Merry Christmas - to all negotiators!

Enjoy the break, 2017 will be a very busy year.

Merry Christmas from me to you

Merry Christmas from me to you

I have previously resisted sending out a Christmas blog because I believe that the Queen or a world leader waited all year to send out their Christmas message and I shouldn’t create another one. However, it has been a busy year, Brexit, Trump, Turnbull and too many other things to mention. A couple of things happened this week that changed my mind.

Firstly at the start of the week, I went to Victor Churchill, a butcher in Woollahra, Sydney,  I went there to buy my wife a Christmas present – I hope she does not read this blog.

From a negotiation perspective, I was impressed with how well the team at the butcher shop managed the whole ‘value’ piece in their dealings with me. I shared that I wanted something special for my wife, they asked about Gillian and when they heard that she was one of the fermenting guru’s in Australia, suggested a cooking class.

We went through the list and chose one. They then shared the value piece, nibbles on arrival, the cooking demonstration and then that the attendees eat what they create. As I went for my wallet, I asked, “Do you take American Express?” A very polite, “Of course, Sir,” was the response.

In the B2B world, there were some very strong lessons, the key being the value shared. At a personal level, I felt it was a great way to start Christmas. The body language of the staff helped me make a decision without trying to sell me something; it was great.

I searched out the manager and gave instant feedback. He was impressed that someone gave feedback about his team, but also about the perceived value of my purchase. So, the experience at Victor Churchill was inspiring and satisfying at the same time.

Some of you will remember that three months ago I released my 3rd book, the second edition of the Creative Negotiator. The book focuses on negotiation skills in our fast-paced world, and the skills that are essential for sustainable business growth, strong business relationships and capturing commercial value.

The book utilises international research to show how managers and executives can effectively negotiate to achieve and sustain results beyond the ability of their competitors.

At the time I received some feedback from an international expert in the field of value:

I don’t care how smart, savvy and sophisticated you are, no one is a natural negotiator. Stephen Kozicki provides the insights you need to greatly improve your skills in this vital area by focusing on value and not price!
— Todd Snelgrove, Vice President, Value, SKF

My focus was on the total book, but his comments made me realise that value is so critical to every business decision. A chapter on value and a dynamic tool as part of the book were providing more value than I even considered.

There have also been some very kind comments left on Amazon.

As the week progressed I woke one morning to a terrible news story, but at the same time I saw this photo of a child, a dog and a Christmas tree - I thought this is what Christmas is all about.

It had the immediate ‘wow’ impact, the child in awe of the dog and the tree and the look on the dog’s face looking at the child. ‘Wow!’

At times, no matter how tough our lives are, something gets through every logical filter and hits our emotional buttons - straight to the heart. This photo did just that.

When I get emotional, I remember a family holiday in New York. One of the key things that I wanted to achieve during this trip was to brave the crowds and go up to the 86th floor of the Empire State building (the outside viewing platform). I wanted to see where a certain Captain Chesley Sullenberger became famous as a hero.

The event and his subsequent handling of it became a key story in the book.

In 2009, Captain Chesley Sullenberger and the assisting crew landed a plane in the Hudson River. The Miracle on the Hudson is remarkable as not one life was lost. In the last 50 years of aviation history, a large passenger aircraft has not successfully carried out a water landing without fatalities, until Captain Sully and his crew. Does this make them heroes or is this an oversimplified label that does not give due credit for the skill required to carry out this landing? 

Our lives are defined by choices. There is a point in our lives where we are defined by one choice, one decision that can change not only your life but also someone else’s. The owners at Victor Churchill made a decision to create a butcher shop beyond the norm and use value to help people make decisions that moved them beyond price.

 In the case of Captain Chesley Sullenberger of US Airways, there was a moment that lasted only 208 seconds, but it was a moment that defined him. This man, with the assistance of his crew, executed a next to impossible landing on the Hudson River in New York. It truly was the “Miracle on Hudson.”

January 15th, 2009 is a day that many people in New York will never forget. US Airways flight 1549 was due to fly from LaGuardia Airport, New York to Charlotte, North Carolina Airport. The Airbus A320 took off from New York with 150 occupants and five staff members. It was a mere 90 seconds into the flight when First Officer Jeffrey B Skilles noticed a flock of Canadian Geese quickly approaching the plane. In an instant, the passengers and cabin crew knew there was trouble when a loud thud rocked the plane. Skilles made a comment on the formation of the geese that soon after ended up sprawled across the front windscreen. Decisions were needed. There was now a ticking clock and every single second counted.

It was like clockwork that Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skilles executed their roles on their aircraft. Sullenberger took control of the aircraft while Skilles began implementing procedures to try and restart the engines. An eerie silence descended upon the cabin; there was no longer the expected hum of the engine. It was decision time; if the pilot tried to land the aircraft at the nearest airport, there was a risk of a potential crash landing in highly populated New Jersey areas or Midtown Manhattan.

Less than three minutes was all the time they had before the plane glided to the ground. He had 155 lives to consider and only three minutes to perfectly execute his decision. His rational decision making lead to an extraordinary landing on the Hudson River after both engines had completely failed. This was a unique aviation achievement, performing a successful emergency ditching without the loss of any lives. Despite the near freezing Hudson water and impact from a water landing, only one occupant required an overnight stay in the hospital.

Captain Sullenberger is a real hero; his courage meant he took a difficult decision that years of practice and experience meant he was ready to take. He calculated the risk and found a solution.

At the time, I was unaware that Hollywood was going to make a film about this great event, which has just been released, ‘Sully’. It is fantastic.

Good news, if you have left your Christmas gift purchasing to the last minute, either go online to that fantastic butcher shop and buy something or go and buy a copy of Sully as a gift. The DVD is a great portrayal of the event; I had forgotten a lot of the drama surrounding this story.

It is a good yarn about leadership, teamwork, persuasion and of course negotiation.

Remember, it’s Christmas, so find time to enjoy the next couple of weeks with family, friends and people dear to you. Rest up and get ready as 2017 will be one of the busiest years you and I will ever put in.

Merry Christmas