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Tuesday Insight - Negotiating Those Lightbulb Moments

The best thing about training is the lightbulb moments. And one the best thing about the type of training we design and deliver is that it can deliver lightbulb moments, not just for learners, but for us too.

Take last week, when I was lucky enough to be delivering an in-house trainer’s masterclass for a lovely group of trainers. Part of the day involved looking at exercises that could bring conflict resolution and negotiation training to life. From the many available, I’d chosen to showcase Island of Opportunity and Restaurant Revolution.

I ran the first one, Island of Opportunity, in the morning and, as expected, the group went into the negotiations with one thing on their mind – winning. This meant ensuring their needs were met, even at the expense of others. 

Now, in fairness to my group, they did, in the nick of time, work out an arrangement that would allow them to, at least in the short term, share the island. But our review showed that even at the end of the negotiations there was suspicion and a lack of trust between the tribes. They suspected that other tribes had not disclosed material information or that some had simply ‘made stuff up’ in order to strengthen their ‘case’. Actually, this hadn’t happened, but that hardly mattered. The fact that the four parties didn’t truly trust each other at the end of the negotiations meant that they were questioning whether they had really got a fair deal. Hardly the foundations for a long, successful, collaborative relationship.

The point is, we often have to negotiate with the same people, over and over again. If we leave a negotiation feeling that we’ve lost, or not trusting the other party, we’ll look to redress that balance next time. So, if we approach negotiations as a battle, each subsequent negotiation is likely to be more difficult, not easier. 

In the afternoon, when I ran Restaurant Revolution, I was absolutely delighted when one participant turned to another during their preparation phrase, and said, “But if we do that, we’ve learnt nothing form this morning!” Another said, “I can’t imagine not looking at our differences as shared problems now” (or words to that effect) and my pride went a notch higher still.

But what about my learning? Well, one of the team raised a question that I’d been asking myself as I watched them managing the second negotiation so well, and that was, “Why did I choose to run the modules in that order?” 

You see, Restaurant Revolution actually takes participants through a process for negotiating through conflict in a work environment. My thinking had been, I’d let them fall over in the morning with Island of Opportunity and then use Restaurant Revolution to introduce a better method. What I hadn’t counted on was the depth of learning they’d get from the first exercise. By the time we got to the restaurant setting, they’d worked out how to avoid conflict for themselves and all that was left for me to do was formalise the process.

Next time, I’ll run the two activities the other way round. The work-based Restaurant Revolution is a fantastic tool, which begins with conflict and introduces a three-step process for getting beyond this. But I wonder if participants would rem
ember those lessons in the more emotive Island of Opportunity in the afternoon and apply them as effectively in that setting. I can’t wait to find out! 

Coincidentally, one of our members reviewed Island of Opportunity last week and this is what he said: 
“I love this exercise because after preparing the materials you can almost sit back, relax and watch the complete lack of negotiation skills most people have. I always emphasis at the start how important it is for each tribe to get what they need. Having done that you can guarantee lots of folded arms and shaking of heads. I always make sure that the negotiator is different for each round and that I have plenty of maps available to draw on. Occasionally the result is agreement, but I've also had many occasion where I've ended up with a beautiful island all to myself. Give it a try, as the discussions after the exercise really do help explain the art of negotiation.”

Thanks for reading. As always, all feedback is appreciated. Until next time…

February 26 2018Rod Webb

Rod Webb

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