The Bamboo house falls in under pressure tactics

Sad to see the opposition coalition in Burma beginning to unravel in the face of sustained negotiating pressure by the ruling Generals. When you negotiate as a team you are always vulnerable to divide and rule tactics, and that is what is happening in Burma.

Burma’s Nobel laureate, San Suu Kyi had called for a boycott of the stage-managed elections organised by the military junta and due to take place next month. However, more than 160 of her supporters have now defied their leader and will contest the election whilst she remains under House arrest in Rangoon.

When you are involved in a team you need to work harder at preparation and internal communication than when you are negotiating on your own, as all members of the team must speak with one voice. Opponents know this and will try to divide and disrupt the team, by isolating stronger members or picking off other, weaker members of the team who are less committed to its cause. It must be almost impossible for San Suu Kyi to keep her team together when she is under house arrest. This makes the battle with the Junta for a democratic deal in Burma much harder to win. Her team is also worn out by the duration of the battle. It’s 20 years since she won her famous landslide victory in the elections of 1990. The result has been ignored ever since. It’s much harder to keep teams united behind a common purpose for a prolonged period of time than for shorter periods of negotiating.

These factors have enabled General Than Shwe to play off cleverly against each other those supporters who want to expose the poll as a fraud and […]

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on The Bamboo house falls in under pressure tactics

Don’t just complain, state a remedy

Out at dinner with the family last Saturday at Yautcha restaurant just off Berwick Street in London. Terrible service. The meal took over an hour to turn up. The kids were getting very restive. When the meal finally arrived it was cold. I duly blew my top as this is not an inexpensive restaurant and they need to do better. Important to remember at times like this though to propose a remedy as well as just sounding off- otherwise you don’t give the other side a chance to put the deal right.

In this case I made clear that we wanted money off and the restaurant was only too happy to oblige. We got the whole meal cooked again and enjoyed it for free. If we had just stormed out that wouldn’t have happened and the restaurant wouldn’t have had a chance to make amends.

So the next time you want to complain, do say what will put it right as well. And if someone is complaining at you, make them state their remedy. That will ether completely take the wind out of their sails or it will get the discussion on to a far more positive track…

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on Don’t just complain, state a remedy

Liverpool can sing when they’re winning – off the pitch at least

The “negotiations” for the sale of Liverpool Football club have ended in a decisive loss for the preceding owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The defeat of Messrs Gillett and Hicks by the remainder of the Liverpool Board does show what a powerful a source of bargaining power it is to have the law and regulations on your side.

John Henry, of new England Sports Ventures, who have now acquired the club, does not sound like a shrinking violet. The owner of the Boston Red Sox has acquired a fortune of almost US$1 billion through Futures trading. Maybe he and Chairman Martin Broughton (who also chairs BA) would have stood up to Gillett and Hicks “tough guy” tactics in the negotiation, come what may. Broughton after all is in the middle of the BA dispute with Unite, so he is not one to shirk a conflict either.

However, what a difference it made to their negotiating attitude and ultimately that of Hicks and Gillett once the High Court had pronounced against the latter last week. Although Hicks and Gillett trooped off to Texas to find a “hang’em and flog ‘em” judge to temporarily restrain the sale, they threw in their hand when Broughton and the Board went back to the High Court to nullify the effect of that injunction. Ultimately the UK Court ruled that Hicks and Gillett no longer had control over Liverpool to prevent its sale. Having required a re-financing of club’s debts by RBS in August, they had accepted conditions of sale against which they had no right to protest now.

With rules and regulations on their side, Broughton and his colleagues moved swiftly to complete the sale and so Gillett and […]

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on Liverpool can sing when they’re winning – off the pitch at least

Osborne and Alexander pull the old “Good Cop/bad Cop” routine

It’s been classic tough-guy stuff from Messrs Osborne and Alexander as they negotiate with different departments concerning the forthcoming round of public spending cuts. Apparently Osborne has been playing the softer “good cop” to Alexander’s “bad cop”. The good cop butters you up, the bad cop roughs you up, and then the good cop moves back in to sweep up the concessions you make in gratitude that one of them is being nice to you. I wonder what would have happened if someone had pulled them up on this tactic. “Look, you two seem a bit confused. Why don’t we have a short break, then you can both agree a common approach, and we can start again.”
That would have stopped it…..

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on Osborne and Alexander pull the old “Good Cop/bad Cop” routine

If you don’t have a Kit Kat, at least take a Break…

As the Apprentices showed in last week’s episode, it really is critical to take a break when you are under pressure.

Shibby found himself disagreeing with team-member Paloma in a meeting with a potential customer. She wanted to take on an extra order which he knew his team could not fulfil. What do you do in that situation? Take a break and sort out a common approach with your team in private. What you do not do is disagree in public in front of your opponent, which is what he did. That exhibits unprofessionalism and makes your team look really weak.

Similarly, poor old Melissa, who was leading the other group, got herself completely off-side when pitching to a hotel management team over an order of breakfast rolls and pastries. Stumped when asked by the other side to quote a price, she sat there in a state of total indecision, poring over her notebook. In the end one of the Hotel management team took pity on her and suggested that she and her team should take a 2 minute break.

Sadly it didn’t help, because she now felt so under pressure that she wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity of the recess. In the end the break took 15 minutes instead of 2, and she then came back with a preposterous price which showed that she had not understood her business at all. Had she taken a break before she got herself in such a tizz, maybe she and her team could have used the time more positively.

