What the British Airways dispute teaches us about negotiation

I know this is last week’s news, but I’ve been reflecting on the resolution of the BA dispute and what it teaches us about negotiation. Here is a summary of the dispute from  BBC News.

This is a dispute that had been going on for the last couple of years. At times it got very antagonistic. It is also a classic example of what happens when you negotiate from positions. Effectively, both sides drew lines in the sand that they were not prepared to cross (“this is our position”). Unfortunately there was a significant gap between the two parties, so no progress could be made. Worse than this, having stated their positions, it became increasingly difficult to move from that position without losing face. So it became a battle of egos as much as principles. How do we get out of such a predicament?

The eventual successful resolution of the dispute hinged on a copule of key decisons. Firstly, the principle public figues in the dispute were removed from the discussions. This from the BBC News report:

Former British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, who became the focus of the anger of many union members during the dispute, moved into a new position earlier this year. He is now head of the company formed by the merger of BA and the Spanish carrier Iberia, International Airlines Group, and was succeeded by Mr Williams. At Unite, Mr McCluskey succeeded former joint general secretaries Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson. Len McCluskey praised Mr Williams for being “strong, brave and courageous” in reaching the agreement.”

Once the principle antagonists (and their egos) were replaced, there was an opportunity to start again. The above quote relfects 2 other changes that followed. Firstly, the negotiation style changed from Competitive (I win, You lose) to Collaborative (I win, You win). Secondly, this facilitated a change in strategy – negotiate from interests rather than from positions. This approach is about understanding the issue from the other person’s perspective (called second position in NLP) as well as your own. The result? Compromise and an outcome that both sides can live with. Research has shown that the collaborative approach is more likely to produce sustainable results and keeps a positive relationship between the 2 parties intact.

So, when you are planning your next negotiation try usind a combination of a collaborative approach and negotiate on interests rather than positions.

The Apprentice Week 4 – Effective and ineffective leadership

So, this week one of the girls was finally fired from The Apprentice. We say goodbye to Felicity, but as usual there is a lot that would-be leaders can learn.

Interestingly, both PMs were appointed by Lord Sugar this week. Zoe was given the job of leading team Venture, and Felicity led team Logic. The choice of Zoe was particularly interesting as she survived the Boardroom last week with a plea to be given a chance to lead. Lord Sugar was happy to oblige.

There was also some movement of individuals between the teams. So, new dynamics and new challenges.

In the end, the success of this task came down to how effective each PM was as a leader. I am a big fan of the Action Centred Leadership model of leadership originated by John Adair (see earlier posts) which says success needs the Leader to get the balance right between the needs of the Task, the Team and the Individual. In this challenge, Zoe did better than Felicity.

In terms of Task, both teams were clear about what would win – selling beauty treatments rather than products – but one leader, Zoe, was far better at keeping her team focused on the strategy that had been agreed. Felicity got embroiled in the detail of the Task, when she would have been better looking in fom the outside. She displayed a lack of urgency when things were clearly going wrong, and abdicated rather than delegated to team members.  Her team, Logic, did not get the products they wanted as they showed less enthusiasm than Venture. They also chose a poor location in the shopping centre, with the treament room 3 floors away from the selling area. In the end they made a financial loss on the task,  and so lost the challenge.

Felicity also hid behind the Team. On the surface she had a very happy ship; supportive and together; until they lost the task, when it was everyone for themselves. In truth, Felicity probably put too much effort into being democratic. She came across as indecisive and unsure. This was most apparent when she couldn’t even decide who to bring into the Boardroom with her. However, perhaps her biggest mistake was to believe that somehow the team would support her in the Boardroom. Felicity chose to take no boys into the boardroom, despite the fact that they were already damaged from previous visits. This was another tactical error.

However, it is in misjudging individuals that ultimately Felicity came a cropper.   She took Natasha and Ellie into the Boardroom ( after much dithering) and saw them gang up on her. She looked completely lost, and couldn’t bring herself to fight her corner. The failure of leadership was seized upon by Lord Sugar and she was fired.

It is interesting that in an interview after the programme, Felicity did not seem to be bothered about losing. Perhaps this lack of drive or urgency was also crucial to her downfall?

