The Power of Collaboration

We often hear about the power of collaboration. It is good to find examples. One example appeared in a recent issue of Public Administration Review. The short article by David Wang is entitled “A Simple Lesson about the Power of Collaboration.” He describes a collaboration among farm workers, growers, and buyers. The lessons:

1. Have a vision for how the collaboration could work (How would this collaboration look if it were productive?),

2. Stick with that vision over the long-run (You may have to make adjustments along the way but try to make your vision a reality),

3. Receive some outside support (Identify and nurture relationships with your allies),

4. Build trusting relationships (Trustworthiness).

You can find the article on page 444 of Volume 74, Issue 4.

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Choosing the Right Representative

I have been reading an interesting history of a slice of diplomacy from the Second World War. President Roosevelt used personal representatives–often informally–to help him understand and coordinate with our allies. This led me to thinking about choosing the right representatives as lead negotiators for an organization. 

As Michael Fullilove tells it in his book Rendezvous with Destiny, Roosevelt sent five men as his personal representatives: Sumner Welles, Bill Donovan, Harry Hopkins, Wendell Willkie, and Averell Harriman. These were all people the President knew, but they were not all his friends. One–Willkie–had run against him for President in 1940. They each performed well and provided great service to the United States. 

Was Roosevelt lucky or was he good at choosing these representatives? Probably both. Here are some of the traits shared by the five. First, they were loyal to the President even when they did not fully agree with his policies. Second, they were deeply knowledgeable about American policy and politics. Third, they were hard-working and energetic. Fourth, they each could skillfully build and maintain relationships. 

These are traits we would like to see in those who represent us in negotiations. We have written about other important attributes of a good negotiator (click here to download).

Loyalty: Effective representatives are those who understand the mission and are committed to pursuing it. If they disagree they should be able to tell us and we should be willing to listen.

Deep Knowledge: Representatives should understand the technical details as well as the negotiation or regulatory process.

Hard Work and Energy: Representatives who are able and willing to put in the time and personal resources necessary to perform the task at hand are most likely to be successful.

Relationships: Successful representatives go beyond merely presenting our side of the argument. They listen to the other side, build trust, and empathize. 

Click here to read some other skills.


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Keys to Negotiation 13: Personal Bonds

We often say of negotiation that it is important to establish personal connections. Sometimes this is interpreted to mean that we should get to know the other stakeholders, maybe through social interactions. Social interactions are certainly important, but recent research suggests that one vital key to successful negotiation is the foundation of personal bonds. This implies more than meeting and greeting.

Continue reading

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Addiction to Fear: The Importance of Frames

Often, when we interview parties in a dispute, we find that they have focused on the threats posed by their adversaries. In these situations, it is important to step back and examine the threats as objectively as possible.

A recent article published in The Duck of Minerva gives a good example of using objective analysis to examine threats. Although the example given is threats that would need to be countered by an independent Scotland, the article is worth a read.

The authors suggest three themes that we might consider in an objective threat analysis:

  1. Frames: As we examine the arguments being used  to describe the threats we face, it is important to think about alternative frames. How could this conflict (or potential conflict) be seen from a different angle? Why has the conflict been framed in the way that it has? Have we selected the right frame to guide our planning?
  2. Addiction to Fear: It is always advisable to understand whether or not we have succumbed to the temptation to focus on our fears. If the authors are correct, humans are quick to think about what makes them afraid. Those who are planning a negotiation should be encouraged to also think about opportunities.
  3. Threat Categories: The authors use three categories to examine the question of potential threats. These might be expressed as Structural, Situational, and Complications.

Structural threats arise from the structure of our environment. These “institutional” factors can include the rules under which we operate, organizational policies, or supervisory span of control. Situational threats might include our adversaries’ incentives to cause conflict. Shared incentives to resolve conflicts could also be fruitful lines for examination. Complications might include such considerations as the effects of our alliances.

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NGA Sponsors Lamb Prize in Political Science

 The Bert & Phyllis Lamb Prize in Political Science

Negotiation Guidance Associates is pleased to announce the Bert and Phyllis Lamb Prize in Political Science.

Beginning in 2014, the Lamb Prize will be awarded annually. The Lamb-Prize:

  •  Offers nation-wide publicity to undergraduate students who demonstrate an aptitude for innovation in the field of Political Science.
  • Promotes academic curiosity and new ideas geared to betterment of the world.

The Selection Committee for the Lamb Prize is chaired by

Donna Lybecker, Ph.D. Department of Political Science, Idaho State University.


Visit to learn more.

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Seeing the Big Picture: Strategy

Seeing the big picture in the midst of battle, or a rancorous negotiation, is difficult but important. A brief article on the website American Diplomacy traces the strategic consequences of three battles (Waterloo, The Somme, and Omaha Beach) to show how those battles and the geopolitical forces they unleashed shaped world politics. The article also highlights how difficult it is in the middle and immediate aftermath of battle to comprehend the true meaning of the event.

Seeing the big picture in these situations is vitally important. Designing a strategy to fit the new or changing conditions is a hallmark of success. In posts on this webpage we have often underscored the importance of adequate preparation for a negotiation. One part of that preparation that we have not much discussed is anticipating what the aftermath of the bargaining will mean for all the involved parties. Although hard to do, thinking about the business or governing environment that will follow the negotiation will be a guide to conducting the negotiation itself.

Another planning activity associated with negotiation preparation is what might be called “after action analysis” or debriefing the negotiation. After the negotiation is completed it is useful to convene those in your organization who have been involved to discuss what happened, what could have been done better, and where you stand now that the bargaining is finished. For multi-party, multi-dimensional negotiations that span long periods of time the after action analysis might be a rigorous and formal study. Other after action analyses can be accomplished by bringing together your organization’s folks around the conference room table. This kind of informal conversation can often benefit from the services of a mediator to keep participants on track.

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Doing the Impossible: Changing the Organization

“Only when certain political and organizational preconditions are met” can substantial improvements be made in big organizations. At least that is the conclusion suggested by a recent article in Public Administration Review. The authors suggest six preconditions (pg. 238):

  1. Support from a powerful political source,
  2. Recognition by the public & media that current conditions are unacceptable,
  3. A leader with unusual control over personnel policy,
  4. Substantial talent within or available to the organization,
  5. Useable & timely data systems, and
  6. A leader with an understandable vision for improvement.

These six factors are rare in big complex organizations. The authors offer four hypotheses explaining the obstacles building those preconditions.

  1. Members of an organization need time to become familiar with data-driven management. After a time, data-driven management can make large-scale, long-term reform possible (pg. 237).
  2. “Aggressive reformers will tend to appear in times and places where (current) outcomes are completely unacceptable and be dismissed or moderated once outcomes reach a merely acceptable level.” Or leaders will be “victims of their own success” if their political masters think they are “too big for their britches” (pg. 237).
  3. Organizational innovations…will diffuse more when leaders transfer to new places than through adoption by other leaders in the organization (pp. 237-38).
  4. Organizational reform occurs more readily when leaders control personnel policy (pg. 238).

Although not impossible, the authors conclude that reforming big organizations will be rare.

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