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Lifting your head from the sand.

Business conversations work better when business leaders actively acknowledge unpleasant information rather than run from it.

Today an article from McKinsey & Company which describes a technique for ensuring all parties in a negotiation are on the same page when a meeting ends. I am sure we have all experienced the situation described in article, where the formal response from the other party did not match our expectations following the meeting.

Ms Rinaudo’s article provides one technique to avoid such a problem. I would like to add some more ideas based on my experience.

Most people prefer to avoid difficult conversations so they gloss over contentious issues during face to face meetings intending to clarify their real position in the follow up documentation. This wastes a lot of time in subsequent meetings, calls, exchanges of contracts etc before agreement is reached. In my experience raising and clarifying contentious issues is usually much easier than expected. And let’s face it contentious issues have to resolved at some point, so do it during the meeting. Starting the discussion by identifying that the topic could be difficult and using words like “so I would like to get your thoughts” to start the conversation can be helpful.

This is not to say you do not state your position forcefully but by allowing the other party to express their point of view first makes it a negotiation not an argument.

Allow time at towards the end of the meeting for each party to have private discussions and then come back together to talk about any concerns that surfaced during the breakout sessions. Now is the time to draft a heads of agreement, before the meeting closes, while everyone is in the room. If you followed the advice in Mckinsey’s article this should be a relatively simple exercise.

A good practice is to circulate the a list of items to be covered in the HOA prior to the meeting to all parties. This will ensure that nothing is missed.

Finally keep your lawyers in check, or advise the other party what to expect. More than once I have heard “What’s this?” from the other party when they received a multi-page contract as follow up to what they believed was an already concluded deal. This is especially important in cross cultural negotiation.

The link to the original article is provided below:

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/bias-busters-lifting-your-head-from-the-sand

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