Other highlights this week were Natasha’s sales pitch where she lied to a customer about her product, and Susan setting herself up as a  “skincare expert” and failing dismally. Had her team lost, surely she would have gone?

Jim’s  halo slipped just a bit this week, but no other candidate has emerged as better than him, so he is still my favourite to win.

I also find it amazing how certain people are almost completely absent or anonymous is each episode. Is this editing or a true reflection of their contribution?

The Apprentice Week 3 – why planning is the most important part of negotiation

The Apprentice Week 3 – why planning is the most important part of negotiation.

So, the current score is Girls 0- 3 Boys, but this is not a score the Boys will be pleased with. Last night the third Boy left The Apprentice.  This is particularly disappointing for the lads, as Sir Alan mixed the 2 teams up for the first time.

Team Logic was eventually led by Gavin, though Vincent wanted the PM job as well. You just knew this would come back to haunt Gavin. Team Venture was led by Susan, the youngest contestant. It is rare to be able to see who was going to get fired so early in the process, but from the earliest shots of Gavin’s leadership he was a dead man walking. His only hope was to win the task. He didn’t so he had to go.

The task involved negotiating for 10 items needed by the newly refurbished Savoy Hotel. The team that got the items for the least money would win. As you can imagine, the items ranged from the comon place (light bulbs) to the niche – a Top Hat.  Both teams started the task with some planning. Gavin’s leadership style had no urgency and he looked out of his depth in handling some of the egos in the room. Gradually, Vincent started to take over and he was eventually rewarded by Gavin with leading a “sub team”. Three hours later (!) they set off with no real purpose and few leads.

Team Venture did better in the planning stage and set off in shorter time with clear focus and good leads to follow up. Just one little mistake. They ignored PM Susan’s instruction to head East for real bargains, and ended up shopping in Mayfair. Venure’s weakness was in targeting the wrong leads and this came back to bite them several times when they found negotiation difficult. Luckily they had the redoubtable Jim, who saved the day on 1 or 2 occasions.

So in the end, the task was a battle of poor planning on both teams versus organisation. Venture won because they were better organised. In the end they only won by £8, but they found 9/10 items. Logic only got 6/10. Logic were the better negotiators, but in the end they lost the task because they found fewer items and got penalties. In fact, item by item Logic generally got a better deal than Venture. But still they lost. The team became increasingly dysfunctional as Gavin’s leadership was non existent and Sales Manager Vincent bullied his sub team of girls and left them demotivated and frustrated. This probably worked in their favour as yet again the girls were generally not on Sir Alan’s radar.

In the boardroom, it was really between nice guy but inept Gavin and bully boy Vincent. The latter came out of the process weakened as “his” girls rallied against him. But he survived. Gavin was mortally wounded by his inability to organise the team in the planning session. 

The take home message here is that most succesful negotiations are built upon excellent planning and research. This and a sense of urgency as the clock is always ticking. Venture came out marginally better on this, but targeted the wrong areas. Logic took too long, had no organisation, and ended up with no real plan. With such inept leadership, Gavin had to go.

Current Favourite: Jim’s stock raised even more htis week as he proved to be a suave negotiatior. When will the girls find themselves in the line of fire?

The Apprentice Week 2 – poor decisions and poorer tactics

So, now we know the second person to be fired from The Apprentice, but it was a strange set of circumstances which resulted in Alex Britez Cabral leaving the competition. The Project Manager (PM) was Leon Doyle, and he deserves credit for a relaxed Leadership style. He certainly seemed to have the support of the whole of his team. But still the Boy’s team lost for the second week running. Why?

It really comes down to poor decision making within the Boy’s team. The Girl’s team, led by the redoubtable Edna Agbarha showed many signs of being dysfunctional, and Edna herself did not come out of this week’s episode very well. Crucially, though, they got their product spot on and their App had Global appeal. The Boy’s App did not, and so they failed the first part of the Action Centred Leadership Model (Task) and the Boys ended up in the Boardroom again. To be a successful Leader, it is important that everyone is clear on the Task. 