Breaks are really helpful, they give you and your team the chance to re-group, re-energise and re-unite. If you are feeling under pressure in a […]

By |October 25th, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on If you don’t have a Kit Kat, at least take a Break…

The sweet smell of snake-oil

Great to watch the salesmen and women at work at the moment on a pitch at the end of Oxford Street, just by Tottenham Court Road tube. They are selling bottles of perfume and a willing crowd is always gathered round them (no doubt containing some of their own stooges).

The salesmen all wear headsets with mikes so you can hear them from some distance away. They use incentives and pressures brilliantly – the best kind of behaviour to use in the bargaining phase of any negotiation. Volume discounts are used to play to people’s natural sense of acquisitiveness. “I’m not offering you 2 for 1 ladies and gentlemen, I’m offering you 5 for 3”. And the threat that the offer will be taken away is ever-present, putting fear in the deal for the punter. “Now this offer only applies for the next 5 minutes ladies and gents, after that, I’ll have to withdraw it or I’ll put myself out of business”.

People can’t wait to hand their cash over. Of course it’s all very win/lose in terms of attitude, but you have to respect their effectiveness at getting customers to open their wallets. In these recessionary times, when it’s not easy to earn a pound note, they are an example to us all….

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on The sweet smell of snake-oil

China crisis – the Yuan that got away

Tension is mounting on as China steadfastly refuses to allow its currency to rise in the way that other developed countries – especially the US – wish to see. This is driving a vast China trade surplus with the rest of the world, and the accumulation of huge currency reserves in China. It also makes it harder for Western economies and even other Asian countries to climb out of recession, as they can’t produce goods that compete with the price of Chinese imports.

Who holds the aces in this ongoing negotiation? China would seem to have plenty of cards in its hand – especially its size and market power. China also seems to bring a somewhat win/lose attitude to the negotiation table. This is presently driving some lose/lose thinking by the West and Japan. If China won’t revalue its currency upwards then maybe they will permit their own currencies to drift down in value to the Yuan? Or maybe they will reach for protectionist remedies to stop Chinese imports?

The truth is nobody ever won a negotiation by playing lose/lose, However, what would happen if the other developed countries could convince China to play win/win instead? In order to do this there needs to be a focus on what China needs from any negotiation. This is not a strategy of weakness. Rather it is a hard-nosed approach which relies on the fact that a negotiation focused on China’s needs is more likely to net a win for the West and other developed countries. The Chinese government leads a fairly precarious existence. It has managed to maintain One-party politics alongside the development of economic prosperity. Would that situation continue if that economic prosperity went away? Very […]

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on China crisis – the Yuan that got away

Close that deal!

Excellent negotiating advice from Kirstie Allsop last weekend in the Property section of the Daily Telegraph. The host of “Location, location, Location” gave her top tips for buying and selling houses.

Rule 1 was “Don’t dawdle………if you like the first place see, buy it. It’s like dating; if you meet a man you like, you don’t say you’ll have a good look round first.” It’s the same with selling.”On Location, Location, Location the other day, a buyer’s offer was accepted, but the vendors then went back to another couple who wanted the place too to see if they could top my client’s offer. The minute we heard this we withdrew our offer…”
It’s just so important to know when to close a deal. Closure is a fluid moment and it’s important to bottle it, otherwise you risk losing everything.

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on Close that deal!

The Power of Numbers

Lovely story heard over the weekend from a good friend of mine about negotiating with BP. He worked with a smallish gas company and was negotiating with BP, a much larger company with considerable market power.

However, the smaller company had 3 representatives in the room at the negotiation and BP only had one. There is an inherent bargaining power associated with out-numbering your opponent. If you have more people in the room you have much more time to think and observe than your opponent, who will have to deal with multiple responses and contributions all by himself. So, by allowing the negotiation to develop as three against one, the smaller company was able to neutralise BP’s greater market power. Never underestimate the power of numbers – and if you find yourself out-numbered in a negotiation meeting, then get out of there!

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on The Power of Numbers

Missed the last 2,000 years? Don’t worry, the middle-east peace talks haven’t started yet

It is no surprise to find the latest round of Middle-East peace talks somewhat be-calmed. Static around whether or not Israel will extend its moratorium on building new settlements misses the point. The progress in the discussions does not depend on whether or not (as it did last Friday) Israel announces the building of new homes in Jerusalem.

There are two issues which effectively mean that negotiations have yet to begin. The first is that, as in any negotiation, one of the critical factors is that both parties actually want to do a deal. That does not seem to be characterize either Israel or the Palestinian approach. Both parties seem currently to prefer being in a state of undeclared war to the possibility of living in a state of peace. So, unless and until that state changes the negotiation can’t really get going. Peace only came to Northern Ireland after the stakeholders all arrived at the same time at the conclusion that they would prefer peace to conflict. It took many years to arrive at that point and it may yet take Israel and the Palestinians some time to get there. Until they do, negotiations about the “content” of any deal are somewhat irrelevant. So questions like what will happen to existing settlements or exactly what recognition of statehood each side will give to the other are a bit of a red herring.

The second issue is that for a negotiation to really get going all the major stakeholders need to be represented. Unless that happens it’s all too easy for the parties not involved to reject the deal. Hamas are not present and it’s easy to understand why their presence is undesirable for the […]

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on Missed the last 2,000 years? Don’t worry, the middle-east peace talks haven’t started yet