Negotiating Lessons from Brexit – Four – No Good Trying to be Nice!

Setting a conciliatory tone can be dangerous if not thought through carefully. It could signal weakness, over keenness to close a deal or just indicate a lack of preparation or experience. Trying to be more flexible without setting clear conditionality on that flexibility let’s the other side know that their strategy is working.

Perception here is key. The EU has clear prime objectives. The desired position of the member states, MEPs and the Commission in Brussels is that the UK does not leave the Union, which means that things will be dragged out. Tactics to frustrate, deadlock and block will be common. Arguments will be critical of the UK’s position and questions will constantly probe the politicians’ commitment to go through to a deal. There will be insinuations that people do not know what they are doing. Proposals might be received as helpful but never enough; the bottom line is that the leaving does not go easily or profitably for Britain so as to discourage others from following. These objectives will not change while the U.K. shows a poor hand and indicates a lack of strong commitment to the prime objective (Brexit).

The rebuilding of relationships will come after the separation has been completed and probably not before.

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Negotiating Lessons from Brexit – Three

Situations in which to be careful:
The skillful negotiator is collecting information all the time. One never knows when it will be useful or for which deal but it is very valuable. Collecting this intelligence comes from many sources: Networking events, corporate entertainment, formal dinners, speeches, debates, news interviews, listening while waiting in receptions, conference breakouts, hotels, airport lounges, rail journeys and so on. From many sources one is able to put together a clearer picture regarding goals and priorities for both (all) sides. This is particularly useful in understanding conflicts and the limits beyond which the sides are not prepared to go.
I was sitting in the reception of a conference centre watching and listening a while back. It was interesting to hear the Conference Manager say to a potential customer: “We try to get £150 per day for that particular room”. Oh dear.
It is common to see groups of business people meeting over coffee as they get ready for some meet or other. Quite often one hears them agree the lazy strategy for their meeting: “we’ll listen to what they say and take it from there.” Why wait to be told what they will give you when you can make your own proactive proposition.
It is worth auditing where and how you collect in your negotiating information. If you limit this activity to formal set piece meetings you are limiting your options. Rethink all the opportunities and increase your knowledge and success.

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Negotiating Lessons from Brexit – Two

Structuring Expectations: Part One

The pre-negotiation phase: The negotiation has begun already!

Many people make the mistake of thinking that in the period running up to the formal start of a negotiation the parties are not negotiating. They could not be more wrong. The reality is that once one becomes aware that someone wants something, then the opportunity to make a deal means that the negotiation is off and running. From the moment this reality begins expectations are being structured. Every action, statement, move, meeting, event sends out messages as to the aspirations of the parties; how they intend to behave towards each other and indications as to the priorities they are working to. What they want and (often more importantly) what they want to avoid.


The unguarded are giving information away all the time and not realising it. Discipline and coordination in this phase are all important.

If the negotiating landscape has a considerable number of interested parties trying to influence objectives and strategy, discipline can become very problematic. An experienced negotiator can read much from watching from the other side. It provides useful information about how well prepared the other side is, what problems they are having within their team, who the key influencers may be, where the real power is and who the key decision maker is.


In this phase the internal conversations within one side maybe the real negotiation. It can be very difficult to get the clarity of objectives and priorities when there are too many fingers in the pie.  But it gives away a lack of togetherness, conflicting objectives and strategies and possible lack of real negotiating knowledge and ability.


Sharpen up your skills at

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Negotiating Lessons from Brexit

When the Outcome is not what was wanted or expected, Negotiators have only themselves to Blame.

When you are on the receiving end of a bad, unreasonable proposal or a deal that
does not address what you want, it is your fault. And what’s more, there is no
point complaining about it or blaming the other side. It’s what you have done or
not done, said or not said, that is the problem. You are responsible for the part
you control and influence. If the other side fails to understand, take note or realise
what is possible do not blame them for your failure. It is one of the most
significant lessons to be learnt. A lesson we learn the hard way, especially in this
day and age when taking full responsibility for one’s own actions is becoming increasingly rare.

The fashion would seem to be blame anyone but yourself. Trying to “get away with it” and not be “found out” is all too common. When things start to wrong – run. No – admit the mistake and learn. Failure to learn the lesson means that you keep repeating the mistake, the bad habit and try to get away with it.

Why does this happen? Because you allow it to. You do not put in the hard graft
to prepare, research, listen, question, understand. It is your fault. You have failed
to be diligent and use the processes with appropriate knowledge or discipline.
You have not taken responsibility.

In Preparation: did you define objectives with the clarity that left you (or anyone
else) in no doubt what you wanted? If not why not? Did you ask yourself if you
should communicate what you wanted? Oh no, because you like to gamble. Oh
no, because you did not know what you wanted! Oh no, because you thought
you’d wait until you found out where the other side was coming from (and they
told you).

