Tough Crowds

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Blog, Culture, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Organizational Development, Platform Building, Problem Solving, Speaking, Strategies, Strategy, Training, Workshop

Tough crowds are tough because they are skeptical, secure in their own assumptions, wedded to their own worldviews, and unwilling to be convinced.

The skill of being able to face that level of social norming—whether from a crowd of 5-year old’s in kindergarten to a crowd of intoxicated adults at your local comedy club—requires a little something more than bravery.

It requires the skill of being willing to die—metaphorically usually, but sometimes, with some crowds, literally—in order to prove a point, make an assertion, or to create a space for other people to advocate for a minority view of the world.

Being able to win crowds over by knowing your audience is another skill. As is knowing your own point of view inside and out. But, beyond that, there are two key elements to focus on when seeking to internally overcome the crushing psychic weight of a tough crowd:

Never lose focus on the point you’re making.

Don’t get your point caught in their weeds.

Tough crowds seek to tame and turn a presenter, or facilitator, for the purpose of serving their own motives and motivations, and for achieving their own desires and outcomes.

But when you realize that time, focus, and the strength of your position are more powerful than that of the crowds’, you will stay in sharp rhetorical shape.

And ready to face any tough crowds, anywhere.

Human to Business Sales

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, New Posts, Relationships, Selling for Peace Builders, Workplace, Workshop

Selling to people in businesses is hard for three important reasons:

  1. There are very few (or no) champions of your product or service offering because no one knows how good your product or service offering is inside the organization you’re selling to.
  2. There are no direct ways to influence the people who can make the decision to buy from you—today.
  3. There has been a massive shift in consumer behavior, but not a massive shift how businesses purchase from you based in the reality of shifting consumer behavior.

These are big problems and they’re getting bigger because the practice of creating buyer personas still dominates in a big way in almost every piece of advice available around advising organizations on how to sell to organizations.

While buyer personas are a fine shorthand for figuring out the profile in your head as a seller to businesses, the downfall of them is that they neglect each of the three areas above. In addition, they depersonalize the act of buying (or purchasing or procurement) and attempt to reduce it to a series of formulaic and discreet steps.

Which, of course, makes the three reasons above more problematic, not less.

Here are three ideas that may help when you’re selling (peace, consulting, freelance solutions, or even you’re next “gee-whiz” product to a skeptical procurement buyer):

Champions are easy to get (and even easier to lose), but require engaging with personality, care, and empathy.

Most of the people who are going to become your champions are the ones who have the power to say “no” but no power to say “yes.”

There are still gatekeepers in many organizations, and going where they are (in-person, online, emotionally, rationally, etc.) will go a long way toward engaging with them.

You must determine if buying today is all that matters, or if arbitraging the time to build a relationship today against the dollars that you are going to get tomorrow, matters more in the long run.

The short run will take care of itself.

Does your selling strategy include a 1,000-year long plan?

The reality of consumer behavior means that buyer personas are dead as predictors of selling success in the B2B space.

It also means that running after every social platform for sales is also dead.

This is a good thing.

In principle, this means that consumer behavior in business to business sales is the same behavior in business to consumer sales, but the volume of the connection is lower.

In practice, this means that targeted videos on a YouTube channel, embedded in an email campaign, direct to a buyer, matter more than the number of Facebook likes you happen to be cultivating that aren’t converting to sales.

In practice, this also means that providing value to the small number of businesses you work with as a selling organization, trumps the number of actual businesses that you work with.

Or that you think you should work with.

Champions, behavior, targeted engagement, and long-term strategy matter more for business success than just closing the sale and moving on to the next client.

[Strategy] Crossing the Chasm for the Peacebuilder

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Ebooks, Education, Marketing for Peace Builders, New Posts, Old Posts, Selling for Peace Builders, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Training, Website, Workshop

For the innovative peacebuilder, the truly important switch must happen in how thinking about products and services cross the chasm.


Most of the time, processes (such as mediation, negotiation, or dispute resolution) are confused with products.

A process is, in essence, a service.

Sure, there are sometimes opportunities to grow a process past a service and into a product, but this is rare.

The idea that content focused around “how-to” can be a product, is supported by the digital reality we live in now. With digital platforms, developing digital components for processes we already think of as services, should become second nature.

But for many it hasn’t.

At least not yet.

There are four ways to cross the chasm in thinking, from a strong consideration and focus on services, to a strong consideration and focus on products.

