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Be a Successful Negotiator

How can you improve your skills as a successful negotiator? That was the topic of my speech that I presented on Wednesday, March 21.

You may think Donald Trump or your favorite political candidate is the best negotiator. In fact, you are your best negotiator. You’ve been negotiating since you were born and cried for food to the present when you negotiated for your job. Negotiating has been your way of life. People invented language to negotiate.

Room for improvement exists for any skill. These are the strategies and tips that I spoke about during my talk.


Have confidence in yourself as a negotiator. A negotiator is best when he or she is speaking freely. A negotiation is another form of conversation. How do you feel when a telephone solicitor reads a sales script to you? You know the solicitor has a one-way conversations in mind. Your needs, wants, problems, and concerns are not in the script. A confident negotiator converses with the other party.

Are You Negotiating with the Right Party?

Before you begin negotiations, ask yourself if you are negotiating with the right person. Does this person have the character, competency, and power to negotiate? If he or she lacks one of these, you’ve not found the right person.

Be Outcome Aware

Be outcome oriented when negotiating. Your negotiations can end one of three ways with these associated consequences:

Lose-Lose: Neither party benefits, and in some case the negotiations damage the personal relationships or the situation become worse. Two people trying to get the best of each other lacks food faith and can create new problems.

Win-Lose: A one-sided wins usually means that one party is has control over the other and is asserting  power, not negotiating for a mutual increase in value. These are episodic relationships and result is only as good as the power of the victor to enforce it.

Win-Win: The parties agreed to an exchange that creates new value that increases wealth, status, knowledge, or well-being. Each party has improved his or her reputation by negotiating in good faith and has built a relationship for future negotiations and agreements.

Prepare Your Thinking and Speaking for the Negotiations

Analyze the Situation

Do your homework by working on these four areas to negotiate at your best:

  1. Understand your position and define it by writing down your wants, needs, problems, and concerns.
  2. Understand the other party’s position by listening and asking questions to discover his or her wants, needs, problems, and concerns. Probe for hidden concerns by using empathy and avoiding value judgments.
  3. Figure out how you can most clearly state your position so that you will be heard.
  4. Create an organized list of the options you will propose for each term you will negotiation. For non-negotiable terms, prepare to politely but firmly say, “I will not negotiate on that item.”

Lead the Discussion

Remember that you are in a conversation. Keep reminding everyone at the table that you seek an agreement that serves the interests of all parties.

Keep a win-win outcome in mind by reviewing how the points of agreement are serving your wants, needs, problems, and concerns. A win-win is not necessarily a compromise agreement. Your aim is not to compromise. Your aim is to be heard, understand the other party’s positions, and explore the options that serve the interests of both parties. That could mean getting everything you ask for, agreeing to the other party’s proposal, or fashioning alternatives that serve you both.

While negotiating, listen without judgment to the other party’s options, in the same way that you intend your options to be heard. If an option is unacceptable, say so with the reason it is unacceptable, which can include, “I will not negotiation on that option.”

Keep Flow in the Negotiations

A good conversation needs the grease of small talk. While you will stick to the issues during direct negotiations, light conversation about sports or personal interests keeps the conversation flowing during breaks and downtime.

Your negotiating style shapes the agreement and builds your reputation. A reputation for an honest and direct negotiating style may be the most important result from the negotiations. Your good reputation will encourage the other party to honor the agreement and open the door for future agreements.

Be likable and watch your language. People like to do business with a cheerful and appreciative person and will avoid a curmudgeon.


Enjoy yourself as you negotiate. People will see your upbeat temperament and want to mirror it. Work to create an agreement that serves the interests of all the parties, including those not at the table.


Flash Foresight, How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus

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Futurist and technologist Daniel Burrus proposes in his book, Flash Foresight, How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible, that an entrepreneur can identify and profit by studying today to know what will sell tomorrow.

His steps to making the future your key for success are:

1. Start with a certainty using use hard trends to see what’s coming.
2. Anticipate how events will unfold basing your strategies on what you know about the future.
3. Transform today’s ideas, methods, and tools using technology driven change to your advantage.
4. Take your biggest problem and skip it, because it’s not the real problem.
5. Go opposite on the path not traveled to look where no one else is looking to see what no one else sees and do what no one else is doing.
6. Redefine and reinvent to leverage your uniqueness in new and powerful ways.
7. Direct your future,  else someone else will.

His advice could be restated as base your goals by what you see and know, create a plan using the best methods and skills, go around or redefine roadblocks, and believe in your ideas, because you are your best mentor.

Turnaround, Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games by Mitt Romney

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Why I Read This Book

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is running for president of the United States. I wanted to learn more about him. I remember his father George W. Romney, former Governor of Michigan. Romney Sr. sabotaged his own campaign for the presidency with the unfortunate but true remark that U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Vietnam had brainwashed him on the war. He was a different kind of candidate for office, and I wanted to know what kind of candidate is Mitt.

The organizers of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics thrust the roles of president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC)  as Mitt Romney tells the story. Financial scandal inside of SLOC required the organizers to replace its leaders with an independent leader free from the appearance of corruption. Mitt was their choice.


