NGA Wraps Negotiation Training in SoCal

Berton Lee Lamb, Susan K. Driver, and Robert H. Deibel

We recently returned from our latest round of negotiation training courses in Southern California. During early December, we taught Advancing the Art of Negotiation to personnel from three different federal natural resource management agencies. The focus of this course was on natural resource negotiations with emphasis on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower license proceedings.

We received numerous comments ranging from “This was an excellent introduction” to “I thoroughly enjoyed the class.” Participants in the course overwhelmingly reported that they would recommend the training to others. Continue reading

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Transition Management, Part 1: The Interpersonal Negotiation


Russell C. Sanders, Psy.D.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a change produces a reaction that calls for a psychological readjustment. Change is a fact. Transitions are important in all phases of our lives. When we face a transition we have an emotional reaction. Then we must make an adjustment to the change that has occurred. How can we manage that adjustment in our closest personal relationships?

Example Transition and How it Was (Mis-)Managed

Jake just got a promotion. In addition to getting more money, the new position presented a challenge to Jake’s level of skill on the job.  He learned very quickly that there was a deficit in his skill-set that was going to require Jake to spend more time learning new programs and how to interpret data that he had never before seen in his work.  Not only was he going to earn more money, he was also going to have to spend more time away from his wife and their young family. His wife, Nora, was going to have to make some adjustments too. After a short time with Jake in his new position, Nora was experiencing resentment about Jake’s absence. He was often away from home and provided less child care. Nora couldn’t help but display her angst toward Jake which created more reaction from him. Continue reading

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Improving Performance Through Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback can be difficult, challenging, maddening, and hard. Our colleague, Dr. Russell Sanders, has recently posted some guidance about how to give feedback in a way that improves performance in the workplace.

One of the lessons Dr. Sanders presents is to use debriefings as a way to provide feedback. Of course, during a debriefing you may receive some feedback too. That is a good thing.

Read Dr. Sanders’ full post.

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Concerned about Communication? Look to Your Phone


Kara L. Lamb

Although we might not realize it, like it or not, we are all communicators. Did your neighbor ask you about your job and the latest product your company is producing? Did your mom wonder why your agency made that natural resource management decision? Did that man at church, or the checker at the grocery store ask what you do for work? When you answered those questions, you were a corporate communicator.

But how do you know you’ve said the right thing in response? Relax; it’s easier than you think. Just pretend you’re on the phone and use the same phone etiquette your mom taught you way back when. 

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Negotiating Interviews: Media Management Benefits from Negotiation Skills

By: Kara L. Lamb, June 18, 2019

Have you ever wondered what, if anything, media management has in common with negotiation? Consider Mike Klis introduction to media for the 2019 Denver Broncos rookies. When describing media relations to the future faces of the Broncos, Klis made three points: 

  1. Keep the media at a distance; be professional. 
  2. Working with the media is a “give and take.” 
  3. Be respectful because this is a professional relationship. 

Thinking about Klis’ lessons, the answer to the question about connecting media management and negotiation is pretty simple. In essence, a media interview is a negotiation.

First, a well-conducted media interview is one that acts and feels like a constructive conversation. That conversation includes the first principles of negotiation. You need to know the positions of the parties. You also need to know the interests and concerns behind those positions—especially if you are to facilitate any sort of constructive conversation. Be sure to assess the topic of the media interview in light of the positions and interests of the media representative.

Second, how is the reporter framing the story? As you prepare for the interview think about the media representative’s desired outcome of this conversation. Who has the reporter talked to and what perspectives, or “frames,” from other conversations are you hearing in the reporter’s questions? The information you share with the reporter, in light of these frames of understanding, will set the path for you to transition from the story currently being told to the story you need stakeholders and others to hear. Use this information to build talking points and short, but easy to understand, position statements. Knowing the reporter’s frame is how you prepare for an interview.

Last, mind your manners. Do not be on the defensive. Answer questions clearly and succinctly. Be sure to follow up on questions and clarify confusing statements the reporter might ask. In Mike Klis’ briefing he stressed the importance of not over reacting to what you might perceive as stupid questions. Over reaction will lead you to make statements you will later regret. Instead, acknowledge the reporter’s questions, concerns, and perspectives. And do not be afraid to use your answers to the questions as a way to lead into your own story, perspectives, and concerns. By engaging and packaging your message, you can facilitate the interview so your positions and concerns become part of the conversation.

These basics of negotiation, assessing, preparing, engaging, and packaging messages, are principles that also make for a good guide when interviewing with a reporter. Just as they help the facilitator or negotiator drive the conversation into a positive direction, they help you as the interviewee guide a reporter to the story you need told. 

Remember these basics. As a result, your interviews, as well as your other negotiations, will be smoother.

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Special Challenges of Multi-Party Negotiation, Part 3: October Surprises


Berton Lee Lamb and Susan K. Driver

A few years ago we were involved in a multi-party negotiation that had an interesting dynamic. Two of the parties in this negotiation were allies. Although they supported each other, one of those parties was more moderate. As the process unfolded it became clear that the more extreme party was really only interested in one issue. When that issue was settled the more extreme party stopped attending the negotiation sessions. The moderate party was not prepared for this change, and then struggled when it was perceived by the remaining parties to be extreme. Withdrawal of their ally was an “October Surprise.”

An October Surprise is not really about October; it is about surprises that occur late in a negotiation process. The term October Surprise comes to us from American political campaigns. What campaign managers mean by this term is that you can count on some kind of surprise late in the campaign. In the American election cycle that is October. The surprise might be an event, revelation, or opponent’s action that reflects positively or negatively on a candidate.

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Does Collaboration Make a Difference?

A study published in 2015 examined three hydropower licensing cases that were characterized as having high, medium, and low collaboration. The author, Nicola Ulibarri, found that high collaboration resulted in “jointly developed and highly implementable operating regimes designed to improve numerous resources, while low collaboration resulted in operating requirements that ignored environmental concerns raised by stakeholders and lacked implementation provisions” (abstract).

Although Ms Ulibarri’s findings are based on a sample size of three cases, her findings are helpful. She concludes that a “full suite of collaborative dynamics appears necessary” for success (p. 17). This suite includes: trust, principled negotiation, and leadership. Moreover, success depends on “the extent and quality of collaboration.”

Source: Nicola Ulibarri (2015) “Tracing Process to Performance of Collaborative Governance: a comparative Case Study of Federal Hydropower Licensing.” Policy Studies Journal vol 00, No. 0 (Open access article). Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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