Negotiating From a Place of Respect

Critical skills for the change team include the ability to facilitate discussions about the change, as well as the ability to bring disparate impacted stakeholders to a point of compromise such that the entire team can move forward with making the change a reality for your organization.

Throughout all negotiations about why the change is important, what the change will look like, who will do what, when each piece will be put into place, where and how it will all come together… we must keep in mind a point¬†W. Edwards Deming proposed for Total Quality Management (TQM):

People want to do a good job and are demoralized when they cannot or not allowed. Too often, lack of proper training, misguided managers, unrealistic goals, faulty equipment, and defective material stand in the way <of doing a good job>.

Rather than approaching change negotiations from an adversarial context (such as, the way we have done things in the past is wrong / broken / inefficient…), the change team needs to practice framing the discussion from a place of respect for the people who made decisions based on the data at the time.

I was particularly struck by the effect of respect on the negotiation to end apartheid in South Africa. In the American RadioWorks Mandela: An Audio History, the team interviewed former South African President F.W. de Klerk about his meeting with Nelson Mandela to discuss how to end the system of white minority rule:

When we started negotiations, Mr. Mandela, his very first opening statement, for at least 20 minutes or more, he made a study of the Afrikaners history. Merely telling us, “Look, I know you. And I respect what you have gone through.”

He didn’t come up with a statement of bitterness, retribution, no! A man, after 27 years of being robbed of his freedom, and to then come forward and start negotiations on that basis, remarkable! There is no way you can argue against that!

May we all find the grace to appreciate the people with whom we negotiate, and the open minds to be able to develop a better system for all of our customers (internal and external)!

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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