  • Deep listening requires surveying clients (formally and informally), compiling that data, and executing on the results of that listening. By the way, deep listening is beyond active listening, and is something that peacebuilders are increasingly seeing as a tactic for clients at the table.
  • Deep understanding is the corollary to deep listening. Deep understanding requires accepting that crossing the chasm is the only way to scale. Plus, it requires accepting that one-offs, workshops, seminars, and more of the traditional ways of engaging with audiences, clients, and scaling a “lifestyle” business, have changed irrevocably.
  • Deep advice requires accessing the wisdom contained in the organizations peacebuilders may already be working in. It also requires listening to, and reading, advice that comes from non-traditional places. Accessing, and considering deep advice is strategic and tactical. Deep advice not only comes from outside the box, but also it comes from looking in another box entirely.
  • Deep courage is the last way to cross the chasm. Execution is about courage, and many of the reasons that serve to “stall out” the crossings peacebuilders attempt, is less about not doing the other three things listed above, but is more about the lack of courage to pull the trigger and execute on a truly scary idea.

Philosophy first, tactics second, and courage always to change how peacebuilding happens in our digital world.

[Opinion] The Listicle is Simple and Seductive

By | Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Education, Leadership, Mediation, Negotiation, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Organizational Development, Persuasion, Problem Solving, Relationships, Resolution, Speaking, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Workplace, Workplace Development, Workshop

Three points need to be emphasized at the beginning of any training, workshop, or seminar.

Your way of thinking about conflict, communication, and persuasion must shift before anything else can happen.

Your way of consuming information, your attention span, and your level of caring about the content you are about to hear, must shift before any deep learning can happen.

Your way of listening to the delivered content must shift from passive to active, for without that shift, nothing else can happen.

The desire, of course, from some of the participants is for these three things to happen. And these points being made out loud makes those participants relieved.

But there are other desires in the room.

The desire to get the tools, get the skills, get the listicle version of the information, and then to leave.

The desire to get the lecture, get the knowledge, but to not engage in any deeper change. After all, such change is challenging, and if there’s no support in the environment from which you came for change that needs to happen, well then it’s easier to ignore the calls to change.

The desire to not care. This is reflected in the phrases, the questions, the statements, and the observations that spring forth from the participants. Typically framed by some participants as “I hope that you can keep me awake,” or “You kept me awake more than any other facilitator I’ve ever sat through.”

The desire for the listicle version, the shorthand, the summary, the 30-second point, is seductive. But ultimately, changing the philosophy about how we think, matters more than applying shortcut tactics to achieve an outcome we might not enjoy.

[Strategy] Facilitating-as-a-Sales Process

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Marketing for Peace Builders, New Posts, Old Posts, Relationships, Selling for Peace Builders, Speaking, Strategies, Strategy, Training, Workshop

The skills required to facilitate training for an audience with content that wasn’t developed by the facilitator, are the same skills sale people practice every day:

Persuasion: Since a facilitator doesn’t create the presentation content (or product) they are facilitating (just like the sales person doesn’t create the product they sell door-to-door), the skills of persuasion through using influence in the room, is critical for success. The facilitator must use all the skills of persuasion their fingertips to get the “customer” to buy the product. Yes, the audience already “bought” the product by being there physically. But just like children in school, you have to “re-earn” their attention caring and awareness, rather than taking it for granted.

Body language: Sales people know that confidence, body language, and silence combined with active listening (more on this one below), can help close the sale in a face-to-face encounter. Facilitators need to keep this in mind. Particularly, when facilitating content with which they are not familiar. A facilitator with none of those traits, just like a sale person with none of those traits, can stumble and fall in the room.

Active listening: Facilitators should listen more that they talk. This is easy when the facilitator has developed the product they are facilitating. It’s hard when facilitators haven’t developed the product they are facilitating. The problems compound when they don’t believe the content itself. The first person to listen and react to the content should be the facilitator. But not in the room. Not in front of the audience. And not when the audience pushes back and disagrees, asserts themselves, or engages in conflict with the content.

With all this being said, the facilitator should remember, above all else, that the work is on the line in the room, not the facilitator as a sales person.

[Advice] Evolving Cultural Sensibilities and ADR

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Consulting, Culture, Education, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Marketing for Peace Builders, Mediation, Negotiation, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Peacemaker, Platform Building, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Selling for Peace Builders, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, Training, Workplace, Workplace Development, Workshop

As the economic, cultural, and spiritual forces that used to bind us together continue to refragment from overarching macro-cultures to indispensable micro-cultures, alternative dispute resolution practitioners must take notice.

Overarching macro-culture was driven by communal events, television, economic stability, and overarching cultural “norms” that allowed people to engage in conflicts and disputes with the same regularity they always have, but also allowed the impacts of those conflicts to be dampened.

Indispensable micro-culture is driven by technology, network connections that defy geography and notice, a dismissal of the status quo, and a strong identity component. People still have conflict in these micro-cultures (what used to be called “sub-cultures”). But the impacts of those conflicts are like wildfires that catch the masses attention for a moment, but without a “there” there, there is little sustained effort mounted to ameliorate the effects upon people in those micro-culture conflicts.

