Execs hone skills at NALP Leaders Forum

March 9, 2016 -  By
Allan Filipowicz

Cornell’s Allan Filipowicz conducts a workshop on negotiating and emotional intelligence at the NALP Leaders Forum Feb. 25-27 in Los Cabos, Mexico.

While they may have been at a beach and golf resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, attendees at the National Association of Landscape Professionals Leaders Forum didn’t just sit back and relax.

The educational sessions during the two-day conference weren’t your average PowerPoint presentations. Faculty from Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management put landscape professionals to work before and during the meetings with quizzes and group activities.

Underscoring all the talks were the topics of understanding your strengths, core values and emotional intelligence.

Finding your strengths

Risa Mish, a senior lecturer of management at Cornell’s Johnson School and a former employment law attorney, put it this way: “No matter what we do—no matter what it says on our business card—we’re all in sales. Sales is influence, and that’s what leadership is all about.”

Before they can be influential, leaders must have credibility, Mish said. They gain credibility by being trusted, having relevant experience and being knowledgeable.

It also helps to be “comfortable in your own skin,” she said, which she defined as having “genuine confidence.” She encouraged leaders to uncover their strengths (a combination of skills, knowledge and talents) through the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment.

“When you know who you are, you move through the world in an entirely different way,” Mish said. “Your strengths are your superpowers.”

Of course, understanding your strengths means exposing your weaknesses, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, she said, as long as you are prepared to partner with people or companies who are strong where you’re weak.

“You won’t convert a weakness to a strength, but you can neutralize your weaknesses,” Mish said.

Getting to the core

Even more important than understanding your strengths is identifying your core values and homing in on three of them that you can consistently act upon, she said.

“If you value everything, you value nothing,” she said, explaining why it’s best to focus on three core values. “If you declare too many values, you’ll end up a hypocrite, and people don’t trust hypocrites.”

For a trait to be a core value, it must meet the following criteria, according to Mish:

  • You must cherish it;
  • You must choose it yourself;
  • You must act upon it; and
  • You must sacrifice for it.

Sacrifice is the most difficult and most telling standard, she said.

Emotionally invested

Mish’s colleague Allan Filipowicz, clinical professor of management and organizations at Cornell’s Johnson School, led an interactive session on the science behind negotiating (read: attendees practiced negotiations with one another), which he punctuated with a few good tips on emotional intelligence.

First, he emphasized the importance of preparation in any negotiation. Specifically, you should consider the situation from the other person’s perspective. You learn their interests by asking and listening to their response, telling them your interests and building a rapport to create trust, which fosters information sharing.

To maximize success, negotiators also should understand their best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. It provides the power to walk away and gives you a guide to measure the quality of a deal.

“Never go into a negotiation without one, and never accept a deal that’s below your BATNA,” he said.

Filipowicz also highlighted how important it is to stay in control of your emotions when negotiating—or performing any important leadership function. Find methods for keeping negative emotions like anxiety or anger at bay. One trick is to re-label emotions to put a positive spin on them. For example, instead of calling an emotion anxiety, call it excitement, which feels similar.

And rather than going down a negative rabbit hole, he encourages leaders to do the following research-backed, anxiety-reducing activities for 10 minutes per day:

  • Breathe through your nose into your abdomen (not into your chest);
  • Relax specific muscle groups, such as your shoulders and neck;
  • Concentrate on a single focal point; and
  • Maintain a positive attitude.


Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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