Agility is a state of mind

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
— Samuel Johnson

Spend a moment thinking about the messages you received about winning as you were growing up. Think about sport, study, games, finances, and career. Think about your friends’ attitudes to these activities too. It’s probable that most of you are conditioned to think that winning, in any competition, is the most important part of the game.

On May 6, 1954, one of the great athletic achievements of all time took place. Roger Bannister, a British medical student, ran a mile in less than four minutes (3:59.4).

This event, long considered impossible by informed observers, was the culmination of years of improved performance by athletes around the world. For Bannister, it was a response to a disappointing performance at the 1952 Olympics. Contemplating whether it was time to retire and pursue his medical studies, Bannister set himself a new goal: to run a mile in less than four minutes. The four‑minute target emerged because “it was a nice round number” and the previous world record had stood for nine years. Bannister developed an innovative, low‑mileage training strategy to pursue the goal and the rest is history.

Negotiating is no different – change the frame from winning to value!

Unfortunately, the problem with the ‘win‑at‑all‑costs’ mindset is that it fails to recognise the needs of the other negotiator. If both sides enter into a negotiation with that attitude, it’s no surprise when tension fills the air, change your thinking to value and the atmosphere changes as quickly.

In earlier blogs and also in chapter one of the new negotiating book The Creative Negotiator: Changing the focus to value to be launched in September 2016, I looked at how Principled negotiations (the Deliberate style) provide an alternative to positional (or quick style) bargaining. Principled negotiation explored initially at the Harvard Negotiation Project in the USA some years ago, is explicitly designed to produce wise outcomes efficiently and amicably. Its focus on being different was, at the time, groundbreaking research.

The other issue in their early research work had a thought‑provoking message. Negotiations are about two main areas, the people issues and the substantial issues, such as price, terms and delivery.

Once you realise the other side also has the needs and drives which spur you on, you can work with rather than against the other party, to reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

Just a quick point, I often make the distinction when I am consulting on live deals. All great leaders are successful negotiators; not all great negotiators are leaders. This concept is discussed further in the negotiation course at ACU.

To some, negotiation is simple; to others, negotiation is too complex.

As Roger Fisher and William Ury said so well in Getting to Yes, separate the people and the issue.

The people component is one that should be looked at more closely. See how the needs and drives which spur you on in the negotiation process, are shared by both parties. It is essential that you can step back and separate the people in the negotiation from the negotiation process itself.

When you understand what motivates you as a person, it becomes easier to understand what motivates others.

This understanding is the key to being able to work with, rather than against, the other party to solve the problem and reach a mutually satisfying agreement. These principles hold whether you are talking about individuals or nations.