Conflict resolvers, conflict coaches, conflict engagers, mediators, arbitrators, and others have watched this evolution occur over the last fifty or so years, with greater acceleration, but the response to the evolution through providing access points to conflict resolution has not been as quick. This is mainly for three reasons:

  • Indispensable micro-culture is still seen as “niche” and not really enough to build a business model on by the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. This is a terrible fact, but except for some people doing some great work in resolving conflicts in specific areas with specific groups in conflicts (i.e. with parties in churches, with divorcing or separating pet owners, etc.) there is more focus by ADR professionals on how to gain credibility with the courts—still standing as the last guardians of a passing away overarching macro-culture.
  • There are still enough parties in conflict participating in the remaining civic life of a formerly overarching macro-culture. This is something that will pass away over time, but right now, there are enough of the “masses” left around that many professional conflict resolvers look at the problems and conflicts of that group and decide to address their issues first. Both as a way to make a “dent” in the universality of conflict, and to make money from a reliable income stream.
  • Refragmentation is still not understood—or accepted psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually—as an inevitable outcome of the erosion of the twin, post-World War 2 oligopolies of corporation and government. Now, this is not to say that government will disappear either now or later; but the fact is, that as conflicts and disputes between parties in indispensable micro-culture become harder and harder to understand, the overarching macro-culture responses from government entities (i.e. new laws, regulations, taxes, and fees) will be less and less effective. This is because indispensable micro-culture conflicts are driven by esoteric, identity based rules, that require conflict resolvers to engage in relationships with those cultures to resolve—and to go beyond the overarching macro-culture rubric of intercultural communication skill sets.

None of these three areas are that daunting to overcome. And once overcome, the business models to get ideas for resolution to people in conflict begin to overwhelm the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. All that is required to get there is the courage of conflict resolvers to act outside of the “box” they have been trained in.

[Advice] On Influencers

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Entrepreneurship, Facebook, Google, Marketing for Peace Builders, Media, Networking, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Persuasion, Platform Building, Selling for Peace Builders, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Twitter, Twitter, Website, Workshop

Influential personalities and brands online are about to become even more influential as the years go by.

And mediators, lawyers, and negotiators should take note.

Influencer advertising is tricky to navigate, whether you are trying to partner with the peacebuilding neighborhood association with a vibrant Facebook community or the pop singer Rhianna.

Influencer marketing is only going to grow larger in the coming year for the very same reasons that social media is influential now: Individuals trust other individuals more than they trust brands. In the field of mediation and peacebuilding, where trust is a huge deal, influencers and thought leaders such as Bernard Mayer and Kenneth Cloke bring their substantial influence to academic programs, academic writing, advocacy and other areas.

However, as the influence of those individuals begins to fade, a new generation of influencers is rising in the ranks of mediation and peacebuilding professionals, such as Patricia Porter, Brad Heckman, Cinnie Noble, and others who have begun to leverage social tools and the wide reach of the Internet to make a dent in the peace building universe.

For the ADR professional with limited resources to be able to connect with larger names in the peacebuilding world, there are a few things to remember when considering using influencers to advertise your content, your services, your philosophy, or your processes:

Does the influencer’s brand link well with my brand promise?

Carefully considering how an influencer’s brand (which may range from Bernard Mayer all the way to Kim Kardashian) complements the strengths and reduces the weaknesses of the peacebuilder’s brand promise is key to developing a long term relationship with the influencer. Influencers are people first and foremost, and peacebuilding professionals should be about building that relational knowledge ahead of jumping into a branded relationship.

Is the influencer’s audience an audience that I want to be addressing as a peace builder?

Depending upon who the influencer’s audience is (and audiences range in taste and structure from the 1,000 followers the neighborhood peace builder has on her Facebook page, all the way to the millions of fans and followers Jon Stewart has) the peace builder has to decide carefully if that is an audience worth talking to. The fact of the matter is, every audience that a brand influencer has is not appropriate for a peace builder to talk to, nor is every audience open to hearing a message about peace.

Does the influencer’s message help or harm my message?

Every influencer talks to their audience in their own way, using words, images, symbols, and other forms of social cuing that inexorably tie that audience to them.

Some influencers are less savvy than others, but that does not mean that they aren’t sophisticated communications professionals in their own right.


[Advice] The Fixed Mindset Peace Builder

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Entrepreneurship, Marketing for Peace Builders, New Posts, Opinions, Organizational Development, Persuasion, Platform Building, Selling for Peace Builders, Social Communication, Strategies, Workplace, Workplace Development, Workshop

Peace builders often spend a lot of time trying to shift the worldviews, shape the mindsets, and break the frames of clients, systems, and processes in the world. This is reflected in much of their marketing materials, business development practices, and their overall approaches to sharing information in the world about making peace.

Peace builders often spend an inordinate amount of time trying to shift their own worldviews, shape their own mindsets, and break their own frames around the esoteric differences between transformation, evaluation, and facilitation. This is reflected in the majority of trainings that are offered, conferences that are attended, and speakers that are lauded in all the fields for peace making, from litigation to mediation to negotiation.

But this is where peace builders are comfortable.

Mediators will work on Bob. If Bob feels as though he got screwed in his last mediation session out of assets like a boat or a pile of money, his world view of the mediation process is different than that of his ex-wife.

Conflict coaches and consultants will work with Ann. If Ann sees her job I’m human resources as determining policy and keeping people in line, she’s going to take a different view of conflict management training than Jill who sees her job as being an agent of change in the organization.

Church litigators will work with Dave and Melinda. If Dave sees his role at church as being a person who keeps the boat from tipping over rather than as a person who is there to lead a flock to Christ, his approach to internal church conflict is going to be different than Melinda, who sees her role as a Deacon as one who is there to lead people to a relationship rather than through religion.

Peace builders inherently know that the worldviews of their clients around conflict matter. This is where they are most comfortable, feeling as though they are doing work at the edges. When in reality, this work, while unpleasant for some, is not the core hard work.

Peace builders inherently know that their own worldviews matter. This is where peace builders are less comfortable, but still not as uncomfortable as they need to be to truly be doing work at the edges. This work, while easy for many, is not the most unpleasant thing.

The hard, unpleasant, and edgy work lies at the edges of worldviews: The work involves going into places where the peace builders’ knowledge level and expertise may not be appreciated and doing the courageous work of digging in with people who have only even known conflict. The work involves designing products and services that are truly cutting edge—in technology, in mindset, in worldview—that match what clients, consumers, and the market is demanding, in the language that it’s demanding it. The work involves creating relationships at a global level with professionals in other fields and publicizing that interdisciplinary work in a cutting edge way, not for the field, but for a conflict comfortable public.

To go all the way to the edges, to be a champion of work that matters, and to design a life and career of meaning, peace builders must challenge inherent, field based assumptions loudly, rather than quietly, and have the courage to go to the furthest end of where those challenges lead.

Otherwise, the growth mindset necessary for peace builders to grow and make a revolutionary impact will remain far away from many peace building professionals. At the outer edges, of a field that will become more embedded in a fixed mindset at the chunky center, deep in the very conflicted world it seeks to impact.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] The Minimal Viable Product

By | Advice, Blog, Entrepreneurship, Marketing for Peace Builders, New Posts, Opinions, Platform Building, Selling for Peace Builders, Social Communication, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Training, Website, Workshop

If you’re building a peace project, it’s important to understand what you’re creating in the product phase, so that you understand what you’re selling.

Many creators misunderstand the idea of a minimal viable product. The definition, created by the writer Eric Ries (he of Lean Start-Up fame), is as follows:

“A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is: “[the] version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”

In essence, a product that doesn’t try to be perfect (what the peace builder may want) but instead is a product that “ships” (i.e. gets into the market, gets out the door, gets into the customer’s hands, etc.) so that peace builders can interact with the market, rather than think about interacting with the market, is an MVP.

This is where many peace builders get caught up:

The blog that takes you ten minutes to set-up and allows you to distribute your ideas, thoughts, and passions about peace to the market is an MVP. The pretty website around the blog that “has to just look right” is not an MVP.

The email that is a conglomeration of various links, information about peace building, and allows you to interact with fans, audience, and potential customers, and that takes you an hour to set-up and an hour to send out three times a week, is an MVP. The list of emails to send the email to is not an MVP.

The workshop on active listening that you develop after ten minutes of thinking about the problems with clients in conflict that you are seeing at the mediation table is an MVP. Continually changing, researching, and referencing to make the workshop “perfect” is not an MVP.

The interaction with social media platforms through setting up a business page on Facebook, tweeting and retweeting links to peace building producers in other areas, or the posts that you consistently write and put on LinkedIn are all MVPs. The constant worrying about perfection (or not being wrong in what you retweet on social media) cannot lead to creating an MVP.

The issues with developing an MVP is that many creators of peace building projects get caught up in the idea that a product (a workshop) a blog post, a website, an email, or a social interaction has to be perfect. But the secret of the MVP is that the market isn’t looking for perfection.

The market for your peace building project is looking for YOU. The people in conflict who need resolution, engagement, help, ideas, a process, or even just advice, aren’t looking for perfection. And in many cases, once you engage with them with your MVP, enough people are generous enough to give you help, feedback, and encouragement to develop and reiterate your MVP so that it moves from being “minimal” to “maximal”

Selling begins when peace builders have the courage to engage with the market.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: