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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Beware Last Minute Nibbles.

During the end game, there were some public declarations that a deal was close and that there were just a few minor details to sort out. I suspect that these declarations of being nearly there were made more out of habit and in hope than in all seriousness. It is common for many negotiators and hagglers to try to push for concessions in the end game by bringing up small demands whilst dangling the prospect of a deal. The hope is that the incentive of reaching the deal, especially after long and protracted sessions, may be so inviting that unconditional  concessions will be easy to secure. Most often it is Buyers who use this successfully when dealing with Sellers who just want to secure a deal. Trades Union negotiators use it when they know a Management team is under pressure to get the deal and get back to work.

The tactic may have worked in previous rounds of these Greek Debt negotiations, but this time, after all that has passed, this was not going to happen. As Trust has been lost, it has been important to make sure that all the required conditionality was in place and was going to be “honoured” if an agreement was to be reached and to work.

The German position, as reported by Paul Carrel of Reuters, was made clear by Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy parliamentary floor leader for Merkel’s conservatives:

“The more money is handed out in one stroke, the less leverage one has to stop payments if the reform process in Greece does not pan out as planned and as promised.

“A lot of trust has been lost in recent months,” he said, adding that aid should only be provided in return for Greece delivering reforms.

Read more:

The lesson in the end game is to make sure that all concessions are traded against the agreement of specific conditions. That if a last minute concession is being sought it is traded on agreeing the deal and bringing it to a close. The concession being traded should be small and conditional that the deal is now done. And if trust is a problem, it should be agreed on the basis of everything being clearly understood and how it will all be implemented and what the penalties will be incurred for failing to honour the accord.

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Negotiating Lessons from Greece #6 – Mapping

A lesson in Analysing the Negotiating Environment:

A significant number of the trainers I have trained in negotiating techniques had no idea about several key areas that should (must) be considered as part of the preparation discipline and when considering the face to face phases of a negotiation. Two are of particular interest here, as they play a significant part in any professional Negotiator’s thinking – Environment and Complexity; and by complexity I mean the negotiator’s use of the term. (My next blog).

The “Negotiating Environment”:

Many negotiating trainers are sellers and presenters. The reality is that most are not negotiators, do not think as negotiators and see the world from a different perspective. There are not very many negotiating trainers who one can say are negotiators.

Negotiator’s are thinking, contemplative quiet individuals weighing up situations, information, opportunities, possibilities and probabilities who can take a step back and really understand the terrain, the players, the influences, relationships, etc., and these insights gives them the cool, confident courage that is the sign of a top negotiator.

Mapping the environment of a negotiation is always an interesting exercise. There are various ways one can approach this. I  select a method which helps me visualise the whole picture in a quick but efficient  glance. Quite often the “picture” will sit alongside my objectives, strategic options other planning tools – Venn Diagramming helps or Mind Mapping – you will develop your own preferred method based on what you are comfortable with.

This is the first phase of mapping which tries to identify the influences in the Greek / Europe negotiations.

Greek Negotiating Environment
Each Node is an influence in the negotiation, some are direct (parties involved directly in the negotiations); others are influencing the parties (backroom / have an interest or will suffer consequences / will react to outcomes ).

As each influence is identified, it sets up a secondary analysis in which the interests, needs, priorities are noted together with the concerns, problems, threats and must avoids. Not easy, but often fascinating and always important part of one’s preparation.

Our client Sharppractitioners see this as a very important element to learn and develop as they become more expert as negotiators.

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Negotiating in Europe #4 – Greece, Britain et al.

When Negotiating You Get What You Deserve.

    1. If you are at the receiving end of an unrealistic proposal and wondering to yourself: “How on earth could anyone expect us to consider that?”, ask yourself: “What have I done / failed to do /  that allows the other side to make that proposal?”.Why does this happen? Well there may be many reasons, but most common are that you have most likely failed to make it clear earlier what was possible and what was not – what is negotiable and what is not – what would be the consequences of unrealistic positions – what range of sanctions were available – what would be possible.

      After all, negotiating is the art of the possible! (Even though so many spend all their time arguing about what is impossible).

    2. If you do not define what you want ahead of a negotiation you are preparing to receive what others will let you have. You are planning to be Reactive not Proactive – Passive rather than Active – Defensive as opposed to Assertive.

      Touring round the parties of a multilateral negotiation to find out what others think can easily fall into this trap. It then leads to your objectives being defined by what others will offer rather than what you want.

    3. If you make it obvious that you do not have any real threats, or intentions to carry out a threat (eg. the threat to walk away / leave.), then the other parties will take full advantage of the opportunity to reject your ideas, propose tougher terms and take the “high ground”.

If you go into the negotiation with just a list of demands, you give the others the opportunity to set a high price against each demand. If the other side are irritated, then the price can be very high; BUT you only have yourself to blame!

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The Negotiating Gifts from Greece – 3# – Be Sharp but Beware Clever Clever

Experienced Negotiators Know how to use a Weak Position to Advantage

    1. If you are in a Lose / Win situation your options provide plenty of scope to be proactive by making proposals or pursue varied strategies. After all, you have nothing to lose. Proposals can be realistic or unrealistic depending on whether you wish to move forward or just buy time. Strategies can be outrageous in a multilateral negotiation with many parties, as the complexity  of the situation and the needs for a level of unity protects (and hampers) all.
    2. Following the old negotiator’s adage “one is always in a stronger position than one thinks”, and taking courage; being proactive and making a proposal can bring surprising results:
      1. It can steal the agenda,
      2. Give uncommitted parties something to work with,
      3. Force a response,
      4. Seize the high ground,
      5. Control the deadlock.
    3. Pursuing varied strategies and tactics can lock the parties in a dangerous and escalating competition in which each tries to prove their ideas are better (more clever) than everyone else’s. This is a modern day negotiating curse – being too clever in developing smart games, gambits and tactics – brings in high risk as strategy becomes more important than the original objective.
    4. Beware that being sharp is not confused with being clever, and being clever may be no better than being stupid.
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