Augmenting our coaches with machine learning insights

After a period of hard grafting, digging deep on data and testing many many hypotheses, we’re starting to pilot our Augmented Feedback solution in coaching conversations with our clients. As we debrief our coachee’s Experience Accelerator scenario, we share human- and machine learning-generated feedback on the quality of their conversations. Bringing data science to the art of good conversations is a fascinating journey. Nuanced, intriguing and not always what you would expect!

“Power With”​ meets “Power Over”

By Dr Karen Walch, Clair-Buoyant™ Leadership, LLC and QuantumNegotiation™

I have always had a deep curiosity about power in social interactions. My studies through PhD research and teaching experiences around the world had left me dissatisfied with the current state of knowledge and wisdom on negotiation. Much of the study and practice is about having political, legal, social “power over” others in order to get compliant behavior. Unconscious, ineffective “power over” behaviors have become habits for negotiators which often lead to success and wins measured by how much one can win over a counterpart – even at the expense of a relationship.

Harvard’s Principled Negotiation and mutual gains practices from the Program on Negotiation were emerging while I was in graduate school which led me to explore more of win-win outcomes and practices. This inspired me to explore the field of negotiation as an academic study. Win-win, mutual gains was a real paradigm shift at the time. Mutual gains practices moved our thinking beyond WHAT we wanted as negotiators and HOW to problem solve and not focus on coercing, or manipulating others to cooperate with us in negotiation.

Through Principled Negotiation we learned how to explore our counterpart’s interests and WHY they would be motivated to cooperate with us.   Principled Negotiation also showed us how to use the BATNA – the best alternative to a negotiated agreement in the event of no agreement. WHAT IF we cannot reach an agreement, we will know our alternatives.

Over the last 30 years, I have continued to study and experience the impact of these teachings in my post-doctoral research and in the decades of teaching. Not only do coercive, hard ball tactics leave negotiators feeling dissatisfied, mutual gains strategies were missing the mark as well.  “Power with” others created more resources, perceptions of shared interests and ways to problem solve together. However, we need to prepare for the important human elements of emotional, social and spiritual dimensions. It turns out that the most essential elements in our social relationships are invisible to the eye.

Quantum Negotiation: The Art of Getting What you Need, became a collection of many examples of negotiators who practiced “power with” vs. “power over” in their negotiations and found increased vitality and satisfaction as negotiators. Uri and Robert, for example, were working as co-project leaders of a global team. They were in a very common situation most negotiators I meet today; rapid change, uncertainty, and continual movement of people collaborating across the globe in diverse national or organizational cultures.

Uri and Robert were not aware of it, but on many days their nervous systems and anxiety became unbearable. They needed to get things done quickly, but the more they pushed, the more they became strained, stressed, and unable to be creative or empathetic to each others’ concerns. At one point, Uri and Robert reached an impasse. Even though they were both very clear about WHAT they wanted and WHY it was important to the overall project that they cooperate, they could not agree on anything.

They wanted the same things, but the way they communicated with each other led to increased frustration and lack of interest in working with each other. Upon their Quantum Negotiation preparation, Uri realized that as he discovered more of WHOhe was and what he valued, he had a very strong belief in communicating in an instructive and direct manner. However, Robert’s preference was a more indirect communication style with lots of exploratory questions, less about giving instructions. Once they discovered that much of the impasse was created by their gaps in communication style, they were able to transform their discussions into better understanding and appreciation for problem solving. This led to a much more engaged project of creativity and inclusion of their diverse ways of thinking.

As the sciences have emerged in social and emotional intelligence, mind/body/spirit connections, and brain science and anthropology, I can now see the power of integrating the wisdom in these fields with understanding better WHO we are as negotiators.  We need to know WHO we are and WHO our counterpart is. Coercive, disrespectful, and dehumanizing behaviors do not motivate or engage others to cooperate in helping us get what we need. The practice of “power with” others creates an energy of cooperation, trust, and satisfaction in working and personal relationships.

