How to Make a Deal in 3 Seconds Flat

I’ve learned a lot about negotiation from my colleague Paul Levy. I’ve talked to him about huge deals he made while managing the $5 billion Boston Harbor clean-up. After that he worked out creative agreements with suppliers, doctors, and government agencies as CEO of one of Boston’s leading hospitals.

But Paul also has a keen eye for important negotiation lessons we can learn from everyday transactions. Earlier this week…. Read More ⇒

Never fear to negotiate . . .?

Sometimes you should say no to negotiation. If you’re happy with the status quo, for example, or certain that you can get a better deal from somebody else, there may be no reason to talk other than demonstrating good will.

Likewise, you shouldn’t negotiate if the transaction is dubious morally. When a customer demands a kickback as condition for making a sale, walk away (rather than haggle over the amount of the bribe). Read More ⇒

JFK: The Negotiator

The greatest achievement of John F. Kennedy’s presidency was resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962.

Agreement wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Kennedy himself calculated that the chance of a nuclear catastrophe were at least one in three, maybe higher. But he had learned a lot about negotiating from his failed summit talk with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev a year earlier in Vienna. Those lessons still apply today. And they apply to everyday transactions. Read More ⇒

The Jazz of Negotiation: How to listen with your toes

Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis says, “The real power of jazz—and the innovation of jazz—is that a group of people can come together and create art, improvised art, and can negotiate their agendas with each other. And that negotiation is the art.”

Jazz is negotiation? Absolutely. Players with different skills and tastes—and competing egos—must negotiate over what and how to play, each one giving and taking throughout process, with no certainty about where they will end up. Read More ⇒

You Can’t Script Negotiation. EVER

Cookie-cutter strategies just don’t work in the turbulence of real world negotiation. Yes, preparation is essential. And persistence is often a virtue. But clinging to rigid plans is not. There’s just too much in flux. You have to be ready to make the best of whatever unfolds.

Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington says, “Negotiation is not a linear endeavor. It’s full of twists and turns and requires managing relationships, data, intuition, and alternatives in a way that increases the probability of a good outcome.”

As a consequence, you’ve got to be agile if you want to succeed. Read More ⇒

Negotiation Lessons for the Rest of Us (DC Brinksmanship – Part 2)

Experience may be the best teacher in many arenas, but negotiation is a wicked learning environment. The problem is poor feedback. Even when you reach agreement, it’s hard to know whether you got a great deal or left money on the table. Likewise, if you’re stalemated, it could be that no deal was possible or that you over-played your hand.

After all, you only know your half of the story. You can’t know what might have happened if you had taken a different path by being (pick one) more patient, forceful, creative, or accommodating. Read More ⇒

DC Brinksmanship – Part 1: Deadlines, deadlocks, and negotiation dynamics

Work, they say, expands to fill time available. So does negotiation. Lawsuits often settle on the courthouse steps. Some strikes aren’t averted until the eleventh hour. Disputing parties may not back down until they are just about to suffer the full cost of non-agreement.

As Samuel Johnson observed, there’s nothing like the prospect of a hanging to concentrate one’s mind.

The problem is compounded when groups have unrealistic expectations and myopic viewpoints. Read More ⇒

How I Hire: How to Blow a Job Offer

A couple of years ago a colleague of mine was being wooed by a well-regarded university (not my own, incidentally). We’ll call him Ben Evans to spare him embarrassment. Ben was flattered that Arundel University (also a pseudonym) was interested in him and excited about the prospect of moving back east.

There still were some issues to be worked out, though. Arundel’s usual practice was to have lateral hires come in as visitors for a year before being given a permanent position. Read More ⇒

Are You Being Too Agreeable?

I once did advisory work for a midsized company whose CEO cheerfully told me, “In twenty-five years, we’ve never failed to reach agreement with a customer or a vendor.”

Because we were in a meeting with his other senior managers, I nodded my head and smiled. Later when we were alone, I said that the company’s unblemished record was an odd thing to be proud of. I quoted the old saying, “If you never miss a flight, you’re spending a lot of time in airports.”

The same principle applies in negotiation. Read More ⇒

The Curse of Negotiation Phobia

Some people relish negotiation. Many others loathe it.

Arnaud Karsenti, a real estate entrepreneur in Florida, is proudly in the first category. “I love negotiation,” he says. “The hairier the better!”

But then there’s Chris Robbins, an emergency room physician in a Boston hospital. Chris is the kind of doctor I’d want if I were wheeled in on a stretcher: Calm and focused amidst all the stress. But that’s true only in the ER. Read More ⇒