In Dialogue: did you prepare the right questions to find out what they wanted and
how badly? Did you pick up the signals from what was said? Did you plan how to
structure expectations?

When planning what to tell the other side did you know what information to give
and what to keep to yourself? Did you have the courage to go first and tell them
what you wanted and what they had to do if they wanted a deal? Worse – did you
fail to make a proposal and so cede the initiative to them?

Negotiating is a life skill. In life you get what you deserve. In negotiating you get
the deal that you deserve.

Remember it is always your fault.


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EU Referendum – We are prisoners of an ill thought out dilemma.

Articles are mounting up in the world’s press highlighting the dilemmas facing the British voters, the political parties and the EU member states.

Conflicts and Contradictions:

If the state of the NHS will be threatened by Brexit – why put it in jeopardy by having the Referendum? The Referendum was tactical in dealing with UKIP and the Tory Euro Sceptics; Strategic in attempting to negotiate reform with the other EU states, but did not meet the critical objectives of the main manifesto priorities –  Security of the nation, maintaining The United Kingdom, protecting the NHS, maintaining economic growth.

Proper setting of objectives – clarity of priorities – analysis of foreseeable consequences of the alternative strategic choices and tactical plays (Leadership!) would have identified all of the current risks before the last General Election.

WTO chief says post-Brexit trade talks must start from scratch – Guardian

Britain’s debate over Europe has been disappointing – Chicago Tribune

No 10 mulls last-ditch attempt to revisit free movement negotiations – Guardian

EU referendum: Osborne warns of Brexit budget cuts – BBC

Praying it will work? Chancellor plotting ‘punishment’ Budget with THREAT ‘to add 2p to income tax’ and increase death duty, booze and fuel costs. – Daily Mail

Conservative Party Manifesto – 2015

The ability to negotiate is far more important than spin.

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The Post Referendum Negotiations have Started Already. Where is the Leadership?

Whether the peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland decide to remain or leave the E.U. there will be negotiations inside and outside the Kingdom involving organisations great and small.  But to negotiate with strength, control and authority there will need to be a much clearer set of objectives than have currently been defined and this will require a significant quality of leadership. After all, everyone I meet, who voted in the previous referendum on the Common Market, had no intention of it becoming what it is today; the responsibility for this outcome lies with the politicians (in government and opposition) who let it happen AND the failure of our democratic system to control them and keep them to  the outcome for which we had voted.

To date, the campaigns for In and Out have been chaotic and negative and for many of us  achieved one significant result – that the current crop of politicians and influencers can not be trusted to handle the consequences of any result the referendum might bring.

When coaching Directors and MBA students I find a common problem when analysing their negotiations. It is the inordinate amount of time spent on negative argumentative behaviour, when negotiations is about the possible. The more time wasted in arguing about what is not possible, probable, permissible or needed (what we do not want ), the less time there is for the possible and predictable way ahead (what we want that is possible). The negative, fear tactics are more in line with  PPI selling than the task of shedding more light on the critical issues that have to be weighed up by the intelligent electorate who will be making the decision.

It is the confusion between strategy and objective that highlights the leadership problem. The Referendum hustings are beset with politicians looking for media opportunities to “sell” themselves to their parties, constituencies, and funders in the hope they may get further up their particular hierarchy. They use the present opportunity as a personal strategy to gain attention. However,  the Referendum is only a strategy to provide a clue as to where we want to go. European Union Membership is only a strategy to help us achieve what we want as a Nation. What we want as a nation has yet to be defined, but at least we may be able to define what we do not want. Staying with the status quo may mean that we as a nation no longer want leadership, but prefer drift.

The parties with whom we will have to negotiate are all watching and listening. Our politicians may not realise it, but they are already in the early stages of the post referendum negotiations, and structuring expectations in a way that may not be helpful to us, but helpful to those with whom we will have to deal.

We need to toughen up.

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Saying you are negotiating may not be negotiating!

Setting the prime objective of a negotiation as just “closing a deal (any deal)” is not negotiating. However many may say that they are negotiating to get the best deal. It is not. It is giving in to the other side before you start. It puts all the control in the hands of the other party and you get what others are prepared to give you / let you have, and you get what you deserve.

Being seen to negotiate by  going through the motions of negotiating – meetings, discussions, arguments,  – may just be grandstanding for the audience. Trying to make it look tough and difficult to get an agreement are old games which have been played out many times over  hundreds of years which should not fool anyone these days. However, these little dramas are still attempted by the inexperienced, less skilled and under-prepared performers.

Often the other side will go along with this game. Why? Well because they may have to protect the relationship between the parties by playing along so as to humour them and keep them from embarrassing themselves. Protecting the other side’s “face” is often important – especially in the world of politics and international affairs.

Anyone can say “yes” just to get a deal, but it will be a deal on the other party’s terms.

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