Mitt Romney has an elegantly simple formula for leadership that consists of vision, values, and motivation. The leader defines the vision and the group values, while motivating the group to execute the mission consistent with the vision and values. A leader derives 20% of his authority from his or her title and 80% from the decisive action he or she takes.

These are inspiring thoughts and shows that Mitt has empathy for the member of his team. This quote from his book reminds me of his father’s unfortunate brainwashing comment:

One of my early decisions would have a big impact on how the organization viewed my leadership. … Think about it: when you take a job to perform a service, not to earn a paycheck or win a jackpot, you don’t really care a lot about how people think of you. You have the absolute luxury to do exactly what you think is right. p. 56

The more fortunate wording about caring about people and doing what is right would have been,

a service job requires you to focus on people, because they are your #1 concern. Your task is to persuade people  your vision is right.

If Mitt refers to not caring about the negative comments by outsiders and soon to be outsiders, he’s still off base. I believe a core skill for leader is to stop those people from becoming active enemies by listening to their concerns and showing your decision incorporates those concerns even if you reject their advice. Better a pacified critic, than an active enemy.

Another core skill for a leader is to recognize that the people you lead know their interests and needs better than you. A leader is not elected to do exactly what he thinks is right. He’s elected to serve the people’s values, interests and needs while moving them to towards his/her vision. Abraham Lincoln envisioned a union without slavery and Barack Obama believes gays have the same civil rights as heterosexuals. But, leaders persuade people that doing right will best serves their values, interests, and needs. People don’t want leaders to tell them what is right.


Mitt grew up in a Mormon family dedicated to service to his family, church, and community. Mitt’s father, mother, and grandparents practiced service and staked their reputations on service. Yet, in the end, Mitt writes a capstone to his philosophy on service in the paragraph quoted above about not caring a lot about how people think of you. George Romney would have written that differently.

Mitt writes a lot about his family’s history.  He is a dedicated family man, and wants to be respected for those qualities.

I read his book to learn about his leadership examples, ideas, and style gained in business.


Bain Capital

His recollections on becoming a successful business person take second place to those about his family, though his boss at Bain Capital, Bill Bain, influenced Mitt enough to be quoted throughout the book:

  • Trust your gut, because there’s a scientific basis for it.
  • Show you care about money, and your team will also.
  • Round team members’ flat spots (counter a member’s weakness with another’s strengths) and round flat sides (get someone else to do what you don’t do well, attributed to Tom Stemberg of Staples). Curiously, Mitt approves the advice, then writes he didn’t have time to follow it with SLOC.
  • Most things can be fixed, but smart or dumb is forever. A curious sentiment for a leader to harbor.

Mitt Romeny shares the formula that he used at Bain Capital to turnaround the companies in financial distress, writing that he used that same formula to save the 2002 Winter Olympic:

Perform a strategic audit – a complete review of every aspect of the business that can take months.

Build your team – select the right people, build unity, and motivate them.

Focus, focus, focus – don’t try to do too many things; do what’s important and do that well.

Guiding Principles at SLOC

Mitt published in the book the excellent guiding principles of SLOC that were place on every SLOC desk.


  • Involve all appropriate stakeholders in each project/issue.
  • Think horizontally, not vertically, within SLOC’s structure.
  • Consider other viewpoints and find win-win solutions.
  • Emphasize and recognize team success.
  • Be helpful to others.

Pride and Passion

  • Seek Gold Medal performance in your own job.
  • Love what you do.
  • Relish each small victory and achievement.
  • Realize you impact on history while at SLOC.


  • Be honest, direct and respectful in all your communication.
  • Accept feedback, avoid defensiveness.
  • Seek prompt resolution to issues with others in a personal and professional manner.
  • Listen more, talk a little less.


  • Be loyal to those not present.
  • Do what you say you will do.
  • Don’t have hidden agendas.
  • Respect and value diversity in others.

Fun and Celebration

  • Take your work seriously, not yourself.
  • Encourage laughter at all meetings.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Look for opportunities to include others.
  • Celebrate those who demonstrate SLOC’s Guiding Principles.


I learned that Mitt Romney is a person driven by details and a sense of entitlement. He is an expert at identifying and categorizing details and then prioritizing those categorized details to achieve the goal. He is a terrific networker. He knows how to round the skills and experience of experts in business, government, social welfare, and people management to achieve goals.

One example of his family’s reputation for categorizing and prioritizing is his paraphrasing from his great-grandfather Miles P. Romney’s biography:

Loyalty to country and to his church was a cardinal virtue…. His was the assumption that men should be students of both state and church government in order that they might intelligently carry on in harmony with the fundamental law and discipline of each and not be like “dumb driven cattle,” exercising no mind of their own. p. 9

A Romney presidency would a presidency driven by his personality to categorize details and to select the right people to achieve goals. The question is can a turnaround formula successfully used at Bain Capital and SLOC work govern the American people?

Putting Knowledge to Work in Vietnam

Saigon Toastmasters, 12 March 2011

I just got back in the second week of March from three weeks of job and business opportunity shopping in Vietnam, mostly in HCMC.

