It’s a funny world. Scroll through a page of job listings, and you’ll soon discover the things employers say are important to them in a potential candidate: lots of experience, relevant qualifications, and skill. But when you think about the things that really make people productive, these cookie-cutter lists seem somewhat naive.
For one, experience is no guarantee of productivity or effectiveness in any role. A candidate could have five years of experience doing a terrible job for some other firm. Likewise with qualifications: knowledge rarely leads in a straight line to application.
So what matters when it comes to business domination? Who rises to the top and why? It turns out that a lot of success hinges on two critical abilities: the capacity to empathise, and the ability to negotiate. Between them, they account for the lion’s share of skill people need, especially entrepreneurs, to get to where they want to be in the world of business.
People get sympathy and empathy confused. Sympathy is where you understand what a person is feeling and you agree with them about it, whether morally or emotionally. Empathy is different. It’s where you project yourself into another person’s body, seeing the world from their perspective, whether you agree with them or not.
To take a concrete example, suppose you’re trying to empathise with a psychopath in your office. A real empath could step inside their shoes and see the world as they do, but without agreeing with any of their emotions resulting from psychopathic behavior.
You might understand on an intellectual level why they bully, and you can see how that would fit into their emotional view of the world, but you would never support them in doing so.
Being great at empathy means that you can step into your employees’ and customers’ shoes. You can write up great terms of employment or create amazing and inspiring products that people will love. You can ask thoughtful questions and probe into people’s minds without them feeling violated.
Being action-oriented is one of the most critical traits that people need for business success. At root, negotiation is all about taking action.
It’s the ability to find a win-win solution that means that both people can take the next step. According to Tony Robbins, millionaire lifestyle coach, the best negotiators put a priority on finding out what a win looks like for the other person. They’re creative and don’t give up until something works.
Being an action-oriented negotiator also involves a fair amount of rejection. That’s why top negotiators always have their next best alternative in mind before going into any discussion. Sometimes great outcomes aren’t feasible, but that doesn’t prevent good ones from taking their place.
Negotiation takes a bit of skill and practice says Startup Nation. But if you convince your opponent that you’re on their side, you’ll be surprised at the concessions you’ll get. Put your empathy skills to use and work together with them to find a solution.