The Agile Negotiator!

Good things can come from unexpected places.
— Last man

Preparation, agility and the ability to make quick decisions.

Farm life has many lessons for the agile negotiator. As some of you know, my wife, 3 daughters and I own a farm 2 hours north of Sydney in the beautiful Hunter Valley.  It is a lifestyle farm of nearly 13 acres, river frontage and a handmade timber and mud-brick house. A great place to recharge and reflect on life. It also helps to have one of the most popular vineyards in the Hunter Valley, Camyr Allyn, just up the road.

Just before Christmas, I was stopped by a neighbour asking why our farm always looked green and what was our secret? What fertiliser or what chemicals did I use? I assured him we did not need to use chemicals because we used the water flow differently. We slow the water run-off from our land by digging hollows in the hillside to redirect the water flow, these hollows are called swales. As he walked off he remarked how well planned we were in using natural resources.

When I work with an expert global agile negotiator, I am always impressed by their ability to discover opportunities to create value through joint gains. Like the swales on the farm that create fertile soil, the right environment will find joint gains for all parties involved.

The second thing that impresses me with a best-in-class agile negotiator is how well prepared they are and how agile they are if something changes during the negotiation that requires a quick and bold decision.

Back to the farm and the photo on this blog. Last Saturday my 2 daughters, Sarah and Hannah, my Mum (aka Nanny) and Sarah’s boyfriend Harry were working on the farm on various projects. In the afternoon we were up at the prize winning rose garden when I heard a loud squawk. On a tree branch, I saw this large vibrant green Eclectus Roratus parrot. A bird, I have seen in the Solomon Islands, but I had not seen before in the region.  At times I think the work that we have done on the farm has created such a clean environment it is like a scene out of Jurassic Park.

Suddenly the bird flew down, heading straight for Harry’s head. He didn’t duck, but put his arm out and the bird landed on him. Both the bird and Harry couldn’t stop smiling.

In negotiation, your ability to deal with a surprise you have not prepared for, like the parrot, will allow you often to find a better deal, and develop greater value through joint gains. Too many average negotiators view a change of direction or a change in information as bad and say no too quickly.

The lesson from the farm is that every day is different, the sun, rain and water means a different set of decisions. Do I mow early and then go for a wine tasting at Camyr Allyn or do I spend the whole day mowing.

The lesson here is to become an agile negotiator and seek out differences from the other parties. My experience is that sometimes their interests in small issues can create real breakthroughs. I agree with the research from the Harvard Law School, an agile negotiator can capitalise on their differences in interests, priorities, forecasts about the future, risk attitudes and joint gains.

Finally, as we become busy, a best-in-breed agile negotiator, still sets time to prepare, their preparation allows them to be able to find ways to make a negotiation a success.