Category Archives: Article

Playing Nice in the Sandbox: Relationship Credibility

12/1/2008 | Palmer, W., RILA Report

(Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 10, December 2008)

In last month’s column, we discussed the first of two prerequisites for persuasion and influence as identified by Jay Conger in his 1998 article The Necessary Art of Persuasion which was published in the Harvard Business Review. The first prerequisite that we covered was expertise credibility – the necessity that others view you as having the knowledge, skills, and experience to know what you are talking about.

However, Conger argues that expertise credibility is wasted if it is not coupled with relationship credibility. But, why are relationships important? Don’t we sometimes think that as long as we “do the job we are paid to do” that nothing else matters? Have you ever said, “They don’t pay me to be popular”? It seems that we often equate “building relationships” with smoozing, kissing up, or being manipulative. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Having relationship credibility does not necessarily mean that you are popular or have lots of friends at work. The first aspect of relationship credibility is that others in the organization trust you to listen and to work in the best interest of others. Instead of simply foisting your plans or priorities on others, you meet with them one-on-one, get their views on initiatives you are pursuing, listen to their concerns and priorities, and find a way to help them with their top issues and projects.

The second aspect of relationship credibility is that others view you as having “consistently shown strong emotional character and integrity.” This means that you are consistent and not prone to emotional outbursts and mood swings. In the past, when I’ve asked groups whether they would prefer to work for someone who is a jerk everyday without fail versus a boss where you can never tell “which side of the bed they woke up on,” the group chooses the consistent jerk every time. Inconsistency in a relationship is a sure predictor of failure.

When you can establish yourself as trustworthy, consistent, and working in the best interest of the group, you have an edge in any negotiation, meeting, or persuasion situation. Others in the group will want to help you achieve your goals and will give you the benefit of the doubt. However, if people don’t trust you on a relationship level, your expertise is wasted and you will lose the ability to bring influence to your organization.

Remember, relationship credibility must go hand-in-hand with expertise credibility. Have you ever worked with someone where the common comment about him was, “He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing”? That is not a recipe for success. Like so many things in life and work, you cannot depend on one “magic bullet” to make you successful.

Do you and your department have “relationship credibility” in your organization? Do you have it with certain functions or people but not others? For instance, do you have a strong relationship with the CFO, but not your head merchant or HR executive? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in establishing solid relationships credibility within your organization? If so, please share them and we can generate further dialogue.

In next month’s column, we will start to look at the issue of alignment and how misalignment derails the ability to build the case for the value loss prevention brings to the retail enterprise. As always, I welcome your views, thoughts, and insights into these issues. You can contact us at our contact page.

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Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 10, December 2008

© 2008, Walter E. Palmer, PCG Solutions, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Expertise Credibility: A Prerequisite for Persuasion

11/1/2008 | Palmer, W., RILA Report

In last month’s column, we discussed the need to understand the “hot buttons” that really capture the attention of your senior executives. As examples, we talked about financial ROI, risk avoidance, sales risks, and high value theft cases as possible hot buttons. One reader weighed in this month with another example. He wrote, “I n my company, my CEO is all about protecting the integrity of the brand, as it relates to merchandise and customer experience.” Knowing that hot button allows this executive to advance his proposals in light of how they would support this important organizational aspiration.

This month, we will look at another key factor in gaining board and CEO support for your programs – expertise credibility. In 1998, Jay Conger wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled, The Necessary Art of Persuasion which gives a great, easy to understand summary of the two prerequisites for persuading anyone to do anything – expertise credibility and relationship credibility.

Since getting anyone to adopt a new opinion or change an existing one is difficult, Conger argues that to be successful in persuading someone, they must view you as having expertise. Think about it in another context – medicine. If you were concerned that you had a serious health issue, who would you turn to for diagnosis? Someone whose only claim to expertise is that they “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night”? In fact, if you had a disease that was really serious, you would most likely seek out the doctor with the best reputation and experience in the area of medicine you require. You would not likely go to an optometrist or even your general practitioner if you had a rare blood disorder.

But, have you ever noticed that it seems like everyone in your organization thinks they know how to do loss prevention? While we should always want the ideas and contributions of others in the enterprise, we also need to do a better job at establishing our own expertise and the existence of loss prevention as a professional expertise akin to accounting or marketing or human resources.

One of the ways we can do a better job with establishing credibility is by increasing transparency. In other words, let’s educate others about what we do and how we make our decisions. Let’s listen to their perspectives and not be defensive. If you learn what they think, you will have a better handle on how to work with them and what you need to do to persuade them to a different mindset. Educate them on our industry. How many people know that there are professional conferences, research councils, text books, certifications, and degree programs for loss prevention?

At the end of the day, we must have more substance in our profession both at the industry level and within our own organizations if we hope to have lasting impact. I highly recommend Conger’s article as he also discusses how you can improve your expertise credibility on a tactical level. Even more importantly, I would like to encourage you to write in with your thoughts, examples, disagreements with this column and any future ones. This space will be a whole lot more useful to everyone if you participate and add your thoughts. Otherwise, you are simply stuck with my opinions…

Do you and your department have “expertise credibility” in your organization? Do you have it with certain functions or people but not others? For instance, do you have strong credibility with the CFO, but not your head merchant or HR executive? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in establishing expertise credibility within your organization? If so, please share them and we can generate further ideas and dialogue.