In the Boardroom, it was all about decision making and tactics. In terms of the former, PM Leon looked weak and indecisive when he first chose Jim Eastwood to come back into the Boardroom, and allowed Jim to persuade him he was wrong! Amazing. Watch this space as that inevitably comes back to haunt Leon. Especially as he replaced Jim with Glenn Ward who survived. Glenn will now be out to get Leon. The other person to come back into the Boardroom was Alex.

Tactically, early favourite Jim got it spot on, whereas Alex didn’t and paid the ultimate price. Alex had stated (oh, those quotes) that he was against people who hid in the background. And yet he did just that for the first two weeks.  He was just about the only member of the Boy’s team not to volunteer for the role of PM in week 2. This was spotted by Sir Alan & team and Alex was fired.

So, Jim’s position as my early favourite to win the competition has been consolidated, but I think he could do with a quiet week to avoid over exposure.

Favourite to win: Jim

Quote of the week: Edna “I’ve looked at all of your strengths and I’ve decided that the person to do the 3 minute presentation at the Trade Fair will be… myself”

More next week.

What The Apprentice teaches us about Leadership

*Spolier Alert* Do NOT read this if you don’t know who left The Apprentice last night (10/5/11).

I love the Apprentice. I think we can learn a lot about what makes businesses, and the people who run them, succesful. In theory it is not difficult to come up with a strategy to win The Apprentice. Here’s mine:

  1. Win every task , that way you can’t end up in the boardroom and be fired.
  2. Choose carefully when you decide to be a Project Manager (PM). Try to choose a project that meets your skill set.
  3. Try to avoid making ludicrous claims about yourself. They make good sound bites and excellent TV, but boy are they waiting to bite you on the backside!

So, that’s it. Easy, eh? Well of course it isn’t, and I haven’t been stupid / brave (delete as appropriate) enough to have a go. What makes it such a challenge is the people you have to work with. In this respect we can learn a lot about leadership and communication. So, let’s focus on last night’s episode of The Apprentice . Why did Edward fail with his task, and Melody succeed? It’s probably easier to focus on Edward, who was PM, lost the task and got fired for his troubles. A few small adjustments and he should have won. So, lets look at his performance against my suggested strategy (above):

  1. FAIL – He lost the task, so was guaranteed to be in the Boardroom.
  2. FAIL – It’s not just that he was rash in volunteering for this task (he was) it’s that he never ran it as a proper project, and failed to draw on his own experience as an Accountant (he was in denial) and was a poor leader as well (see below).
  3. FAIL – great quotes, terrible PR, the best of the crop was claiming he had more to overcome than the rest of his team because he is “short”. Brilliant and ludicrous in equal measures.

So, what can we learn about Leadership from Edward? I go back to my favourite leadership model- the Action Centred Leadership Model of John Adair. 

Adair breaks Leadership down to getting the balance right between Task, Team and Individual. Unfortunately, Edward proved what a poor leader he is on all 3 counts.

  1. TASK – Although the overall objective was clear from the brief, Edward failed to scope out HOW the objective was to be achieved and kept a lot of stuff in his head. 
  2. TEAM – This is a challenge on The Apprentice as everyone is competing, but on any given Task, most would prefer to win and avoid the Boardroom, unless they have a particularly Machiavellian strategy! Edward failed to build up team spirit, and though everyone was pulling in the same direction (win the task), because the TASK was not scoped out clearly, roles were not clearly defined. The TASK was lost because of poor planning (if they had used all of their oranges for juice they would have won).
  3. INDIVIDAL – Edward was quite confrontational in style and hid behind telling everyone to remain positive. A case of re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic, which led to resentment.

So, there you have it! If Edward had read Adair, maybe he would have survived the first Task. Possibly, but maybe the fact that he was the apparently (one of ?) the youngest contestants suggests he will learn a lot fom this experience when he (inevitably) goes back to Accounting!

My early favourite for the winner is Jim Westwood from Northern Ireland, who has a good temperament and crucially, life skills and experience.

Watch this space!

How marketing uses influential communication

I love the following video. It features Robert Cialdini explaining his Principles of Persuasion, and illustrating it with examples from American TV advertising. This is a great way to understand how to be more influential. How can you use these approaches to get your message heard, and more importantly, believed? More on this soon.

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