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Your Weekly Walkaway - There are 'NO' Rules in Negotiation!
The Weekly Walkaway highlights negotiation in its ‘good’, ‘bad’ and sometimes ‘downright ugly’ forms. Newsletter Issue No. 29 (21st April 2023)
What to expect?
Quote of the Week - “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively”
Story of the Week - The Monkeys in The Cage.
Thought of the Week - There are 'NO' Rules in Negotiation!
Remember: You are a negotiator!
You are always managing some form of conflict, a difference of opinion or interest.
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QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively”
“Bend the rules only if you have learned them; break the rules only if you have mastered them.”
STORY OF THE WEEK
The Monkeys in The Cage
There is a zoo and in that zoo there is a cage of monkeys. In this zoo there is a Zoo Keeper, we will call him Bob. Bob looks after the monkeys and has an interest in understanding behaviours.
Every day Bob hangs a large bunch of bananas in the cage for the monkeys to eat. It is a highlight of their day.
One day, to test their behaviour, Bob goes in to hang the bananas, just like normal but this time, as they approach the bananas, he uses a hose to soak them all.
What do the monkeys do?
Yes, that's correct, they all squeal with anger and frustration and withdraw from the bananas.
As the day went on Bob kept a close eye on the angry monkeys and whenever a courageous monkey came close, he would soak them all.
The monkeys get wet and withdraw to their corners, angry and frustrated.
The next day he removes the old bananas and replaces them with a fresh bunch.
Oh my I hear you gasp. What do the monkeys do I hear you ask?
Well they go for the bananas of course.
And what does Bob do?
That's correct, he soaks them all and the monkeys withdraw to their corners angry and frustrated.
Bob continues this for a week. And by the end of the week there are no courageous monkeys left in the cage, just angry and frustrated monkeys sitting in their corners staring at bananas but none, not one, willing to approach for fear of getting the group wet.
In the second week Bob does something different… He replaces one of the monkeys and with a new monkey. A monkey from outside the cage.
Bob then hangs a large, fresh and juicy bunch of bananas in the cage…
What do you think happens?
The suspense must be killing you…
Of course the new monkey goes for the bananas, dummy!
What do the other monkeys do?
They say NO! Don't do it. Don’t go near the bananas.
So the new monkey, to comply with the new organisational structure, withdraws to a quiet corner in confusion and frustration.. But there are bananas. They are right there. Why can’t I eat the bananas, the monkey thinks!
Now Bob over the next month replaces a monkey every week. Until there are now only ‘new’ monkeys in the cage. Not one is from the original group.
Bob continues to hang fresh bananas and he takes them away… uneaten.
He doesn't need his hose anymore. He has a whole cage of confused and frustrated monkeys who sit in their corners staring at a large bunch of fresh juicy bananas every day wondering why…
Why can't I eat bananas?
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
There are ‘NO’ Rules in Negotiation!
I was speaking with a friend over the weekend and our conversation touched on some points that made him feel very uncomfortable.
They were describing a negotiation with a local government body. They had been struggling and were being blocked and restricted by their counterpart who was using issues with compliance to delay and force endless concessions from him. The deal was looking negative in terms of revenue!
I questioned my friend and challenged their knowledge and perception of these ‘compliance issues’. Under scrutiny it was obvious that although my friend new the organisation well and had a good understanding of their compliance and regulatory policies he did not know anything about ‘this’ compliance issue. He did not know what these rules were. I suggested that maybe, just maybe, their counterpart was using these ‘rules’ against him as a negotiation tactic.
The idea that their counterpart may have been exploiting them all this time by using what we call ‘Rules’ was an obvious and shocking eye opener. They believed that a government organisation would abide by a set of rules, values and policies. Not exploit suppliers by using them as a tool or as a tactic to get more from him. He was horrified.
Had his counterpart been using corporate rules, company policy and organisational compliance to control him all this time?
Negotiation is just a game, it's a complex beast and yes, it can be a very delicate process that requires a variety of skills and tools but there are no rules to the game.
‘There are no rules in negotiation’ is a big statement, I know but shhh, calm yourself…
The fact is simple. There is no rule book out there. None. There are no set rules that dictate, govern or rule how negotiations must be conducted.
There may be internal policies and yes, there is a specific language negotiators use and yes, there are certain guidelines, principles, and best practices that successful negotiators typically follow. But, there are no rules. Only the rules you create to control the process and your counterpart.
So, if you're not in charge of the rules that means they are! And that means they are in control. And remember peeps, negotiation is all about control.
There are no rules in negotiation means you, the negotiator, have a degree of flexibility in how you conduct your negotiations. And it is this flexibility that enables negotiators, you, to solve complex problems and differences in opinion.
Let's take Payment Terms as a prime example. Your company policy might be to pay on invoice after 60 days. This has been set by the CFO. But, what happens if you want what ‘they’, a supplier, has and lets say what they have is very rare and lots of other people want it too. But the supplier's terms are payment on delivery?
Being able to break the rules internally to achieve a better negotiated outcome then becomes a necessity. You’ll just have to have an internal negotiation first to have your company policy changed. You will break your own rules if it benefits you.
It is a fact. There are no rules in negotiation.
Often we work with clients who have policies and rules set up that restrict their people from negotiating appropriate outcomes. But after some brainstorming you find that there will be many occurrences where the rules have been and are being broken for the company's best interest.
You have and will be negotiating with and, yes, unfortunately against negotiators who will control you. They will use ‘The Rules’ to govern you and the negotiation. They are constantly forcing or asserting their rules on you. Internally and externally. I can guarantee they are not doing it for your benefit!
One of the most powerful tactics available to negotiators is the use of company policy and compliance to create boundaries and rules. You can also use these rules to help control your counterparts. Don’t be used by them! But be careful. Only use as a planned, strategic, move.
Do these sound familiar? Comment back if you’ve got more you’d like to add to the list;
Company Policy - For example;
All price increases must go through a competitive bid process;
Only the procurement can negotiate new products or services;
Any supplier who communicates with a stakeholder will be delisted.
Organisational Compliance - For example;
Our standard payment terms are A, B, C;
Our anti bribery rules prevent us from accepting gifts, meals or tickets to events;
Negotiations involving government contracts may be subject to specific regulations and requirements. You must be the master of these rules and know the ones they break themselves.
Corporate Rules - For example;
You must be prepared to pushback.
There is a large fresh juicy bunch of bananas over there. Go get them!
As an effective negotiator you need be courageous enough to keep getting wet;
Challenging the rules. Be a rebel, never accept “we don't do that here”;
Challenging the status quo. Don't accept their rules. Assert your rules. Take charge;
Challenging and updating your knowledge of their rules, policies and procedures so you know how to break them.
My friend has to stop accepting his counterparts' rules. I hope he has gone back this week and started to challenge them. Question and understand them. Look to take charge, break the current restrictions and maybe even impose his own.
What can you do? Well next week I suggest you take a look at your internal and external negotiations and start questioning and preparing.
Know your company's policies and rules inside and out. The more you understand your own company's policies and rules, the better equipped you will be to use them in negotiations. Research your counterpart's company policies and rules. Understanding your counterpart's policies and rules can give you insight into their decision-making process and help you anticipate their moves but more importantly you’ll get an idea for what is real or not and what can bend, flex or change.
Why are they imposing these rules on me? What is their end game?
Are they real or are they bluffing, disempowering themselves and stalling?
What do you need to do, to take charge, and break the rules?
Check the law. Make sure you always stay within the law;
Adapt, flex, remain calm, professional and get creative.
Don’t be a monkey in a cage!
Go. Go Get The Bananas.
We’d love to read your comments or thoughts. What do you think?
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