At The Experience Accelerator, we are exploring how behavior and negotiation preparation can be enhanced through coaching and practice. Here are some insights from our recent webinar.

As part of our ongoing research, we are conducting a survey to assess your latest thinking about negotiation. Explore The Experience Accelerator and learn more about your ability to increase your vitality and ability to get what you need in negotiation.

Three common missteps when delivering feedback (told by the data!)

At The Experience Accelerator, we’re in the process of building unique data sets on behavioural skills.  Through our fully virtual “visualise/practice/feedback” learning loops, we are gaining tremendous insights on what goes systematically right and wrong for our learners when seeking to improve their soft skills.

In a world where people analytics and delivering change at scale is ever more important, we’re excited to share what we have found.

In a before and after learning study conducted with final year students at the University of Bahrain, we discovered the impact of our platform supported a 40-80% improvement in feedback delivery skills.  But it was really when we scratched the surface of these findings along with our data set of close to 100 learners that we started to see some interesting patterns:

Performance declines the further you get through the feedback conversation.  Our learners start well, build a good foundation for the conversation and communicate clearly the intent for why they are sharing this feedback.  Most learners also describe the context and what happened reasonably well.  Then things start to go off track.  Learners tend to skip over describing the impact of the situation which in turn impacts their ability to create ownership from the other person and worse still, we see a lack of tangible next steps or commitments to future improvement.  And so no surprises when we assess their ability to structure a feedback conversation more holistically, they don’t score as well as they or we would like.

So why is this trail off so pronounced across so many learners?  We see three factors in play:

Automaticity  is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. Source:  Wikipedia.  Being able to hold the 5 or 6 things in your mind that make for a good feedback conversation takes deliberate practice and focus before it becomes simpler and more automatic.  Many traditional learning practices simply don’t create the time and space to build this automaticity.

Mindset about relationship damage – it’s critical to examine your motives for giving (or not giving) feedback to a colleague, friend, manager or direct report.  Many of our learners, particularly our Millennial and Gen Z learners, cited concerns about “breaking the relationship” if they gave developmental feedback.  This translates into a) prevaricating before sharing what happened and b) an abdication from the steps of describing impact, encouraging ownership and helping to formulate the “what now”.  We work on helping to flip this mindset with questions like:  “what if that person continues to fail in this particular situation because you have chosen not to tell them?”

Emotional hijacking – Daniel Goleman coined the term amygdala hijack and you can learn more about it in this short interview.  An interview with Daniel Goleman. What we observe is we come to these (often difficult) conversations with a certain amount of stress (see point 2 above!) and often, the recipient of our message may react defensively or start to attack our beliefs, observations etc.  This seems to trigger a fight or flight response for many of our learners which causes them to derail on some of the latter steps.  They become emotional themselves, they argue or they retreat.  We encourage a combination of empathy, genuine curiosity, preparation and facts as tools to protect against hijacks.  It’s also important to help learners understand how high performing teams deliver positive and developmental feedback in much more different ratios than you’d think – there’s an interesting HBR article here on that:  Give your team more effective positive feedback

We’ll close this short blog with a fascinating observation from a dear colleague and partner of ours:

“Fundamentally, we are messy beings with lots of needs.  Learning how to manage someone elses’ while regulating your own takes a certain amount of focus and mastery.   Iterative practice is so useful in this domain” – Dr Diza Sauers, Professor of Practice, Eller Management School, University of Arizona

For more information about the learning vehicle that helps us generate these insights, please visit us at:

Are your negotiating skills fit for Industry 4.0?

Wondering if your negotiating skills are fit for Industry 4.0? Catch up with the conversation between Dr Karen Walch and Sarah Schwab on our recent webinar to hear answers to questions like:
*** How are effective negotiating strategies different in an Industry 4.0 environment?
*** What are the common mistakes we see people make?
**** What does the research tell us about how to change our negotiating behavior?

