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Dirty Tricks For Negotiations

9 December 2019

We negotiate all the time. With our partners, to decide whose turn it is to cook. With our children, when they want more sweets. With ourselves even, when we’re out shopping and we see a pair of ‘must have’ shoes.

Business is no different, apart from the sweets and shoes maybe.

We have to agree prices and delivery dates, agree work tasks with colleagues and juggle the budget to pay for essential items.

It could be said that a life in business is a life of negotiation.

I recently ran a negotiation skills workshop for a group (please message if you think your colleagues would benefit from it too), where we mixed language skills with behavioural cleverness. Always good to look under the bonnet and see how things really work! We also looked at dirty tricks. because forewarned is fore-armed.

Rather than offer constructive tips here, the course can do that when you book one, I thought it would be fun to list some of the dirty tricks people can play.

My top three would be:

1. Silence. Although it’s good to give people space to talk, too much silence quickly unsettles us. We tend to panic and over-talk, filling the room with all the things that are on our mind. Things we promised ourselves we’d never say. If you think someone isn’t responding then ask them a question. That puts the onus back on them and we can enjoy holding the silence instead.

2. Aggression. Workplace bullying often appears around the negotiating table. Instead of reasoned debate, the other side try to brow beat us into submission. Perhaps with threats of dire consequences if we don’t sign on the line. We can deal with this easily by saying; I see you’re agitated, is there something you’re worried about? That fronts up their behaviour and the question invites them to take responsibility for their actions.

3. Surprise! This can take the form of new information, introduced at the last minute, or the door is flung open and their CEO strides in. Both of these tactics are designed to throw us off track. With new information we can ask the relevance of it, or simply brush it to one side, by saying; how interesting, I will tell my manager, now back to the point we were discussing. When the CEO walks in we can remember that they are just another human like us, with a mortgage and kids and as equally anonymous in their local supermarket as we are. This reality check keeps us grounded and we can smile and carry on with our presentation.

A dirty trick may also involve no refreshment breaks. A UK ambassador recalled a session with the Russians. The negotiations dragged on and the British were getting tired and hungry. Noticing this, the Russians laughed and said how they had enjoyed a fine lunch beforehand. Things did not go well that day for our team.

The next time the two parties met, the British had lunch first and then allowed the discussion to flow on. This time the Russians were getting uncomfortable. Noticing this, the British ambassador called to his aide, who passed across his leather briefcase.

The Russians were curious. What was this? A secret weapon?

Well, yes.

The ambassador open his case and with a flourish produced sandwiches and a flask of tea. The British munched happily and the Russians were wrong-footed, appalled at the deviousness of the British.

Sometimes successful negotiations can hinge on a cheese and pickle sandwich.

Life can be so simple at times!

If you are subject to dirty tricks then don’t despair. Take a breath, go to the bathroom if needed to get a break, focus on asking a good question and then carry on. Or just unpack your emergency sandwiches!

Next week: Accounting For Stress

Why Many Training Workshops Suck

2 December 2019

People are well intentioned. They tend to turn up at work with a desire to do good, work hard and make productive decisions.

The trouble starts when they allow emotion to cloud rational thinking. The trouble deepens when that emotion is pointed at issues in which they lack expertise.

Lacking expertise doesn’t stop people from having opinions and making decisions though. They just plough on regardless.

This can blight training.

There seems to be a tendency for people to book workshops that are simply a sweep through a PowerPoint pack.

This is okay for a quick hit, but it’s not really good education and doesn’t tend to change behaviour.

A colleague recently quoted figures to me that suggested didactic teaching, eg pointing at PowerPoint slides, can have a retention rate of 10% within a 2 week timescale. Experiential workshops can have a 60% retention rate. Delegates remember more comtent and the learning is more sticky.

Experiential styles involve discussion, exercises, playing with props, role play, laughter, getting out of the work room, exploring, co-creating and so on.

In addition, workshops can be supported by coaching and open-learning sessions. Delegates get to co-create the content, instead of being empty vessels waiting to be filled.

I’m sure you would agree that coaching and open learning sound great. Useful and practical. And yet it’s amazing how rarely they are booked as part of a development package.

Instead, people book onto a 4 day course, where they can learn, say, leadership skills.

No reflection. No ongoing review. No case study review. No ability to learn things twice.

They’ve learned about leadership, ergo, they are now qualified to lead.

And this is why many workshops suck.

They are not about real development and self-growth.

They are a tick-box exercise in attendance.

Let’s test this. This week we can seek out someone who has been taught our organisational values. Probably during their induction, many years ago. Give them a blank sheet of paper and ask them to list the values and explain what they mean in their daily work. Then sit back and ponder the result.

It may be depressing.

Taking leadership as an example, it’s fatuous to send people away for a week and expect them to come back as leaders. If it was that easy, parents would do a weeks parenting course and be all sorted, instead of learning on the job!

If you’d like your staff to really develop their leadership skills then please get in touch. I have a kicking programme that comprises…

2 days of experiential workshops

2 days of coaching

2 days of revision, case study review and open learning.

All shot through with the hearty and applicable content that comes from Transactional Analysis. Delegates don’t just learn about leadership, they learn how to be a leader.

Now that’s what I call education.

Next week: Dirty Tricks For Negotiations

books

Click cover to view details on Amazon

bouncingback

Riding the Rocket

How to manage your Modern Career

Published 2013 Marshall Cavendish

240pp

bouncingback

Bouncing Back

How to get going again after a career setback

Published 2012 Marshall Cavendish

200pp

keepyourjob

How to Keep Your Job

Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in

Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish

208pp

jobhunting

Job Hunting 3.0

Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age

Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish

260pp

leave

Leave the Bastards Behind

An insider's guide to working for yourself

Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish

192pp

boss

My Boss is a Bastard

Surviving turmoil at work

Published 2006 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish

192pp

© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact