Negotiation, Sugar and Focus!

Sugar isn’t evil, but life is so much better when you get rid of it.
— Kathleen DesMaisons

Focus allows to reach better outcomes.

Recently, I worked with a team on a live negotiation with a private hospital. The deal was for medical supplies and drugs worth about $25 million a year for a three-year contract.

During the preparation I noticed two behaviours in the team. First, team members could not focus on preparation. The culprit being constantly handling their smart phones. Second, how quickly the team’s energy levels dropped during the day.

When I suggested putting away the phones to maintain focus, there was loads of: “we can multitask” and “we are too busy just to do one thing at the time”. With a little more gentle persuasion the phones were put away.  Then I facilitated intensive one hour blocks of work around substantive issues, value propositions and stakeholder maps with regular breaks. It worked.

The second and more concerning issue was the fall in energy levels as day got closer to night. I was surprised how much processed food was consumed and the “highs” people were seeking from soft drinks and energy drinks.

The same week, my wife and I watched the new documentary called, ‘That Sugar Film’ by Damon Gameau, and that just reinforced my concern.

The high intake of sugar does not help people to focus when preparing for a major negotiation. Often it will make individuals irritable and more focused on an outcome instead of focusing on creative possibilities.

Next day, for the next couple of meetings, I organised fruit and water. I explained why and most people thought it was a pleasant change until I suggested that they watch the film and the impact of sugar on the body and on people’s ability to focus.

For those involved in major negotiations, my suggestion is to make your first internal meeting a process discussion about the behaviours and focus needed in preparing for the live negotiation.

I cannot comment medically on the dos or don’ts of multitasking or your level of sugar consumption, but I can comment on my observations of behaviours from the negotiating team. No phones, less processed food and less soft drinks makes working together a much more productive and creative time.

So if this is a critical negotiation, ditch the phone and eat fruit. Your body will thank you and when you reach the table, you will have clarity in your focus and get a much better outcome. Focus and preparation are just two important aspects of negotiation. To master them all check out the negotiation course at UTS.