How Did I Miss That!?

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Image Source: Stock.xchng - Egahen
One of the most common problems that people face in any decision-making process is a perceived lack of information. Unfortunately, the reason the phrase "hindsight is 20/20" is so cliche is due to the fact that looking back on the situation, so many poor decisions seem highly avoidable. In negotiations, Max Bazerman and Dolly Chugh have coined the term "Bounded Awareness" to describe the phenomenon of failing to "see" and use accessible information. In their words, a "'focusing failure' results from a misalignment between the information needed for a good decision and the information included in the decision-making process." You can read the full article - Bounded Awareness: Focusing Failures in Negotiation - by clicking the link.

Max and Dolly (how fun are those names together?) bring up some interesting points, that bear discussion. First, how do we get stuck in the trap of "Bounded Awareness"? They suggest that a decision-maker is headed for trouble when faced with (1) other tasks competing for attention; (2) a clearly defined goal, with narrow assumptions (see - The Awareness Test and think Inattentional Blindness); (3) affective information (i.e., it's a lot easier to see how this course of action will affect us today rather than to sit back and consider how this decision will affect the future. We tend to "go with our gut".); or (4) information with self-relevance (we're always going to be better at evaluating how information affects us rather than how it will affect others).

Now, if only identifying these "focusing failures" made it just as easy to avoid them... How do I expand my awareness in negotiations? Some strategies for solving the problem of Bounded Awareness come from Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra & Max Bazerman. First off, knowing that you are likely to be susceptible to certain biases and ignoring certain types of information can help you be on guard for such information. As a corollary to that advice, keep a record of your past successes and failures. Use what you learned in those situations to help break the boundaries. Finally, bring in outside opinions. Affective Information and Information with Self-Relevance won't affect everyone similarly. Explain the situation to other team members and check your reactions against objective opinions. 


Using these strategies in your next negotiation will help you overcome your blind spots and help you see outside your normal level of awareness in order to drive greater value. Good luck!

Behavior Creates Value

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Any time you embark on a new deal, you are going to run into the situation depicted in the picture below.

This picture describes the way in which your behavior towards your counterpart in the deal can affect the overall value derived from the deal.

The first layer is the law: This is the bare minimum standard of behavior that you have to obey in order to avoid a trip to your friendly, local slammer. I won't punch you in the face if I disagree with you and you won't spraypaint profanity-laced slander all over my car if I ask more than you think I should. Life isn't necessarily peachy at this level of behavior, but at least we're all still able to live with each other.

The second layer is the contract: This takes the law one step further. We accept that the law of the land applies at all times, but we want to work together to accomplish a shared goal. In order to get there, we need to be able to ask more of each other than the law would require. To that end, the parties agree to create some additional laws that will apply to to their situation while they are working with each other. Life gets somewhat better here. An agreement helps create certainty and a good agreement provides guidance on how the parties will solve their problems and ultimately how the relationship will wrap up once the shared goal is accomplished. 

Finally, we have Deal World: This is where we at WieseLaw believe true value resides. This layer takes into account the law and the contractual relationship between the parties; however, Deal World goes further. Deal World is a personal standard of behavior to which you hold yourself, your team, or your company accountable. We encapsulate this idea with a slight twist on the phrase from the Notre Dame football locker room: Every Day I Play Like A Champion! 

This relates back to our post What's Your Sentence? This is the standard of behavior you are striving for in all you do - especially in your deals.


Deal World Rule #10 - Listen Until You Feel It

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 image credit: Kevin Walsh (kevinzim - flickr)
Good negotiators know how to ask the right questions. But great negotiators have a far more powerful weapon in their arsenal – they know how to listen, truly listen, to the answers. Mental understanding is not enough. You must listen till you can feel the story that the other person is experiencing. What they say and how they say it opens up a window into their world – skilled listening allows you to look inside that window. What’s the point in planting the right question if you don’t reap the resultant fruit?
 
Listening effectively is one of the golden tools of differentiation. Most people think they have this tool. But few do. If you listen effectively, your deals will prosper. Here are some quick tips to becoming a true listener:
 
1. Do not begin with the end in mind. When listening, temporarily open your mind. Start with a blank canvas. Don’t assume anything. Ask and let the others paint the picture. Take in the picture without pre-conceived notions.

2. Understand the context. Figure out the other person’s situation and analyze the surrounding circumstances. Understand how this individual sees the issue, what he or she is trying to communicate and why.

3. Be focused and let them finish. Attention is the one of the scarcest resources on the planet. It can be excruciating to allow the person to finish without interrupting. Let them finish. Do not multi-task while listening! You sacrifice focus if you multi-task. You cannot simultaneously e-mail and listen. It is a big illusion that you can divide your attention. Slow down and totally focus on the questions and on the answers.

4. Get to the end of the thread. People often answer questions inadequately (or answer a different question than the one asked). Others usually accept the incomplete answer and move on. But you shouldn’t. Ask “why” until you get to the real answer. Generally the real answer is usually 3-6 “whys?” deep.

5. Ask questions like Colombo. Colombo (an awesome listener) was always working to get simple questions answered that told a story. Prepare like a good detective and ask questions aimed at eliciting answers capable of forming a clear picture of the entire story.
 
6. Affirm and Confirm your understanding . After you’ve listened, affirm and confirm your understanding -- ask the person: "So what I heard you say is ..."

*Some of these ideas are discussed on a cool web site: Communication Nation – How To Listen.

If you really start to listen you will really start to learn. People who learn more develop more expertise and do a better job. Listening creates alignment with others and fosters effective results. Do you truly listen? If so, congratulations. If not, start today.