It’s time to bury that old excuse for bad or questionable behavior in business – you know, the one where the executive “kindly” remarks after stepping all over someone, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
At the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) conference this week I was sitting in on a session on negotiation by a major law firm that is well known in the outsourcing space. The speaker gave a top 10 list for negotiating. The first tip was to do a win-win deal. A pretty good start, I thought, but things quickly went downhill after that—every other tip was trust-busting and self-interested. For example: “Information is power … So don’t tip your hand.”
I asked the presenter if he felt the tips were good for the most strategic suppliers. Yes, he said, adding that his firm specialized in strategic deals. I then challenged him on his trust-busting tactics; he explained that as long as you were ethical it was perfectly ok to withhold information to your advantage, as long as you did not lie.
My reply was that it might be legal, but really, is it right to tell a supplier they are strategic, that you want them to invest in innovation on your behalf and then withhold information with the intent to gain the upper hand for your side?
Then I smiled and continued: “What would you think if your fiancé did things you wouldn’t like but thought to herself it is ok to withhold information as long as she didn’t lie.” Well, that was an uncomfortable moment—he didn’t like it when I phrased it that way!
The lesson is clear: strategic deals must follow the Guiding Principles based on trust—reciprocity, autonomy, honesty, loyalty, equity and integrity—that we teach in connection with the book Getting to We: Negotiating Agreements for Highly Collaborative Relationships. These Then they need to be embedded into the contract.
Here’s my tip: the next time you are in a strategic negotiation make sure the Guiding Principles are on the table. They keep the relationship open, healthy and balanced, and they turn it into a win-win partnership!
Image: Change in Terms by Michael Simmons via Flickr CC