Negotiating to yes in a mutually beneficial way

Negotiating to yes means negotiating to obtain at least the basic result you seek from the discussions. Negotiation is part of our daily life. We negotiate with our family, our friends, our co-workers, our superiors, suppliers and others. When approaching negotiation, “negotiating to yes” is the objective. However, negotiation can be seen as a lose-win game or a win-win game. When you approach another party with an intent to negotiate in a lose-win game, you may be damaging the long-term relationship with the other party.

Do not confuse negotiating to yes with trying to take everything away from the other party. Greed and short-term victories can be painful in the long-term.

Short-Term Success vs. Long-Term Failure


No one wants to come out of negotiations as a losing party and, should this happen, the losing party may not have warm feelings toward any further negotiations or will plan to “get even” in further negotiations.

If you find a counter-party who can be negotiated-to-a-yes and you make him look absolutely bad, it is almost guaranteed he or she will be replaced by a better negotiator. That only makes your life all the more difficult. Therefore it is in your best interest to not ask for more then you need. Giving something back or taking just a little may be a better strategy for you.

It is important to have the intent to find a solution which will be workable for all parties involved. The objective should be to find a win-win solution where at least the basic needs of both parties will be met.

As a negotiator, the first step you need to take is to understand the needs and interests of both parties. Then, taking this knowledge into account, you can consider which alternative meets the needs of both parties. The focus should be on finding a workable solution that will meet the needs of both parties.

Of course, there could be situations when a win-win solution is not possible. However, in approaching the negotiations, the focus should be on finding a workable solution whenever possible. The “losing” party must also understand why they could not come out as a winner and must be willing to accept the outcome. The “yes” in “negotiating to yes” can be adjusted in the losing party’s mind to a more workable outcome.

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You need to make sure that the objective of “negotiating to yes” is achieved by both parties. Even when you can take everything, think for the long-term and try to build an ally rather than an enemy.

Furthermore, think of your personal style when you conduct negotiations. Always ensure it is respectful and considerate in dealing with the other party. Generally, people respect and appreciate authenticity, honesty and fairness. If you have their best interests in mind – they will be more likely to be considerate of yours. However, do not confuse fairness with being a push-over. You need to be tough when required, but remember that negotiating to yes is not a winner takes all approach.

Common business phrases…remember these for your interviews

It is useful, and in some situations will prove to be important, to know business phrases and specific terms which are commonly used. The exact meaning of such words and phrases is not always intuitively obvious, especially for non native speakers, such as me. There are many, many phrases used in business. I have listed the most common phrases here.

“USE IT OR LOSE IT” mentality:

Can refer to management in the organization trying to use up surplus in the budget to make sure that the budget does not shrink in the next year.

“GIVE LIP SERVICE”

Is a business phrase used when someone talks about something passionately but they do not actually do anything about it.

“NECESSARY EVIL”

Refers to something troublesome but necessary. For example, in business, inventory is often referred to as a “necessary evil”. Many organizations have to hold inventory so that they have goods available for the convenience of customers. This makes inventory “necessary”. It is “evil” because money has to be investment in inventory and such money does not earn any return. Therefore, organizations try to minimize the amount of funds tied up in inventory while still avoiding stock outs (being out of stock) and keeping up with scheduled production. This is generally called Inventory Management.

“A BIG FISH IN A SMALL POND”

Someone or a company who is very successful, influential and powerful but exists in a very small market or region. This is a very common business phrase and was made popular in Hollywood movies about organized crime.

“HAVING SKIN IN THE GAME”

Usually refers to entrepreneurs having their own money invested and therefore, when they are also taking the risk. The term is generally used when someone is asking for support and has also invested in the venture. Therefore they will also lose something should the venture or initiative fail.

“CAN’T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES”

Refers to an inability to see the big picture due to only focusing on the small details. This is another very, very popular business phrase

“PASS-THE-BUCK”

Attitude means someone is trying to pass responsibility to another party. For example, blaming someone else for the loss, so one does not have to cover the cost.

“EXAMINED WITH A FINE-TOOTH COMB”

Means examine something properly and diligently.

“THE TONE AT THE TOP”

Refers to the attitudes of the leadership team regarding business ethics and corporate governance. It refers to the ethical atmosphere in the workplace. This is a less common business phrase. It is most popular in the US, Canada and the UK.

“INFORMATION SUPERWAY” (as coined by Al Gore)

Refers to the Web. It is used to indicate that the Web allows internet users to “travel” in search of information and that all other internet users also “travel” in the same direction (in search of information). This is similar to a motor highway. The Web is situated on top of the internet and allows internet users to share information on the internet by using a URL, which refers to the Uniform Resource Locator. The Web originated from work done by developers Robert Gailiau and Tim Berners-Lee in the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva in 1989. Internet refers to the entire infrastructure which allows otherwise incompatible individual computers to communicate with each other, regardless of where they are located. Basically, the internet refers to all computers, telephone or cable lines and network cables that make it possible for any computer to communicate with any other computer, as long as they are connected to the internet.

“BELOW THE RADAR”

Refers to something not being easily detectable. For example, an enterprise may try to operate “below the radar” by making every effort to not draw attention to its existence. This business phrase was taken from the military who mainly used radar to watch for approaching enemy aircraft.

“TYRANNY OF THE URGENT”

Refers to a situation when an individual has, what seems to be, an endless list of very urgent tasks. Such tasks are usually of a low priority. It often refers to activity rather than achievement. Such tasks can take up all day and at the end of the day one may feel that nothing was accomplished. This phrase may also refer to time when one has to make decisions which are less than ideal due to lack of time available to make such decisions.