In next month’s column, we will start to look at the next element in building the case for the value the loss prevention function brings to the retail enterprise – relationship credibility. As always, I welcome your views, thoughts, and insights into these issues. You can contact us at our contact page.

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Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 9, November 2008

© 2008, Walter E. Palmer, PCG Solutions, Inc., All Rights Reserved

 

Expertise Credibility: A Prerequisite for Persuasion

11/1/2008 | Palmer, W., RILA Report

In last month’s column, we discussed the need to understand the “hot buttons” that really capture the attention of your senior executives. As examples, we talked about financial ROI, risk avoidance, sales risks, and high value theft cases as possible hot buttons. One reader weighed in this month with another example. He wrote, “I n my company, my CEO is all about protecting the integrity of the brand, as it relates to merchandise and customer experience.” Knowing that hot button allows this executive to advance his proposals in light of how they would support this important organizational aspiration.

This month, we will look at another key factor in gaining board and CEO support for your programs – expertise credibility. In 1998, Jay Conger wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled, The Necessary Art of Persuasion which gives a great, easy to understand summary of the two prerequisites for persuading anyone to do anything – expertise credibility and relationship credibility.

Since getting anyone to adopt a new opinion or change an existing one is difficult, Conger argues that to be successful in persuading someone, they must view you as having expertise. Think about it in another context – medicine. If you were concerned that you had a serious health issue, who would you turn to for diagnosis? Someone whose only claim to expertise is that they “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night”? In fact, if you had a disease that was really serious, you would most likely seek out the doctor with the best reputation and experience in the area of medicine you require. You would not likely go to an optometrist or even your general practitioner if you had a rare blood disorder.

But, have you ever noticed that it seems like everyone in your organization thinks they know how to do loss prevention? While we should always want the ideas and contributions of others in the enterprise, we also need to do a better job at establishing our own expertise and the existence of loss prevention as a professional expertise akin to accounting or marketing or human resources.

One of the ways we can do a better job with establishing credibility is by increasing transparency. In other words, let’s educate others about what we do and how we make our decisions. Let’s listen to their perspectives and not be defensive. If you learn what they think, you will have a better handle on how to work with them and what you need to do to persuade them to a different mindset. Educate them on our industry. How many people know that there are professional conferences, research councils, text books, certifications, and degree programs for loss prevention?

At the end of the day, we must have more substance in our profession both at the industry level and within our own organizations if we hope to have lasting impact. I highly recommend Conger’s article as he also discusses how you can improve your expertise credibility on a tactical level. Even more importantly, I would like to encourage you to write in with your thoughts, examples, disagreements with this column and any future ones. This space will be a whole lot more useful to everyone if you participate and add your thoughts. Otherwise, you are simply stuck with my opinions…

Do you and your department have “expertise credibility” in your organization? Do you have it with certain functions or people but not others? For instance, do you have strong credibility with the CFO, but not your head merchant or HR executive? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in establishing expertise credibility within your organization? If so, please share them and we can generate further ideas and dialogue.

In next month’s column, we will start to look at the next element in building the case for the value the loss prevention function brings to the retail enterprise – relationship credibility. As always, I welcome your views, thoughts, and insights into these issues. You can contact us at our contact page.

——————————————————————————————–

Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 9, November 2008

© 2008, Walter E. Palmer, PCG Solutions, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Communicating with Senior Executives: Do You Know Their “Hot Buttons”?

10/1/2008 | Palmer, W., RILA Report

(Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 8, October 2008)

In last month’s column, we discussed the need to understand the “language” that your senior executives use so you can properly communicate the value that your function brings to the organization.  As an example, we explored whether you should be talking about retail numbers or cost numbers when making corporate presentations.

I had a couple of readers weigh in with additional examples. One executive wrote, “In my company, we use units lost compared to units sold. My CEO always talks about shrink in terms of units lost being missed sales.” Another executive responded, “My CEO and CFO don’t talk in terms of percentage at all. They only talk in terms of cost dollars. Right or wrong, they don’t really care too much about high shrink percentage/low impact items. They figure the buyers will figure out whether those items continue to make sense from a margin perspective.” These are additional examples of the different languages and dialects that senior executives might speak.

This month, we will examine a closely related issue – hot buttons. What is it that really gets your senior management team fired up? What do they stay up at night worrying about? What gets their attention? What should you be incorporating into your program proposals?

