Each day we turn on the news and watch the negotiators work. These are seasoned negotiators dealing with issues in China, North Korea, Venezuela and the European Union. The thing they all have in common is that each is deeply skilled in their field of expertise and well-earned grey hair. You will see them surrounded by some of the younger and perhaps brighter minds in their field but only to senior players know how to bring this information to the table.
Negotiations confront us every day and businesses rely on their senior experts to help them navigate very treacherous waters that could easily sink the most stable ships. I find it interesting that in some specific cases these unique skills and values of the senior players brings are recognized when it comes to this very special area. While on the other hand they are hesitant to bring senior players into the organization to help grow and stabilize the business.
The senior players will bring a number of skills to the table. Most of the skills were not learned in schools and colleges but on the battlefield. I recall the late 80’s working in Warsaw, Poland. It was at that time that I was introduced to Lateral Thinking and Mind Mapping. The very senior player from our European office had used these skills for years to bring excellent solutions to our clients but also assisted our clients in navigating complex deals with their suppliers, governments and even their internal organizations.
During his time I was also introduced by this same senior manager to the skills of reading body language, power within the room and how to negotiate using the skills to design and close a deal. These skills are not taught they are learned. To be able to recognize the power players in the room, understand how they are receptive to an idea and how to neutralize negative players takes years of experience and is a critical tool that all negotiators use.
Lateral thinking was it introduced by Edward DeBono in the late 1980s. It’s based on the fact that in schools we are taught serial thinking. It’s the way we’ve taught to structure our documents one topic after another in an orderly form. Unfortunately, this serial thinking cannot be used to resolve complex problems. Mind mapping was initially introduced to solve very complex problems within the space program. It allowed the senior engineers to develop random thoughts that eventually became linked into possible solutions and ways used to identify that “unidentifiable problem”.
Most recently, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to a senior hiring manager given the responsibility to find an individual that could lead a team to solve a very complex issue of global significance. During this conversation any discussion around the tools and methodologies that would be used, such as lateral thinking, completely through him off balance.
He had no concept of how these skills could be used or the role of the senior negotiator and yet he had been asked to find and hire an individual to address this task. Having been through this problem before, I knew that it would be necessary for us to reach a common language in order for me to explain how I would approach the problem. We spent an hour discussing the tools and skills necessary to use a methodology that could identify and design a solution. At the close of the discussion he asked where did I go to learn these things? I once again explain my background, gave him examples and ask if he needed a mentor that could help him understand more about what he had been asked to do.
I asked him how many senior consultants had been brought into his organization over the last year. His answer was not surprising but was very disappointing. I asked why so few skilled and talented individuals were making it past the gatekeepers. His response was quite clear, “We don’t understand the value”.
So, it was a day well spent for me. We did not close the contract but I did make a new friend and perhaps a believer in the fact that senior players bring substantial value to a business that cannot be gained in any other way.
Jerry M Striplin +1 404 275 9108 cell – SKYPE JMStriplin – Skype-In +1 912 480 0760 Afghanistan cell 93 (0) 728 30 36 10 ; Health Sector HSR, USAID Program
“Teach and they will remember – Involve and they will learn”
It appears there is a lot of interest in this subject, so, I’m considering using it as a blog, a forum, for the exchange of IDEAS, EXPERIENCES and PREDICTIONS.
There will be Columnists and Contributors. The difference will be in the frequency of their op-eds. Links to articles in other publications will be considered. When you have something to say, considering saying it here.
Thank you for your interest.