“TULE OF THUMB”

Is a guideline regarding proper actions based on what is rational and based on past experience. Such guidelines are generally a rough approximation of what is the right thing to do.

“GROWTH TRAP”

For a business this may have several meanings:

One of them is in the area of finance. In the Jeremy Siegel’s book “The Future for Investors”, he refers to a “growth trap” to argue that growth of the company should not be an acceptable reason to regard certain shares as a good investment. The reason for this is the expected growth of the company is already built into the price of shares. Therefore, the only way an investor can obtain above-average returns is if the company grows faster than was anticipated when price of shares was determined. This is easy to understand with the example of the Gordon model which is used for the valuation of shares.

In the field of entrepreneurship, however, the “growth trap” refers to a situation whereby due to rapid growth, a business’s cash flow situation is deteriorating because additional financing is required prior to cash being generated from additional sales.

This growth problem is further exacerbated due to the difficulty of obtaining external financing. Businesses may need additional financing to hire more personnel to handle increased sales and to buy extra inventory and raw materials. Therefore, the situation may occur where a rapidly growing businesses is profitable but has cash flow problems. “Creative Destruction” was developed by the distinguished Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter in his landmark book “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” published in 1942.

Schumpeter used the phrase “Creative Destruction” to describe the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Schumpeter further states that “This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in.”

Schumpeter argued that capitalism exists in the state of “creative destruction” where innovation leads to new companies replacing old ones. He viewed entrepreneurship as a catalyst for growth of the economy. In short, this phrase refers to something new replacing (destroying) something older. It has become a very commonly used buzzword.

“BUZZWORD”

Is a word that is very popular and buzzing around hallways, corridors, newpapers etc. “Social networking” recently became a buzzword with the rise of Facebook and Twitter. This is probably the most popular and common of all business phrases.

“THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX”

The generation of ideas which are not ordinary and not confined to common thinking patterns. This is probably the second most popular and common of all business phrases.

“BIG PICTURE”

Means seeing the overall objective and purpose of the task rather than just being obsessive and noticing the details. This is probably the third most popular and common of all business phrases.

“BUILD A BETTER MOUSETRAP AND THE WORLD WILL BEAT A PATH TO YOUR DOOR”

This sentence is in fact paraphrased. The actual sentence was “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods”.

This was later paraphrased as “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap, than his neighbour, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”. And later it was again paraphrased as “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door”.

The original sentence is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late nineteenth century. The paraphrased quote implies that innovation is self-promotional. In other words, if one builds a better product then the world will find the ways to acquire such an improved new invention.

In reality, promotion of a very innovative and useful product is still required to educate and inform customers about a new product or service (new “mousetrap”) and how customers can buy a new product or service (how customers can find the “door”).

Moreover, the perception of customers often plays a more significant role than the actual superiority of the product. This, again, brings the importance of promotion to the surface.

Interestingly, according to the book “Build a Better Mousetrap” by Kassinger & Ruth, mousetraps are the “most frequently invented device in U.S. history”. It is interesting to know whether this has anything to do with the famous quote above.

“LARGER-THAN-LIFE PERSONALITY”

Someone whose image, perception amongst peers, influence or reputation is much greater than his actual accomplishments and track-record.

“IN-HOUSE”

Activity conducted internally (inside an organization). For example, a business can create an “in-house” newsletter. Businesses also can create advertising “in-house” instead of engaging an advertising agency to do such work.

“ASYMMETRIC INFORMATION”

When one party has a superior level of specific knowledge compared to another party. However, the other party could greatly benefit from knowing such specific information. For example, asymmetric information can refer to the chance that management knows more about the current real performance of the firm and future growth projections than outside investors. “BOOTSTRAPPING”

Generally means something is accomplished due to one’s own initiative and without external help. In entrepreneurship, a bootstrapping or bootstrap financing, means an entrepreneur uses his or her initiative to find capital or use capital more efficiently to survive. It includes minimization of the company’s investments and refers to such situations as leasing instead of buying, adapting just-in-time inventory system, operating a business from home, obtaining free publicity instead of paying for advertising and using other free resources as much as possible.

Other examples of bootstrap financing include factoring and trade credit. Factoring means a business sells its accounts receivable to factor or another financial institution at a discount rate. Factor refers to the financial institution whose business is to purchase accounts receivable from other companies. Trade credit refers to situations when suppliers provide their products and services on credit. Suppliers usually extend interest free credit for 30, 60 or 90 days.

“CHAIN OF COMMAND”

Is an orderly line of authority within the organization or organization’s reporting structure. It is a term taken from the military. An organizational chart illustrates the chain of command. It shows who reports to whom. For example, it shows the CEO reports to the board of directors and not the other way around. The chain of command is important to maintain clear lines of authority and responsibility.

“NETIQUETTE”

Is the proper etiquette in writing and dealing with emails. This phrase, along with “buzzword”, are probably the newest business phrases.

“SPAN OF CONTROL”

Is sometimes also called span of management. It refers to how many subordinates report to a supervisor within the organizational hierarchy. The more people report to one manager the larger the span of control.

Experts suggest that, on average, one manager’s span of control cannot be larger than six to eight people. However, in practice, span of control is affected by many factors. Such factors include personality of the manager and workers, type of work to be supervised and whether the tasks that need to be supervised are similar or different, the health state of the manager and competency level of the supervisor and subordinates.

Span of control is also affected by geographical location of the subordinates. If all subordinates are in the same area than it is easier to supervise them compared to a situation when subordinates are dispersed over different geographical locations.

Over the last few years spans of control in organizations were increasing largely due to developments in information technology and the flattening of organizational structure.

The concept of span of control is especially important for small businesses. Many entrepreneurs allow too wide a span of control by trying to supervise too many employees. This takes away their time that could have been spent on growing the business. As a result, too wide a span of control in a small business may slow down the growth of the business.

“SILO MENTALITY”

Occurs when certain departments/groups of individuals within the business do not want to share knowledge or information with other areas of the business and other individuals. Such mindset leads to inefficiency and creates risks for the business.

“ORGANIZATIONAL GRAPEVINE”

Is the informal and unsupervised communication within an organization. It allows to rapidly disseminate information throughout the organization.

“COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE”

Is a term developed by Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School and refers to advantage enjoyed by a company which results in the company with a competitive advantage being able to earn above-average returns compared to the rest of the industry.

Competitive advantage can be divided into comparative advantage and differential advantage. Comparative advantage refers to cost advantage. Enterprises which enjoy comparative advantage can produce a product or service at a lower price than its competitors. This allows the enterprise to charge lower prices or to enjoy a higher profit margin. Differential advantage means a product or service of the enterprise with differential advantage is different from products and services of competitors.

Sustainable competitive advantage refers to a type of competitive advantage which is too costly or too difficult for competitors to imitate. The more sustainable the competitive advantage the more difficult it is for competitors to emulate it. However, competitors will eventually find the way to reduce the effect or to completely neutralize the competitive advantage. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to constantly search for new ways to obtain a competitive advantage over competitors.

“WHEN YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL”

Means not planning is really the process of setting yourself up to fail.

“A BIRD IN THE HAND IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH”

Means it is better to appreciate and work with what you definitely own or have, then to hope for something bigger and better that you do not have and may never obtain.

“RISK AND REWARD GO HAND IN HAND”

Means the when you take on risk; you have the potential to generate greater rewards. The two cannot be separated and opposite is also true; not taking on risk means you have a lower chance of generating returns.

“PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT”

Means the more you practice doing something the better you will be at it. If you continue this, then at some point you will be perfect at this task

“NEVER BUY A CAR THAT WAS PRODUCED ON A FRIDAY OR MONDAY”

Means that employees do not do their best work on these two days. I have only heard this business phrase 4 times in my whole life, but it did appear during an important meeting, so I thought it wise to include it.

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Writing Effective Emails

The ability to write effective emails is an essential skill. This skill will be required throughout your business career. It is required when applying for a job, throughout each day of your employment and up until your letter of resignation and good-bye emails are sent out. In other words, without the ability to write effective emails, you could enter a company at a disadvantage and leave at a disadvantage.

Being able to write effective emails which are concise and professional is a “must” for successful business career.

The way you write creates Brand “You”


In our day and age, the way you write emails comprises a large part of your communication with the outside world and contributes significantly to the way people see you. In other words, it is part of your personal style. Every time you send an email at the office, people form an image of you. This image is negative, positive or neutral.

Writing effective emails is one of the ways you market yourself and your skills. It has been the case where previously ignored employees rise in their employers’ eyes based on the power of one well-timed and insightful email. While not all emails present the opportunity for such career shifts, every email you send should be building the image you want to project and should be creating the right corridor chatter about you.

Example


Given the numerous priorities your colleagues face, an effective email should achieve its objective in the shortest possible time and with the least distraction to people. One way to do this is to be as explicit in the subject line as possible.

For example, if you want to see if a report is ready for the General Motor’s Efficiency project, some people will write “Project” or “General Motors Project” in the subject line. This is time consuming for a number of reasons.

Since the purpose of the email is unclear, your colleagues need to open it to read it. This takes time, especially if there are bandwidth problems at the office, they have older laptops, you have attachments in the email or if they are reading it on their Blackberry. It is much more effective to write the purpose of the email in the subject line.

Here are some examples:

1 – Will the General Motors Efficiency Report be ready by 5pm on Tuesday?

2 – Do you need any more help on the General Motors Report?

3 – Let me know if you can meet the GM Report Deadline? Not Urgent

Look at the examples above. They are specific. The recipient can quickly decide if he needs or wants to respond. The third example is even better. You are asking a question, but telling the recipient to respond when they have time. Colleagues appreciate this and see you as a person of action who values their time.

Here is an example of an effective email:

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SUBJECT:

Feedback needed on GM Efficiency Project Extension, Deadline by 4pm today!

BODY:

Colleagues,

We are unable to include the financing numbers by the agreed deadline period. Given the importance of the numbers to the client, I am proposing I contact the client and move the deadline back by 48 hours. I have until 5pm today to do this. Is everyone in agreement?

These are reasons why the numbers are important and why we are unable to verify them in time for inclusion:

1 – The client cannot make a financing decision without the financing calculations.

2 – All other proposals will have the financing numbers.

3 – The client has stressed that we must include the financing numbers, even if we postpone the delivery of the proposal.

4 – We cannot finalize the financing numbers since marketing is unable to secure the market projection numbers from Reuters.

5 – Reuters can only get the numbers to us tomorrow due to a server problem on their side. We then need to check them before including them.

6 – There are no other available sources for the market projection numbers.

Given the above, I propose I will contact the client by 5pm to ask for a 48 hours extension. I will state the problem and request the extension only when Reuters can guarantee the new delivery time.

Best Regards,

Sylvia

***

Did you notice the following?


This is a very powerful way of writing a professional email.

1 – The subject is clear. Your colleagues can decide if and when they need to respond. They can understand the email without opening and scrolling through the text.

2 – The very first sentence summarizes the email perfectly. You state the problem. You list the solution and timing. You state exactly who is accountable for each step. There is no confusion. Again, this is a perfect summary and your colleagues can then read the details should they wish to.

3 – Notice the details are listed as succinct points. It is very difficult to read dense long paragraphs. Write for your audience and write clearly.

4 – Notice point six clearly states where the problem lies. You need to be effective at stating why something is changing without laying any blame. State it as a matter-of-fact (if it is) and be tactful about it especially if the delay was caused by a co-worker. If you are not clear why the delay occurred, state so and outline the steps you will take to determine the cause of the problem.

5 – Place enough facts in the email for the recipients to make a decision. This way there are no to-and-from emails which create an annoying email trail. Write just enough details for the recipients to understand the reasons for the change but not so much that there are unnecessary details.

The style you use in writing an effective email can differ, but always write clearly and concisely consider. This will show you are a person of action.

Simple Power Point Feedback

Have you ever sent someone a PowerPoint presentation and asked them for feedback? You are likely to receive the following type of feedback:

“Slide 15, line 3 from the bottom, text should be texts.

Slide 21, I am not sure Japan is a good example to use. Maybe try Spain.

Slide 22, headline is weird. Why do you use 55%?

Slide 23, Japanese does not sound right here as well; maybe you should use Portugal, two lines down second paragraph missing a link”

And on and on….

When you receive feedback like this you actually feel this is too much work and procrastinate as much as possible. Who can blame you? Who wants to sift through these dense comments and link them back to the main document?

For a lengthy presentation this can be up to a few pages long. You then need to print out this list, open the power point and work your way through the list. This is a tedious process and not the best way to polish a power point presentation.

Assuming a colleague sends you a power point presentation for review, how should you respond? How should you ensure that you are providing effective and simple power point presentation feedback?

Step 1 – Determine the feedback required


You first need to find out the kind of feedback they seek. Do they need you to review the styling, the overall messaging and positioning of the message, detailed review of the slides and text, review of the image, compatibility on your laptop etc? As you can see, the word “review” can mean many things and it is important you clarify this before proceeding.

If the co-worker needs a simple power point presentation review, then you can save yourself a lot of time by clarifying this in advance and providing the type of input that co-worker actually requires and not a more thorough check.

If they need a detailed review, then at least you know the requirements and can allocate sufficient time to meet such requirements. The ability to give effective and simple power point presentation feedback is part of your personal style. You will be surprised how these small things contribute to your image in the office.

Step 2 – Prepare feedback


The next step in giving effective and simple power point presentation feedback is to undertake the review and present it in the most effective way for your co-worker to use the feedback. The best way to do this is to place all your comments directly into the power point presentation.

You are probably thinking this will not work since your co-worker may want to review and change your comments. That is a wise assumption. However, when we say, place your comments directly into the presentation, we do not mean you should change the presentation. This is how you should do it.

1 – The reason all your comments should be placed in the presentations is to make it easy to work with the document. If your co-worker wants to forward the presentation and your comments, it is much easier to forward one document. When reviewing your comments and making changes, it is also much faster any more effective to work with visual remarks on the slides. Having to flip between the slides and comments in email is difficult. Time is lost and comments may be overlooked.

2 – When commenting on the overall messaging, styling or anything else where the comment pertains to more than one slide or all the slides, insert a blank slide at the very start of the presentation. In this slide or slides, insert a blue text box and write in your comments. This way your colleague can clearly see your comments. Mention clearly that they apply to all the slides. Write clearly and in bullet points. Succinct and clear writing is always appreciated over long and dense paragraphs of text.

3 – When commenting on each slide, it is advisable to insert a round colourful text box and write in your comments. The text box should be large and noticeable. It is okay if it covers parts of the slide content. It will be deleted later once the comments and corrections are captured. Now use an arrow to connect the comment to the text or image which needs to be corrected. This allows your colleague to quickly see the problem, make the adjustment and delete your comments and arrows once the proper corrections have been made.

4 – For simple spelling mistakes, you may simply highlight the text with a yellow marker or circle the text in a red circle. Whether you use a yellow highlighter, blue or red circle, the objective is to use a color which will not be confused with the rest of the presentation.

Remember the operating phrase is Simple Power Point Feedback. Simple feedback makes it easier for te user to work with your comments.

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Remember the operating phrase is Simple Power Point Feedback. Simple feedback makes it easier for the user to work with your comments.

Great free online resources

In our day and age it is so easy and inexpensive to access free online learning materials. One can learn and grow much faster if one absorbs the knowledge that other people spent years or decades to accumulate. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to access such knowledge is through free online learning materials.

Technology allows us to be mentored by the brightest and most influential people of our time, without them even knowing the impact they have on our lives. If at this point in your life your funds are very limited, this still cannot be used as an excuse to limit your development. You have access to the Internet where, with the right guidance and commitment, you can find specific and quality material.

Below is a list with some resources I found useful. In addition, the list below points out some of the influential people of our time that one can benefit from knowing a little bit about. All of them were or are successful in one way or another and each of them can be a source for one’s professional and personal development to a smaller or larger extent.

We will constantly increase the information on this page as we find more useful information and free online learning material.

http://www.fora.tv


This is an excellent free online learning resource. It includes lectures, live events and debates with some of the top minds of our time. The purpose of the project is as follows, – “helps intelligent, engaged audiences get smart. Our users find, enjoy, and share videos about the people, issues, and ideas changing the world.” Here are examples of some interesting videos:
Video on Paul Krugman and the Global Economy

Video on Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP-Compaq

EconTalk


This is a weekly podcast, which is provided by the Library of Economics and Liberty and hosted by Russ Roberts. The main subject of the talk show is economics and the format is one-on-one discussions between the host and the guest. Russ Roberts’ guests include Nobel Laureates, business leaders and well-known authors. All past podcasts are available on the website. This is an incredibly popular free online learning site and is of exceptionally high quality. Go to:
Econ Talk

The Harvard Business Review


HBR is probably the most prestigious source for business analyses. Although the site has a paid portion, there is a lot of free online material available. Blogs, some past articles and author contributions are all free. The style of writing is very easy to understand and the research is of the highest quality. Go to:
Harvard Business Review

Knowledge@Wharton


K@W is an online business publication of the Wharton School of Business. It is another excellent free online learning resource and open to all readers after registration. The articles cover a wide range of topics and also contain podcasts for downloading. Go to:
Knowledge@Wharton

Tony Schwartz


He is the founder, CEO and President of The Energy Project: Go to the project here. He is a professional speaker and bestselling author (see his presentation at Google).

Tony Schwartz is working with many Fortune 500 organizations. See an article regarding Tony Schwartz’ work, which was published in the Harvard Business Review.

John Maxwell


He is an internationally respected and best-selling leadership author and speaker. He works with many Fortune 500 companies and foreign governments. I have listed some of his free online learning material here.
Additional Material
Free Chapters
Behind the Scenes
Maxwell’s Blog

Marshall Goldsmith


Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority on leadership and works with some of the top leaders in business. He wrote a New York Times best seller “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. The link to his presentation at Youtube is available here. Marshall Goldsmith’s website also provides a lot of useful and free online learning materials.

Randy Pausch


Randy Pausch was an amazing individual and professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. His last lecture and time management lecture are inspirational and very useful free online learning materials.

Aswath Damodaran


Professor Damodaran’s free online learning guide is the definitive source on corporate finance definitions, course notes and sample excel models. If you need a simple excel model, you are likely to find them here.

This list is by no means exhaustive or complete. Over time, we will add to this list and provide more material. Your contributions will be highly appreciated.

Effective Reading

Effective reading is yet another skill that will serve you well during your studies and throughout your career. Whether you are a student or already pursuing a career, mastering effective reading techniques is a worthy investment of your time and effort.

There are various effecting reading techniques you can use to improve your “uptake” from reading. Below we present 9 effective reading techniques.

1 – Have a conversation with the author


One of the effective reading techniques is an imaginary conversation with the author. Try to see reading as a conversation between you and the author. Listen, make suggestions, pose questions and ask for clarifications. This will enhance your concentration and improve the retention of new information.

You can even take this step further and not just imagine the conversation, you can also imagine the author. Make him/her funny looking or a very unusual looking character. Our mind remembers such things better than ordinary things.

This will make your learning more active and will keep you alert. Write down your suggestions, questions and clarifications. This will help you to develop your own viewpoint.

2 – Prepare test questions


As you study, write down possible examination or test questions and the page where you can find an answer. This makes you an active learner as well as gives you a list of questions that you can use to test yourself on an ongoing basis and prior to examination. You can use this reading technique for mastering a skill necessary for your career as well.

3 – Read out aloud and walk around the room


When we see and hear information, we understand it easier and retain it better. You can combine reading out loud with walking around while reading. This will help you stay more alert and more involved.

4 – Link information


Another effective reading technique is linking information. Try to link information within a study module (subject or section). Also try to link information with other study modules. Purposeful creation of such links improves retention and enhances understanding.

5 – Find answers


As you study, there may be parts of the material that you will not be able to understand immediately. If you feel you cannot understand it even after studying it few times – get help. Do not wait for the final few days before your exam.

6 – Draw mind maps


Some students find it very helpful to draw mind maps as they read a chapter or section. This allows them to have a “big picture” of the chapter in a way which is easier to remember. You can make each mind map unique so your mind maps are easier to remember. For example, you can use images relevant to the concepts you are studying. Use your imagination.

Drawing mind maps also makes you an active learner because you are doing something with information rather than just reading it. This, as always, enhances concentration and retention. It is important part of mastering reading.

7 – Form mental images


As you are reading, make sure you imagine what the author is trying to communicate. Mental pictures automatically formed in our minds and differ from one person to another. Images that appear are unique to every individual and can resemble a movie or power point slides, as an example. Try to enhance the kind of mental pictures that you experience while reading. This will improve both concentration and retention.

8 – Look for the main ideas


Yet another very effective reading technique is to focus on the main ideas. It involves identifying and absorbing the main ideas before going into details. For example, you can start by reading a summary of the chapter before reading the chapter itself.

In the text itself, the main ideas are usually expressed in the first sentence of the paragraph. The main idea of the paragraph is the main point the author is trying to get across. For example, in this particular paragraph, the main idea is to “look for the main ideas” while reading.

9 – Review, review, review


Finally, you need to retain new information. To ensure prolonged retention of new information, you need to revise information you learned. Otherwise you will have to relearn it.

According to some experts, revision should be done within the first 24 hours, than within 7, 21 and 31 days after the first encounter with the information. Thereafter, revise information every 30 days or, better, every 7-14 days. Every subsequent revision becomes progressively shorter.

***

As you can see from the above, the techniques recommended for effective reading are very simple and intuitive. Yet all of them are very effective and will certainly help you, if followed correctly.

In mastering effective reading, remember to be alert, vary your approaches, learn what works and does not work for you and focus on the core before going into details. Don’t settle for ineffective reading. With the amount of information that we need to intake on a daily basis, ineffective reading is a luxury you cannot afford.

Can you lead yourself? If not, don’t expect others to follow you

Author, life coach, and motivational speaker T...

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To be a better leader, the first thing you need to do is to learn to lead yourself. Leadership and learning to lead yourself go together. If you cannot learn this important skills, you will not be able to lead others. Below are some ideas on how to develop this skill of internal leadership.