Let’s look at some possibilities…

  • Actual theft cases – There is no doubt about it, you can get the attention of some executives (loss prevention executives included) by showing them a dramatic example of what happens when people steal from your organization. Shoplifting or employee theft are both attention grabbers. It may not seem sophisticated to some of you, but it is real.
  • Financial ROI – The “holy grail” of building a business case, return on investment is the quickest way to get to the hearts (and checkbooks) of most CFOs and like-minded CEOs. Are decisions in your organization usually made in rational, analytical ways? If so, you will need to focus here.
  • Risk avoidance – Is your CEO most concerned about potential negatives? Does the CEO constantly ask about worst-case scenario or downsides of potential projects? For instance, if looking at a return policy change, is he or she most concerned about possible negative impacts on customers or sales? We make many proposals that can address potential risks and you may want to highlight those aspects. For instance, Payment Card Industry compliance, Sarbanes-Oxley issues, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act liabilities, , premises liability and many other potential risks can be avoided by prudent loss prevention programs.
  • Sales risks – Do you find repeated “roadblocks” to your programs due to concern over their negative impact on sales? If so, why are you not using those same concerns to support your proposals? For instance, what is the cost of lost sales due to lack of in-stock, on the shelf availability of hot products? Have you shown how your proposals might actually increase sales?

What are some “hot buttons” to which your senior management team pays attention to? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in presenting your business case in a way that resonated with your audience? If so, please share them and we can generate further ideas and dialogue.

In next month’s column, we will start to look at the next element in building the case for the value the loss prevention function brings to the retail enterprise – expertise credibility.  As always, I welcome your views, thoughts, and insights into these issues. You can contact us at our contact page.

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Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 8, October 2008

© 2008, Walter E. Palmer, PCG Solutions, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Learning a Second Language: Communicating with Senior Executives

9/1/2008 | Palmer, W., RILA Report

(Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 7, September 2008)

If you’ve ever traveled to another country where English is not widely spoken, you have probably experienced the difficulty and frustration of being unable to effectively communicate basic needs, much less hold fluid conversations and exchange ideas. And, while one might be able to expect residents of the United States to speak English, it is certainly hard to be upset with those in other countries who do not speak our language since we are in their country.

In last month’s column, we discussed the problem of some senior retail executives not believing there is a cause-and-effect relationship between investing in the loss prevention function and the organization’s shortage results. If the senior leadership of an organization believes that shortage is subject to nearly uncontrollable, external winds and forces and that spending money on loss prevention investments does not necessarily result in lower numbers, there is a serious failing on our part in showing the cause-and-effect relationship and making an effective case for budget dollars.

This month, we will begin to look at some opportunities we may have to change that mindset and be more effective in communicating our value, our business case and the reasons that organizations will benefit from funding our business proposals and programs. First, we will look at the issue of how we communicate with senior executives.

Just as different cultures and countries have different languages, companies have different languages too. Think of all the acronyms and abbreviations that you use in your workgroup that sound completely foreign when a new employee joins the team. Or, think of all of the special lingo that we use in our industry – LP, AP, DE, BOB, POS, LERPnet, RILA, CFI, CCTV, DVR, ORC, BOLO, and the list goes on and on and on.

Senior executives are no different. The terms, language, and references they use can range from somewhat unfamiliar to completely foreign. If we expect to communicate effectively with them, we had better be prepared to spend some time studying them, their language, and the issues that resonate with them. Let me give an example that illustrates the point.

Most of us in the loss prevention world have spent our entire careers talking about shrinkage and, when we do, I would venture that the vast majority of us talk about it in terms of the retail value of shrinkage as a percent of retail sales. This makes a lot of sense, especially when speaking with store employees and managers as it has good clarity since most of their focus is on retail price. Retail reporting is also used by the seminal study in our industry, the National Retail Security Survey, as the “benchmark” number for us to compare against.

However, in working with a number of retail companies over the years, I have consistently found that CFO’s and CEO’s look at shrinkage (and a whole range of other metrics) in terms of cost. This is an extremely important point. If you go in to a meeting with senior executives who are used to speaking in terms of shrinkage at cost and you talk about retail shrinkage, you run a real risk. At best, they will view you as financially unsophisticated. At worst, they will perceive that you are trying to inflate or overstate the size of the problem to support your budget requests.

For instance, one of the age-old illustrations many of us have used in our industry to illustrate the impact of shrinkage is the idea that “for every item that we lose, we have to sell 20 more items just to break even.” Have you heard that before? Have you used that before? It can be an effective way to discuss the impact of shrinkage when talking to hourly associates. Of course, it is predicated on a particular net margin that may or may not be applicable to your business. But, more importantly, it is unlikely to resonate with CFO’s as they will look only at the loss of the item at cost which, depending on your gross margin, may differ dramatically in terms of impact.

I’m not arguing for a cost number or retail number per se. Rather, I’m arguing for the importance of understanding the way that you senior executives look at the figures. What works for them? How do they speak about the issue? What will have credibility for them? If we do not start with learning their “language,” we will have as much success in communicating with them as most of us would have in ordering dinner in a restaurant in rural Japan.

In next month’s column, we will further explore how we need to assess the senior executives in our organizations to determine how we can best frame our business case in a manner that will get their attention, their support and their sign-off on budget dollars. As always, I welcome your views, thoughts and insights into this issue. You can contact us at our contact page.

 

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Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 2 – Issue 7, September 2008

© 2008, Walter E. Palmer, PCG Solutions, Inc., All Rights Reserved