3 effective behaviors of a great change leader

I mentioned last week that we’ve been working with a number of leaders who are about to announce a major change initiative to their teams. We’ve been helping them prepare and practice their initial communication. It’s crazy that we don’t do more deliberate practice in this area – it makes a HUGE difference! What we’ve learned through the data analytics of their performance? Here’s where the focus is:

I love how this article from LimbicZen deconstructs why these factors are important from a neuroscience perspective.

Are your negotiations Win-Win or Win-Lose?

I’ve always been a fan of Dr Karen Walch. She’s wicked smart, kind, funny and committed to making an impact through her academic thought leadership. As so often happens, if you surround yourself with great people like Karen, good ideas bubble up and I’d like to tell you about one of them today.

But first, a bit of context. I founded the Experience Accelerator to help equip early career leaders with the behavioural skills necessary to help them be great leaders and managers – affordably and at scale. And it’s going pretty well. We’ve been working with leaders across Europe, Middle East and Africa, on foundational leadership behaviours like: how to give feedback, using coaching as a tool for performance, building trust, having difficult conversations etc. It’s turning out to be a popular, high impact way of learning.

Karen was one of our first beta testers and we have been nurturing an idea about creating a set of scenarios focused on the latest thought leadership on leadership behaviours. Too often, the latest thought leadership does not attain its true impact, in part, because once the book is written, workshops designed and key note speeches delivered, the dissemination of the great ideas hits a scale problem – the author is consumed with delivery and there’s a finite set of days in a given year they can devote to delivering, let alone building out their next great set of ideas. We think there might be a new solution to this dilemma – here’s our first case in point:

Karen is an expert in negotiation training – you can see her latest post on the topic here–1c/

Together, we’ve generated a two part training series entitled Negotiation for Industry 4.0 – where a learner can get access to the latest thinking and models on negotiation strategies and why leaders are evolving their negotiation approaches to be more effective in today’s business environment.  Learners focus on managing negotiations which are: complex or strategically important and where managing the relationship with stakeholders is key. They get to practice running a real negotiation in a safe environment both in a solo warm up activity and then with one of our Livetutors on a video call. Based on their performance in the video role play, they get a personalised feedback report on what they have done well and where they can improve. It’s personalised, practice-oriented training – and is delivered fully virtually and can be learned in bite sized chunks – so perfect for busy leaders. This scenario targets mid career professionals who lead complex internal or external negotiations on behalf of their organisations. 

In keeping with a core tenet of Negotiation for Industry 4.0, it’s a win/win business model for us both. We at The Experience Accelerator get to share some of the world’s best ideas on behavioural leadership and Karen gets to share her great thinking at greater scale to more of the world’s leaders. 

So three calls to action:

If you are responsible for improving the quality of your internal and external negotiations and want to learn more, check out our Negotiation for Industry 4.0 learning objectives here

If you want to get a sneak peek into some of our early observations on performance, join us on June 17th for a webinar – click here to register:

If you are a thought leader in behavioural leadership and want to learn more about our scenario creation and qualification process, email me

Getting workforce ready?

Anette Hunziker value story Continue reading…

Stepping into Management Shoes in 2018?

As 2018 beckons, there’s a cadre of folks set to have extraordinary impact on the careers of many others. These people? The new managers of 2018. Turns out, that after the promotion celebrations are over, I’ve come to hear how relatively few first time managers still get ANY structured support, training or advice about how to make this important career turn. Meeting a senior VP at a major multinational just before Christmas, I was struck by his comment when discussing the need for new manager support:

“my CEO will tell me that of course these new managers know what to do, we wouldn’t have promoted them if they didn’t”

But why will they?! Too often the very behaviours rewarded for an individual contributor role are completely different from those of a successful manager. And I’ve seen enough light bulb moments over the years when new managers are shown the significant impact their behaviour (good or bad) has on others to know this is a big step for many. So late last year, I turned to a group of experts in the field and we discussed what first time manager behaviours bring the biggest impact – and here’s what they said:

Show the Way: Set a clear and compelling vision and outline clear team goals which are your goals. Make sure every person has responsibilities, tasks and a timeline. When you manage a team, your job is not to do their job or to tell them how to do it, it is to set the conditions and clear obstacles, so they can do the best possible version of they need to do.

