The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter August 2002
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The occasional newsletter of
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)
Number 22, August 2002
FIGHTING FIRES WITHOUT BURNING BRIDGES(sm)
The occasional newsletter of The Negotiation Skills
Company, Inc. (TNSC)
TANK THE ECONOMY
Our negotiations yield consequences for a variety of stakeholders:
The Negotiators: ourselves and the people with whom we're negotiating
The Negotiators' Constituents: members of our team - whether it be our company or our family
Other Stakeholders - folks with whom we may not have a direct relationship but to whom our negotiation results have some significance.
Keeping the stakeholders in mind can be a tremendously practical way to bring about a result that meets the test of a successful negotiation: an agreement the parties are committed to fulfill.
Keeping the stakeholders in mind is critical for another reason; we all have an obligation of stewardship in our dealings with other people, whether in our professional lives or in our roles as members of the community. In negotiation, people who think only of themselves are generally called by the unflattering term 'positional bargainers'. They take the 'my way or the highway' approach and view the process as a confrontation from which they intend to emerge as the winners. This implies that others will emerge as losers. And it is this sort of thinking that appears to threaten to drive the US economy into the tank.
Harming the US economy means that other stakeholders - other economies in the global marketplace - are likely to suffer damage.
The alleged accounting chicanery that has led to the scandal ascribed to Andersen Accounting, Enron, Worldcom, ImClone, Tyco and other corporate giants can be analyzed from the perspective of negotiation. If negotiation is viewed as the exchange of information between parties in order to influence the parties' actions, we can see the actions of decision-makers in the accused companies as a faulty negotiation in which disinformation rather than facts was used to induce others to act. By presenting false information, investors were induced to purchase or hold stock - while insiders were selling; employees were influenced to accept corporate actions that harmed employees both on the job and in terms of their retirement; lending institutions were influenced to extend credit to non-creditworthy businesses.
Each of those groups of stakeholders (the investors, employees, and lending institutions) derived harm from the positional bargaining of corporate leaders who demonstrated no concern about any stakeholders other than themselves.
A good negotiator must always govern what he or she says or does by measuring whether it helps or harms his or her interests. A good negotiator must also recognize that, because negotiation is not a competitive sport, unless another party's interests conflict with their own, there is probably no reason to erect obstacles to their negotiation partner's interests; it will not increase the likelihood of true mutual agreement. Losing parties tend to walk away grumpy, looking for ways to avoid their obligations.
The failure of a small number of America's corporate leadership to give consideration to the interests of their constituents and other stakeholders has given a black eye to the system; they have succeeded at making lawyers and used-car salesmen look good. Negotiators need to be fair; that brings about buy-in among the parties. By behaving unfairly, the corporate 'bad apples' have harmed the reputation of the vast majority of businesspeople who take their stewardship roles seriously.
Negotiators know their reputation follows them wherever they go; in fact many times a negotiator's reputation arrives at his destination before he does.
Taking stakeholders seriously in the negotiation process increases the likelihood of a wise agreement. When corporate leaders take stakeholders seriously it increases the likelihood of a viable and fair marketplace which serves the interests of decision-makers, their constituents, and the others who depend on a fair and equitable outcome.
Our list of Senior Trainers has grown with the addition of two British folks. Peter Isaac is based in the UK's beautiful Cotswolds region; Andréa MacLeod lives in the States near Boston. Despite concerns about the economy, we continue to add new clients from such sectors as aerospace, insurance, and packaging.
Negotiating Skills for Managers continues to receive favorable comment from media types and - more importantly - from people finding it a rewarding resource. In addition to translations into Spanish and Chinese, the book is also being translated into Russian. The Indian edition is being produced by Tata-McGraw-Hill.
Articles by Senior Trainers Mary Ellen Shea and Curtis Johnson have been copied on websites in several countries and there will be a series of articles and broadcast interviews about or by Steve Cohen and TNSC appearing in September and October on both sides of the Atlantic.
Our website's Advice section is about 300 pages long; some of the recent questions we've received deal with some very tough issues.
If you ever receive email purporting to be from TNSC which is not consistent with our standards, please let us know. With all the computer viruses 'out there' we are always fearful that our mailing list will be hijacked. Because we are operating from Apple Macintosh computers, thus far we appear to have escaped viruses and worms; but if anything strange comes to you from TNSC we would appreciate a warning.
A LAST WORD
"A good teacher walks into the room knowing lots of good answers. A good negotiator knows a lot of good questions."
-- Steven P. Cohen
Good luck and good negotiating,
Steven P. Cohen
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