Ask: “what is the right thing to do?”. Then do it!


Learn to guide your choices, big and small, by asking yourself: “What is the right thing to do?”. And then do it.

At first, it may take extra time. Thereafter, as you will continue with this activity, the new healthier habits will form and you will not need to spell this out question to yourself. You will do “the right thing” by default.

Moreover, as the habit develops, it will become easier and easier, and you will begin to feel and see the difference it makes in your life.

Remember that, most of the time, you already know what is the right thing to do. The trick is in actually doing it. This is what separate top performers at work from under-achievers, great life partners from inferior ones and straight-A students from C students. Imagine the difference it will make in your life if you actually do it?

More importantly, you are doing it and not just expecting others to do the right thing. You are behaving as you expect others to behave. You are taking steps to effectively lead yourself.

Determine the “musts” in your life


This advice is intuitive but was clearly verbalized by Tony Robbins. The reason some people do not go above a certain physical weight or the reason some students do not get B’s but only A’s is because a certain weight or certain academic performance is a “must” for them.

Everyone has things they should do. They know they should do it, they know how to do it, but they just cannot find strength in themselves to do it. The reason for this is because it is a “should” for them, not a “must”. When something is a “must” for you – failure is not an option.

Therefore, examine your life and determine which aspects of your life must be classified as “musts”. Then reinforce those “musts” every day as an activity where “failure is not an option”, until it becomes second nature. Once you break the old habit – based on research old habits take 21 days to break – the new approach will feel more natural to you than the old approach. This simple technique can significantly contribute to success in your life.

For example, imagine that instead of “you should study at least 5 hours a day” you determine that “you MUST study at least 5 hours a day”. Then make sure that you follow it vigorously. Do not allow yourself any excuses.

You are developing your discipline now, so you have to be strict with yourself. You will see that in 2 or 3 weeks it will become a habit. You will also notice how your new positive habit brings you to new levels of achievement, which will give you further strength to continue with your new positive habit.

Thereafter, as you develop the new “must” in your life, you will have the first victory to keep on giving you strength in disciplining yourself.

Determining “musts” in your life and vigorously ensuring that you keep up with them is part of an effort to lead yourself. Incidentally, the goal to lead yourself needs to be a “must” for you as well.

Use one small improvement as leverage for change


Part of the “lead yourself” endeavor is understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and determining the causes of your strengths and weaknesses. If leading yourself and leadership are not your strong qualities at the moment, you need to change your beliefs. Your beliefs affect your actions and your actions affect your results, which further reinforce your beliefs.

If you have a belief that you will not succeed in your “lead yourself” goal – you need to change this belief. One way to change this belief is to achieve a result that will strongly contradict this belief. It does not need to be a big change. It can be something very simple. Just do it to prove to yourself that you can change and that your belief is wrong. Your mind needs evidence.

After you succeed with providing contradictory evidence to your belief, you have a leverage point. Every time you feel that you just cannot do something, always think back to this example to remember what is possible.

For example, take an area which is a struggle for the majority of people. A good example can be waking up in the morning. So many people struggle to wake up in the morning. If you will be a person who always wakes up at the very same time (whichever time this may be) every single morning, on weekdays and weekends, you will have at least one result which contradicts your current belief of not being able to lead yourself.

It may sound like a really simple example, yet it means something to you and that is what is important. You need simple examples to build your confidence and this creates a snowballing effect.

Above are just some thoughts on improving leadership and attaining your “lead yourself” goal. This will give you a good start. Remember that it will not be easy. If it were easy – everyone would be successful.

Now that you have read the article, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Can you trust you to lead yourself?
  • If you cannot lead yourself, why are you learning to lead others?

Take some time to think about this and write down the answers. Use the guide provided above and develop an action plan to lead yourself.

Drowning at the office…improve your time management with these 15 tips

The Alarm

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To understand time management, think about what a wise person once said, you can live your life any way you want, but you can live it only once.

We could adapt it to:

“you can live your day any way you want, but you can live it only once.”

If you don’t have an effective time management approach, your days are going to zoom by while leaving you with the feeling that nothing really gets done. Theoretically, it is not possible to manage time. But one can manage what one does with their time. Effective time management approaches are therefore needed. Below are some of the main principles that can significantly improve your time management and productivity.

1 – Do not deviate from your schedule


There are many distractions around you throughout the day. The more you deviate from your schedule to do something unproductive, the less you will accomplish. Be disciplined, develop a daily schedule and follow it. This is crucial for effective time management. If something comes up that is important, incorporate it into your schedule. If something is not important, then stick to your schedule. Remember that more often than not, your daily activities determine your success.

2 – Have programmed decisions


Programmed decisions are decisions made about recurring activities. Such decisions are made once and used every time the need for such a decision presents itself.

For example, if you are a very ambitious and driven individua, a time management programmed decision can be:

“I decided that I must only watch TV up to 5 hours a week, only between the times 6pm to 10pm on weekends”.

Now, all you have to do is to follow it.

Initially every time you think “should I do my report or watch a show on TV?” you will remember that your time management programmed decision does not allow you to have this option. As long as you are disciplined in following through, it will become a habit, and eventually you will not even have this question in your mind.

This example of programmed decisions also offers you an additional time saver – less TV. Another example of a programmed decision can be:

“I must exercise 30 minutes, 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 6.30pm”.

Now you no longer have to spend any time planning and deciding on when you should exercise. The decision is already made. Time management programmed decisions can save you an enormous amount of time, which can be invested in value-adding activities.

3 – Manage your energy


It is important to do the most challenging tasks when your energy is at a high level.

4 – Respectfully say, “I wish I could help but I do not have capacity”


It is very important not to take on more tasks than you can handle. It is an important skill to learn to say “No” when you do not have the capacity to incorporate additional activity into your schedule.

5 – Keep a positive attitude


This may sound irrelevant to time management, but it is. If you have a positive attitude and see opportunities rather than problems, you will not waste time and energy on worry and regret. Instead, you will focus on solutions rather than problems, and opportunities rather than threats and unpleasant events.

6 -Email routine


Emails can be a significant time waster. It is vital, if at all possible, to set a specific time during the day when you will attend to your emails instead of continuously checking them as they arrive.

You could, for instance, make a time management programmed decision about allocating 10 minutes in the morning to attend to urgent emails and 20 minutes in the afternoon to attend to the rest of emails.

Only respond to emails addressed to you or where your input adds value. The novelty of being copied on thousands of emails soon wears out but the time you already wasted on them can never be recovered.

The morning is generally when you have the most energy. Therefore, it is not productive to spend this time handling non-urgent emails. Do not let other people decide how you should spend your most productive time. You should spend it on the high priority tasks.

7 – The “Pareto” rule (80/20)


The “Pareto” rule refers to the tendency for 20% of your effort to account for 80% of the impact. For time management, it refers to the tendency of 20 percent of your activities to account for 80 percent of the positive impact from your work.

Therefore, it is an advisable and smart thing to identify those activities with the highest impact. Spend the majority of time on them while cutting down or cutting out unnecessary activities (activities with no or very little impact).

For example, if you are a student and your main job is to earn a degree, then you should be spending the majority of your time on things which help you obtain your degree. Focus your time on your studies and cut out things which add no value to your studies. You should definitely not be spending less than 50% of your time on your studies if this is your main objective.

8 – Delegate and delegate often


It is important to delegate what can be done by others. This will save your time for high priority items and gives lower level employees an opportunity to grow. When delegating, it is critical to delegate some authority together with responsibility. That is, you need to delegate the task together with the appropriate level of authority to make decisions. Only such delegation brings real value to both parties. If only the responsibility is delegated but every minor decision about the task is still made by you, then your time will still be used up on this task and the lower level employee will not gain the true developmental benefits that delegation can offer.

In fact, you may spend more time on the task should an extra problem be created due to the poor delegation of authority.

9 – Lower standards for lower priority tasks


Some tasks should just be done at “Good enough” level. Striving for perfection in low priority tasks is generally a waste of time that can be spent on more important goals. Time management is also about eliminating the obsession to make everything perfect, even things that do not need to be perfect.

10 – Alarm snooze time waster


Many people search for ways to get up in the morning. You probably know that resetting the alarm or putting it on snooze in the morning can lead to significant time wastage. Moreover, the quality of your sleep during such periods is very bad so you do not get a good rest.

It is, without doubt, very hard for many people to get up in the morning. It is customary not to hear the alarm or not remember any of the reasons why you should get up before you absolutely must get up. Yet, later in the day, many people regret  lost hours that they could have spent more wisely.

The best way to break out of this insanity is to train yourself to wake up exactly at the same time every morning. Our bodies go through what is known as basic rest activity cycles. When you awake a few days in a row at the very same time – your body will adjust your basic rest activity cycle so that it feels natural to be awake at specific time.

It may be helpful, especially in the beginning, to leave the alarm in another room so you physically have to get up when you hear it.

After you start waking up at the same time every day, a pattern develops, and you may not be able to sleep beyond the  time set by your “body-clock”.

If you miss a day or two and will wake up later than your normal set time, you will have to again train yourself to wake up at the set time and it may be almost as hard to train yourself as the first time. Therefore, it seems better to take a nap during the day if you need extra rest and get yourself out of bed at a set time in the morning.

11 – Group similar activities together


It is important to group similar activities together. For example, if you need to make a few phone calls, it is better to do them all at once. One simple rule that can be used to save time is never to leave your desk for just one thing. In this way, you are forced to group a few activities together before your work is interrupted and, therefore, work will be interrupted much less. This is a simple but very effective time management technique.

12 – Work passionately


Time management can be improved not only by reducing the time spent at the office, but also by enjoying the time spent at the office. Constantly look for ways to be interested and passionate about your work. This way you can do your best work and you can be more focused and accomplish the task faster.

13 – Avoid disruptions


Avoid all kinds of disruptions such as drop-in visitors, telephone calls and emails, magazines and newspapers, and news websites. Those activities can take up a large part of your time if you are not careful. Allocate some time from the least productive part of your day to deal with these type of activities.

14 -Avoid procrastination


There is a saying, if you have a frog to eat, eat it the first thing in the morning and, if you have two frogs to eat, don’t start from the small one.

It is a good time management habit to do the most difficult and unpleasant activities earlier in the day. This way it will be done once and for all and you no longer will have to occupy your mind with the thoughts on how unpleasant and difficult it will be do engage in such activity.

15 – Assign a “dollar” value to an hour of your time


You need to assign a “dollar” value to an hour of your time. Time is an even more precious resource than money, but, for some reason, people are generally more careful with their money then with their time. By keeping in mind how much each hour of your day is worth, you can be much more accountable for the way this time is utilized.

Presentation Skills: Stand Up and Present with Confidence

Audience during my Wikimania talk

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Effective presentation skills are vital for most business roles. Many people never master presentation skills. Therefore, you can really set yourself apart from your colleagues by developing strong presentation skills. Steps to enhance your presentation skills are outlined for inexperienced and semi-experienced presenters below.

