Month: January 2019

  • On Negotiating

    A smart guy once told me to remember, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” I’ve kept that nugget loaded into RAM since the time I first heard it.

    Recently I was working through the details on a biz item and the other party said, “I wasn’t expecting a negotiation.” My reaction to the comment was thinking, “Well then, how would either party end up getting what they needed?”

    Negotiating is a matter of articulating your facts, values and needs and attempting to find if and where your and the other party’s “brackets” overlap.

    Another great stolen nugget I’ve heard is, “Smart people typically make the same decisions, granted they are operating off the same facts”. To me that means, you have to share your supporting arguments. Objective is always better than subjective. It’s hard for another party to quantify or value what you feel.

    Sometimes you get there, and sometimes you don’t, but keeping communication open, sharing facts and maintaining forward momentum are a better strategy than sandbagging, obfuscating, leveraging deadlines or using false time constraints.

    Everything in life is a negotiation and that’s not a bad thing. I’d say I’m neutral on the subject and don’t chase opportunities to be a “deal guy”. I know some who relish the battle, but I get more joy from getting people to engage and help build whatever I’m energized about vs trying to outmaneuver them.

    That said, I especially dislike combative negotiating. I find when it’s adversarial, zero sum or “old school” it drains my energy the most.

    I had this same conversation with a far more deal-experienced friend of mine recently and he agreed with my sentiment, but also acknowledged that combative negotiations are much less painful when you are not emotionally involved or you are working on someone else’s deal. He was a lawyer in his previous life. Makes sense.

    That said, in my own dealings, I’d much rather share a collective win and constructively find the middle. Sometimes, I even find myself skipping a negotiating round to highlight a potential middle in an effort to close more quickly. Sometimes it’s appreciated, but in combative situations, it’s always a waste. I’ve found that it usually results in lost ground and lost leverage.  Be careful about highlighting the middle too soon if you know the other party has no incentive to win together.

    When a deal is lopsided, it’s typically a short-term win at the expense of potential longer-term value or relationship. The best outcomes usually leave both parties feeling good about the mutual upside and the sharing of the value created or captured.

    Lastly, the most important part of any negotiation is knowing what you actually need before you enter the dance. I’ve seen that so many times and have been guilty of it as well. Deals don’t get done (or blow up) until someone says, “No”. Know where your baseline is. Know where your “bracket” ends. Don’t be bashful about saying “No” if you need to. It’s a great tool for getting a deal done or at least saving a ton of wasted time.

    Remember, hope is not a strategy. Things don’t magically happen or work out on their own. For the big things and all the little things as well, you will only get what you negotiate.

  • Cannonball

    At a dinner with extended family this weekend, a conversation with my aunt about sociopaths and black coffee became a bit (more?) existential.

    She asked me point blank, “So do you have a word for 2019? Your uncle and I have decided the word embrace is probably a good anchor for all we have going on in the coming year. As there will be a few known challenges and we’ll be tested more than once. We will attempt to embrace it all.”

    I paraphrased her a bit, but that was the gist.

    While this exercise is certainly simple, it did stop me for a moment to think. I have found that simple can be powerful and I have always loved turning something big into little memorable nugget.

    In less than a minute, a few words popped to mind but I just kept coming back to the word “Cannonball”.  When I finally said it out loud, my wife and a few others nearby chuckled, “I know you’re putting in a pool, but really?”

    Yeah, my word is Cannonball, and it’s slightly ridiculous. Every time I say it, I hear Ron Burgundy – but I’m fine with it.

    Here’s why:

    It’s bold. It takes effort. It’s a commitment. It’s got a dose of fun. It always makes waves. There’s no right way to do it. It can’t be ignored.

    The last two years have been filled with countless changes, new experiences and challenges from many directions. Sometimes I was pushed out of my comfort zone and when the fear of the unknown crept in, I did my best to power through and say yes.  I have regretted it zero times.

    So in 2019 I’m going to keep trusting my ability to learn to swim in the deep end. I’m going to jump into all the new meaningful things that my schedule will allow. I’m going to attempt to make a big splash in whatever I do. I might knock you off your floating raft, but please don’t take it personally.

    As a planner, of course I have a list of goals for this new year written down… but now I also have a single word to define it all.


    Even better.

    What’s your word?



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