While in Vietnam I quickly experienced the limitations of my perspective in that:

  • I don’t speak Vietnamese.  I learned English is the international business language of Vietnam, while Vietnamese is required to deal with the government.
  • I didn’t know the complete rules of social engagement. I learned the Vietnamese spend a lot of time on small talk and sometimes never move on from there. Making a mistake in the business part of a conversation that would be ignored in the US can be a deal breaker in Vietnam.
  • I didn’t know the best ways to follow up on my meetings. I learned that follow-ups are done with phone calls or text messages, while email is rarely acknowledged or replied to.
  • I didn’t know what caught the attention of potential employers. I learned that that titles and diplomas get more attention than in the US, and can open door in unexpected ways.

I scrambled for jobs and opportunities, learning as I went. In the event, I got more informational interviews and job offers in three weeks than I’ve had in two years in the Bay Area.

I spoke at two Toastmaster clubs (presently the only operating clubs in Vietnam), gave an impromptu speech at Citynetevents on the rooftop terrace of the New World Hotel in HCMC, taught a class on the 8 good habits of Google managers at Hong Bang University, mentored students in spoken English, and spoke with hundreds of people – in short, I had a great time.

How did I do it? I think these points build upon Pat McHenry Sullivan’s writings ( sum up what I did by:

  • Lowering my emotional barriers to give people ready access to me.
  • Working on being authentic: I said that I needed a job and needed it now.
  • Being present: I treated each day as the first day of my job search.
  • Turing my stress into energy: I can’t remember sleeping less and doing more in three weeks.
  • Putting aside my feelings of embarrassment for not speaking the language and not knowing the finer points of social and business etiquette.
  • Focusing on one objective: find a job.

The experiences taught me that today’s worries should not make my world stand still.

Stand up for what you need and find out how to get it.

John Wooden’s Leadership Lessons and Success Pyramid

Coach John Wooden

John Wooden’s leadership lessons lessons so impressed me that I shared them with a fellow Toastmaster. He told me that he noticed that fellow workers were looking over his shoulder to the list of lessons that he’d posted up to the wall in his office. Eventually, one coworker asked him for a copy of the list for her office. Here is the list I adapted from John Wooden that they posted in their offices:

Wooden’s Leadership Lessons

Attract good people with good values.

Practice love by having their back.

Teach by learning.

Practice emotional intelligence.

Make the team come first and the product will be great.

Drive large events by paying attention to the details.

Be present each day.

Lead with rewards not punishment.

Give everyone a role in greatness.

Seek significant change.

Aim to improve regardless of the score.

Realize adversity is your asset

If you’re searching for a model for personal success, please think about John Wooden’s proposed pyramid to success:

I recommend reading Wooden’s books, visiting his website at, and thinking about Coach Wooden’s wisdom.

It’s a Jungle in There (for the Entrepreneur) by Steven Schussler

Its A Jungle In There

Do you have the right stuff to bring your idea to market and make a profit? Steven Schussler, creator of the Rainforest Café, profiles a successful entrepreneur in his book It’s a Jungle in There. A wining and successful entrepreneur has:

  • Personality
  • Product
  • Persistence
  • People
  • Philanthropy


The successful entrepreneur understands that managed risk leads to success and is motivated by the passion to overcome problems and the ambition to accomplish goals. Dreams create the entrepreneur’s ideas for new products and services, while keeping ahead of the competition and creditors requires an ability to juggle multiple tasks.


The successful entrepreneur is determined to invest the time necessary to make a product or service that is the best, not just acceptable. The entrepreneur understands the details determine the outcome, while having a big picture perspective to be present and to ask what change will people pay me for? The entrepreneur knows research and development drives success and is completed only when the product or service is retired from the marketplace because improvements are no longer possible. This requires a budget and a marketing plan that includes strategic alliances and sales promotions. Schussler suggests the entrepreneur ask what impact his image and personality have on the product. Do you shine your shoes?


Talent is 90% perspiration, and a winning business is run by an extremely talented entrepreneur. Your perspiration is the result of tenacity and determination to achieve your intentions, not your expectations about what others can do for you. When you get a “no” for an answer, you understand that means “no” for now until you learn what they want to say “yes.” Your self-confidence is outwardly displayed by eternal optimism and is not tied to the vagaries of success and failure. You are human, so failures will happen, along with what you will learn and the new opportunities that will arise.


Entrepreneurs have compassion and empathy for people. They enjoy making a person feel special and become a focus of attention because people want to do business with them. Michael LeBoeuf wrote that the people want recognition and praise more than sex and money, and entrepreneurs understand that. Entrepreneurs keep good media relations and work for their positive publicity. Clients are appreciated and trusted so they in turn trust you. If people like you, they’ll listen, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. Bridges are for connecting, not burning, and if you believe that, you will give a person a second chance.


Philanthropy begins at home with your gratitude list for those responsible for your success. The successful entrepreneur gives back to the community that sustains all of us – it’s only good business.

This is a quick summary of the book. Get it and read it to understand the details.