The Leader’s Guide to Negotiation: A book review by Bob Morris

Leader's Guide to NegotiationThe Leader’s Guide to Negotiation: How to Use Soft Skills to Get Hard Results
Simon Horton
FT Financial Times Publishing/Pearson (July 2016)

“Letting the other chap have it your way”

The last time I checked, Amazon US offers 30,855 books for sale in the general category of “negotiation” and 19,355 in the specific category “business negotiation.” Why another? Channeling the bromide in residential real estate that for every house there is a buyer, I suggest that for every book, there is a buyer. In this instance, one written by Simon Horton in which he explains (as the subtitle suggests) “how to use soft skills to get hard results.”

Years ago during a reception in Washington for the British ambassador, I was engaged in conversation with a senior member of his staff. At one point, I asked him to define diplomacy. He replied, “Letting the other chap have it your way.”

I recalled that response while working my way through Horton’s book. Here’s his definition of negotiation: “The process through which two or more parties come to an agreement on an action to be carried out.” He then adds, “The negotiation counts for nothing, indeed the signed contract counts for nothing, if what is eventually implemented in the real world does not suit you; that proud piece of paper merely a recipe for deceit.”

There is what Horton calls the leader’s conundrum: “be nice or be tough.” Fortunately, there is way to resolve it: what he characterizes as a “strong win-win approach.” Begin with a win-win and target a mutually beneficial result “because if the other party is not satisfied with the agreement, they will not implement it — or they will sabotage it, undermine it or implement it to the letter but not in its spirit. Conversely, if it is to their advantage as well as mine, they will put their full energies behind it [as will I] in order to make it happen.” He explains what this approach is and how to master it.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Horton’s coverage in Parts 1 and 2, Chapters 1-7:

o What is negotiation? (Pages 3-5)
o What is negotiation? (7-11)
o The strong win-win approach (11-13)
o Principle 1: It’s not about winning the battle; it’s about winning the war (14-19)
o Principle 2: In the world of human endeavor, one plus one equals three (20-24)
o Principle 3: Never be rude to the waiter (25-26)
o Principle 4: Be unmessable with! (26-29)
o So how much should you prepare and what should you cover? (35-36)
o Prioritise, and, Identifying the variables gets you the best deal (39-41)
o Know your counterpart better than they do, What is their bigger picture?, and Find out their drivers (45-48)
o Present your case in terms of benefits to them (48-50)
o Identify their priorities (51-53)
o Different agendas without a team (57-58)
o Understanding the real dynamics of the deal (59-60)
o The art of the deal, and, war-gaming (65-66)
o Self-awareness — a framework for wisdom (67-68)
o Who do you need to be? (73)
o Be prepared to walk away (74)
o Start with “no” (75-76)
o Knowing when to walk away from the deal (77-78)
o Increase your power, cultivate your alternatives, and, At what point will they walk away? (78-79 and 79-80)

Yes, there are thousands of books now in print that address various dimensions and nuances of effective negotiation and many of them offer substantial value. My own take is that, given the importance of negotiation — in terms of its implications and potential consequences — whatever its nature and extent may be, it is important to be well-prepared for “the process through which two or more parties come to an agreement on an action to be carried out.” In Art of War, Sun Tzu suggests that every battle is won or lost before it is fought and the same is true of negotiation.

I commend Simon Horton on the quality and utility of the material, insights, and counsel he provides in abundance. As I worked my way through the narrative, I was again reminded of a press conference years ago after President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel met with President Carter at Camp David. They were asked how – after thousands of years of bloodshed – they two countries were able to reach several peace accords. Begin replied. “We did what all wise men do. We began at the end.”

That peace agreement in 1978 demonstrates the power of the strong win-win approach taken by both Sadat and Begin and probably could not have otherwise been achieved.

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