Be a Better Version of Yourself: Learn to self-reflect, show tremendous humility and willingness to learn. Work hard on your self-awareness. Recognise that you can make mistakes, don’t try to hide them, but share so everyone can learn and move on. Work hard on active listening and building trust.

Be Inspiring: Set the example for preferred behaviours, be a role model and show others the way, Coach and develop your team. Understand how powerful your honesty, integrity and authenticity are in driving performance.

A Team is a Collection of Important Individuals: Put your employees at the heart of organization. Talk with your team, not at them. Spend time with each team member, be curious, get to know what motivates each one – remember they are individuals. Observe behaviours without bias. Start with describing what you see rather than judging. Remember diversity enriches and often shows different ways forward.

Know someone starting a manager role for the first time? Please send them this article – it’ll be a positive jolt of energy for them and their team.

Greek Gods and Avatars in a new learning solution

Continuing on with our theme of sharing some of the most interesting research into learning, we’re going to take a detour into the world of Greek mythology today.

The Greek God Proteus was known for his power of assuming whatever shape he pleased and, from him, the adjective “Protean” has evolved to bring connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability.

In a thoughtful set of studies, Nick Yee coined the term “The Proteus Effect” to describe a phenomenon he discovered – that the use of avatars can cause our own behaviour to change. In his experiments, participants watched how their avatars acted and subsequently changed their behavior to reflect the behavior of their avatars. In one study which focused on negotiations, participants whose avatars were shorter were more willing to accept less attractive offers compared to those whose avatars were taller. Or in other words, the taller avatars helped the participants feel more confident and they negotiated more effectively.

Age also plays a factor in helping us visualise our future self more vividly. In a study that was seeking to tackle the challenge of “we don’t save enough for retirement”, Hal Hershfield ran a series of experiments that tested whether seeing ourselves when we were older had any impact on our decisions about saving for retirement NOW. Participants who saw their future “older” self avatar allocated a higher percentage of pay to their retirement than those who just saw their “actual age” avatar.

These results are impressive and unleash a powerful new set of tools to help accelerate learning outcomes. At The Experience Accelerator, we have deployed the latest technology to bring the Proteus Effect to life. Imagine seeing your future leadership self in avatar form, performing the skill or behaviour you are trying to master! It’s a powerful and fresh way of learning foundational managerial skills at scale and at the fraction of the cost of more traditional methods. Do contact us for a demo:

Mirror Mirror on the wall…..

Some of the best minds in social, psychology and machine learning have been exploring the field of persuasive technology for years. This summer, I locked myself in a room and set out a target of reading 4 academic research studies per day in this terrain area. Yes… arguably I am not the ideal person to invite to your next dinner party (unless of course your friends are passionate about cognitive research in learning in which case I would be perfect!) However, it was fascinating and I learned so much.

My motivation for doing so was simple. The world is moving at exponential pace and I believe we can differentiate ourselves positively by re-examining how we learn, why we retain some information and skills (but not others) and what gets in the way of doing so. I’m hoping to share a few things on what I uncovered in the coming weeks.

In a small but well cited and rigorous study, Gonzalez-Franco and colleagues found that, cognitively, our brains do not see avatars dramatically differently as to how we see ourselves when we look in a mirror. By measuring participants’ brain activity with electroencephalography (EEG), they found that our neural activity was pretty much the same if we look at an avatar or we look at ourselves in a mirror.

With a twist.

Kaufmann and Schweinberger’s research states that our avatar needs to resemble our real life image in a range of 70% or better. If this is true, our brain “sees” yourself (or more accurately the neural activity processes the image) in the same way. Fascinating right? And creates some very interesting possibilities about the power of visualisation in learning.

Put in other words, I can’t suddenly create an avatar that looks like Kate Moss and expect the same result, (for those of you who don’t know me, I am nowhere near!) but I can probably adjust my avatar a little and it wouldn’t dramatically affect how my brain processes the image. It’s as if I were looking at myself in a mirror!

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