Inexperienced presenter


If you have never had any experience in presenting your work to an audience, the first few times will most likely be really uncomfortable and scary. What could help you greatly is to prepare what you can say. This resembles writing a script. Later, as you will acquire experience in presenting your work, you will no longer need scripts. The next thing you need to do is to practice, practice and practice. Start from practicing alone. Divide the presentation into manageable and logical parts and practice each part separately. Then practice each part together in the correct sequence. When you feel you can get through the presentation more or less adequately, start videotaping yourself. When you will see yourself presenting your work, you may likely notice things that you had no idea you were doing. An example can be noisily clapping your hands together when you are trying to make a point. To avoid embarrassment it is, of course, much better to find out about this problem while you are alone. Since you know that you do particular things with your hands while presenting, you can keep one of your hands on your leg and break the habit. After you have videotaped your presentation a few times and you will see a significant improvement in the quality of your presentation and will be ready to set up dry runs. Dry runs are practice presentations to a friendly audience. You can start with your family and, when you are ready, you can ask some of your colleagues to come in for a dry run and afterwards give you feedback and make suggestions on how to improve your presentation. After about 5 dry runs you should be ready to give a good presentation.

Semi-experienced presenter


If you have some experience in presenting your work to an audience, then the preparation steps described above can be shortened in frequency and depth to reflect what you feel is necessary to adequately prepare. However, if you do not feel confident about your presentation skills then it is better to go through all these steps to ensure you are really well prepared.

***

Presenting your work to an audience can become one of your favorite activities as you gain more experience. It is exciting. It allows you an opportunity to show your competence, intelligence and reliability. Presenting your work is an opportunity to shine, it is not punishment. You need to embrace it and make the most of it. The ideas above are very helpful and, if followed, will greatly help you in improving your confidence and effectiveness when engaging an audience.

Six ways to enhance your personal style

Dress code as seen at a London Club in the Soh...

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Your personal style significantly influences perceptions that people have of you. Moreover, it rolls up into being your brand or personal image. Often perceptions that people have of you are very one-sided and heavily affected by one negative or positive characteristic which is the so-called “halo effect”, which is one of the biases that people have when forming perceptions of others.

You can definitely influence how people perceive you. You need to adjust your personal style to build your brand the same way as Coca Cola and amazon.com builds theirs. You can be anything you want to be and make people think anything you would like them to.

You just need to consciously manage your brand. It must be of the highest caliber, consistent and credible. You can call it your personal style, your personal image or personal brand. It does not matter. Everyone has one and you need to control your own.

Below are six ideas which can significantly help you build your personal style and, hence, your brand.

1 – Over invest during the first 6 months


You probably noticed when you join a new company or when you start a degree in university, a perception about who you are and what you are capable of develops and is usually based on what you do over the very first few months. Therefore, if you give everything you have over those first 6 months, you will lay a great foundation upon which to build your success.

2 – Appearance counts


Numerous studies have indicated that people prefer attractive and neat people. The way you dress, the way you walk and the way you communicate are all part of your personal style and contributes to the way people see you.

3 – Dress a level higher than the majority


You need to always dress for your next job. If you are a business analyst in a consulting firm, dress as a consultant or even a senior consultant or a manager. Even if more senior people in the work place are dressed very casually, but the overall dress code is business casual, you should be dressed just a level higher than the majority of your colleagues and superiors.

This generally will show that you take your job and career seriously, that you are here to do business and you intend to go far in life. This sends a message that you come to work not to socialize and make friends but to bring great value to the company and the customers. This will make you stand out.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some companies specifically stay away from a professional dress code. A good example is Google, employees of which follow a very casual dress code. But in most cases, this guideline will make you stand out and get noticed. Of course, your other actions, such as the quality of your work are also ingredients of your personal style and should support your overall message of excellence.

THERE IS ONE IMPORTANT WORD OF CAUTION. Dressing well must make you feel better internally and present a confident and positive message. Never ever confuse dressing better to acting better than your co-workers. Your professional dressing will generate attention, so it is very important you go out of your way to indicate that this is your preferred dressing style only and you DO NOT think you are better than your co-workers. Show this in your actions and be sincere about it. If you dress well but act better than your co-workers then you will harm your reputation.

4 – Reputation


Your personal style should be aligned with helping you to build a reputation of credibility, competence and reliability. Your superiors need to know that if there are trouble and they need someone reliable and competent, they should go to you.

5 – Always keep your word


Staying true to your word must be an important part of your personal style. Take on only what you can handle and feel free to renegotiate deadlines, where necessary and where possible. Your personal style must clearly show that you are someone who takes requests and promises seriously.

Your attitude should be one that if you promised to do something – you will do everything in your power to ensure that it gets done, one way or another. For example, if you promised to deliver a certain document by the deadline, and an unexpected and more important assignment came up, you need to do everything you can to find someone to do the first deliverable for you, and be accountable for its quality.

After you find such a person, you need to approach your superior and confirm with them if they feel comfortable with the other person taking responsibility for the deliverable that you were assigned to do.

If you have done everything you could to find someone and there is just nobody available, than you can approach your superior and describe the situation. He or she may then make a decision on how best to proceed.

The bottom line is, you need to be proactive, reliable and feel ultimately accountable for any work you promise to do. Keeping your word must be seen by others as an important ingredient of your personal style. It is also important to be consistent in your personal style across different parts of your life, which includes your personal style in your relationships outside of work.

6 – Under promise and over deliver


This simple technique can help you greatly in establishing an image of competence and excellence. Furthermore, this technique is useful in any area of your life: in your studies, in your career and in your personal life. By following this simple rule, you will consistently exceed people’s expectations and will, therefore, have the reputation of someone who always exceeds expectations.

***

The above ideas are really important and rarely implemented. If you will adapt it to enhance your personal style, this alone will set you apart from the crowd.