress transported the villagers back into the mind of their ancestors.

Christ, here they come again,” Heston imagined them thinking.

Actors and acting can transcend time and personal experience.

Two Interpretations of Acting with Authenticity

Jack Nicholson explains the actor’s method to Bates. Does the actor learn the lines, study the emotions, and then deliver both in a professional performance? Or, does the actor “drop in” character to express the emotions from personal experience?  Nicholson says neither and gives Bates an example.

His character should be sad. So, does Nicholson draw on his understanding of and experience with being sad. No! He translates the lines and situation into action.

I think about what he wants, what’s the environment. Think about the problem facing the character and from that comes feeling and action necessary to achieve the ends, the emotions the audience sees.

An excellent description of acting that mimics authenticity.

Simon Callow follows the British acting methods, which arrives at authenticity by another approach. 

Show what you want and you will show the vulnerability that audiences see as authenticity.

If you’d like to read a review of Bate’s Way of the Actor, you can begin by reading this review by An Opinionated Heathen.

Putting Knowledge to Work in Vietnam

Saigon Toastmasters, 12 March 2011

I just got back in the second week of March from three weeks of job and business opportunity shopping in Vietnam, mostly in HCMC.

While in Vietnam I quickly experienced the limitations of my perspective in that:

  • I don’t speak Vietnamese.  I learned English is the international business language of Vietnam, while Vietnamese is required to deal with the government.
  • I didn’t know the complete rules of social engagement. I learned the Vietnamese spend a lot of time on small talk and sometimes never move on from there. Making a mistake in the business part of a conversation that would be ignored in the US can be a deal breaker in Vietnam.
  • I didn’t know the best ways to follow up on my meetings. I learned that follow-ups are done with phone calls or text messages, while email is rarely acknowledged or replied to.
  • I didn’t know what caught the attention of potential employers. I learned that that titles and diplomas get more attention than in the US, and can open door in unexpected ways.

I scrambled for jobs and opportunities, learning as I went. In the event, I got more informational interviews and job offers in three weeks than I’ve had in two years in the Bay Area.

I spoke at two Toastmaster clubs (presently the only operating clubs in Vietnam), gave an impromptu speech at Citynetevents on the rooftop terrace of the New World Hotel in HCMC, taught a class on the 8 good habits of Google managers at Hong Bang University, mentored students in spoken English, and spoke with hundreds of people – in short, I had a great time.

How did I do it? I think these points build upon Pat McHenry Sullivan’s writings ( sum up what I did by:

  • Lowering my emotional barriers to give people ready access to me.
  • Working on being authentic: I said that I needed a job and needed it now.
  • Being present: I treated each day as the first day of my job search.
  • Turing my stress into energy: I can’t remember sleeping less and doing more in three weeks.
  • Putting aside my feelings of embarrassment for not speaking the language and not knowing the finer points of social and business etiquette.
  • Focusing on one objective: find a job.

The experiences taught me that today’s worries should not make my world stand still.

Stand up for what you need and find out how to get it.

John Wooden’s Leadership Lessons and Success Pyramid

Coach John Wooden

John Wooden’s leadership lessons lessons so impressed me that I shared them with a fellow Toastmaster. He told me that he noticed that fellow workers were looking over his shoulder to the list of lessons that he’d posted up to the wall in his office. Eventually, one coworker asked him for a copy of the list for her office. Here is the list I adapted from John Wooden that they posted in their offices:

Wooden’s Leadership Lessons

Attract good people with good values.

Practice love by having their back.

Teach by learning.

Practice emotional intelligence.

Make the team come first and the product will be great.

Drive large events by paying attention to the details.

Be present each day.

Lead with rewards not punishment.

Give everyone a role in greatness.

Seek significant change.

Aim to improve regardless of the score.

Realize adversity is your asset

If you’re searching for a model for personal success, please think about John Wooden’s proposed pyramid to success:

I recommend reading Wooden’s books, visiting his website at, and thinking about Coach Wooden’s wisdom.

Nimitz by E.B. Potter

Chester Nimitz

The basic characteristics of good managers and good management techniques do not change whether inside or outside of the military. I acknowledge disagreement with my belief that  business leaders and military leader share common characteristics. Nimitz’s Strategic Leadership During World War II by Com. David Jerabek

Admiral Chester Nimitz was an exemplary leader in the US Navy during World War II. I’ve found no book focusing on the character of Nimitz, and he left no memoirs, believing he said that writing history was the task of the historian. I prefer to think Nimitz left no memoirs because he wanted no record of his negative thoughts about his subordinates and superiors. Being loyal to his team was one of the core principles of his management style that he lived rather than taught. The authoritative biography of Nimitz is by E. B. Potter, titled simply Nimitz. Potter’s work is thick with details about the wartime campaigns and other people’s thoughts and thin on character analysis of his subject. Nimitz was not a person to tell stories easily transcribed into a biography.

Potter’s sketch of Nimitz’s journey to his ultimate goal of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) reveals four principles of a management style that Nimitz put into practice.

Chester Nimitz’s Management Principles

Have an ultimate goal in mind, and be flexible on how you arrive at it.

Nimitz told his son Chet before World War II that he wanted to become the Chief of Naval Operations. He could have accelerated his progress to that goal by accepting the position of Commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, offered to him by President Roosevelt. He declined the offer for reasons of empathy and tactics. Nimitz told his son Chet that accepting would garner too much ill-will from officers with higher rank than his and when the Pacific war began the officer in charge would be blamed regardless of the merits. Roosevelt named Nimitz the Commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet ten days after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. He replaced Admiral Kimmel who had accepted the post that Nimitz had declined.

Elect to manage people over managing technology.

Nimitz’s mind easily grasped technology and its impacts on war. He understood that proven technologies can decide a war and should find easy access into an organization. He introduced the diesel engine to the US Navy that made Fleet Submarine operations possible during World War II. He expected every Naval commander and sailor to be competent with the technology at hand and to exercise common sense when using it. Nimitz’s Pacific Typhoon 18 December 1944 Letter However, when given a choice in postings, he rejected the Bureau of Ordnance and chose the Bureau of Navigation (today the Bureau of Naval Personnel) that manages training and naval personnel issues.

Know everyone in your industry without prejudice and scheme.

Leaders such as Gen. Douglas McArthur made a practice of appearing so important that people expected to come to him. Nimitz made a practice of going to or at least getting to know as many Naval personnel as he could. With the approach of World War II, Roosevelt and Admiral King depended on Nimitz’s knowledge of naval personnel to fill the growing ranks of officers and specialists required for the war effort. Roosevelt and King used Nimitz’s unbiased and detailed knowledge to find the right person for the right job.

Never ridicule or undermine a subordinate and be a buffer between them and your superiors.

Admiral Nimitz fought World War II directing the talents of great warriors with bad reputations such a “Bull” Halsey, “Terrible” Turner, and “Howling Mad” Smith. His boss, Admiral King was a very difficult person to work with. Nevertheless, Nimitz could conduct civil meetings even with Gen. Douglas McArthur, who got President Truman’s goat. After Admiral Halsey committed an egregious blunder by leaving the Leyte Gulf landing forces exposed to Japanese battleships, Nimitz refrained from public criticism of his subordinate, while Chief of Naval Operations Admiral King did not spare his criticism of Halsey in public and print. Nimitz never published his memoirs, leaving me to conclude that he carried his opinions about his team into death.

In summary these are Chester Nimitz’s core principles of management that he practiced in life:

  • Have a long-term goal but be flexible on how you arrive at it;
  • Manage people, not things to rise to the top;
  • Recognize people as resources, not competitors; and
  • Be loyal to your team, always.