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Difficult Work, Difficult Conversations Based on work by the Harvard Negotiation Project and by David Armstrong.

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Presentation on theme: "Difficult Work, Difficult Conversations Based on work by the Harvard Negotiation Project and by David Armstrong."— Presentation transcript:

1 Difficult Work, Difficult Conversations Based on work by the Harvard Negotiation Project and by David Armstrong

2 The basics of working together as a Board The task –do we have any sense of shared purpose -and can we articulate it ? –What's are the practical things we can/need to do together ? –can we agree : what to do how to do it ? The relationship –do we like (or at least respect) each other ? –do we have sufficiently similar assumptions/culture? –can we keep the relationship good when we don’t agree?

3 Group working needs to be based on common interest.. Our interests Your Interests … but not identical interests - Non-executives and Executives have very different roles. The critical thing is to determine the overlap and how to work on it together.

4 Difficult work, difficult conversations In any working group, whether a team or a Board, there will be some conversations which feel much more difficult than others, even when the basics of common purpose and good relationships are in place. These are the conversations we try to avoid, or, at best, the ones we go and have in private, in corridors or pubs There are three types of conversation that we typically find hard to deal with in groups at work: –the contested conversation (there are strongly held opposing views about a matter of principle or planned future action) –the upset conversation (one party or group has done something - or continually does something - which has angered or saddened the other) –the bargaining conversation (one party or group wants something that the other is reluctant to give).

5 When things get difficult, we often focus on the wrong things I look at what is DIFFERENT between us - what is exclusively yours or mine I don’t take time to define the interests we have in common (and it takes time) I make assumptions about how you see the world - and assume it’s the same way as me! Or, if you are not like me, I stereotype you into a corner. So how can we avoid getting stuck in our difficult conversations ? The crucial thing is to learn to shift your perceptual position

6 Perceptual positions Position 1 ‘My position’ What do I want/need from this situation ? Position 2 ‘Your position’ What do you want/ need from this situation ? Position 3 ‘Observer’s position’ What is happening in our relationship at this moment ? The more positions we can view a conversation from, the more likely we are to spot stuck patterns

7 Appendix A The ‘contested’ conversation For when opinions have become polarised around a critical issue

8 Dilemmas are the root of all contested conversations Leaders continually face dilemmas in the course of leading their organisation: –should our main focus be quality or cost-cutting ? –should we try to expand our own services or link with others ? –should we give more freedom and authority to our staff or do we need to control them more tightly ? In a group or Board, these dilemmas often polarise, with one group holding one position and another holding the opposite pole This polarisation can be between obvious grouping (e.g. Execs vs. Non- execs) or be much more subtle People then get into ‘who is right, who is wrong’ rather than understanding it is all a matter of taking POSITIONS

9 The effect of an unrecognised polarity Once a polarisation has formed, it can feel more like ‘conflict’ - i.e. we think that the stuckness is due to personalities rather than differing points of view : –‘they’ are wrong-headed, misguided, unethical, etc etc –‘they’ need educating, more data, more persuasion, more bribes –everyone else (of course) thinks like me ! Rather than taking the time to examine the contest in sufficient detail, we just refer to it obliquely over and over again every time we meet (which causes upset) : –‘well, of course, the Execs would back that idea, they are concerned about their jobs’ –‘well, of course, the Non-Execs would say that, they are trying to keep in with the SHA’.

10 Working through the contest (1) First, work together define your polarity, with both ends described in positive, specific language - what is the value that defines each end of the dilemma : Excellence in personalised care Providing superb value for money to the tax payer rather than : High qualityCost cutting

11 Working through the contest (2) Then, get together as a whole group, and ask people to place themselves on the spectrum Excellence in personalised care Providing superb value for money to the tax payer Have each person describe, in detail, what makes them take that position and what it means to them.

12 Working through the contest (3) Thirdly, ask if anyone wants to change their position - most people will do so if they have listened carefully enough to others’ positions Excellence in personalised care Providing superb value for money to the tax payer Some people will notice that they want to hold both ends of the dilemma and start to speculate how that might be done.

13 Working through the contest (4) If the conversation has been effective, a new way of looking at the dilemma will show up - usually a more specific issue which can be investigated using data rather than beliefs : Provide one-to- one case workers Have an efficient, multi-provider process Or people will realise that they have been arguing over a false polarity, both ‘ends’ are valid and some choices need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

14 Working through the contest (5) At the very least, people will have : –new data –new understanding of each other’s perspectives –possibly, some surprises about who sits where (especially for the more silent types) –realisation that not everyone thinks in the same way that they do… … all of which will strengthen the overall sense of : –positive relationships –mutual respect –the useful diversity of view in the group

15 Appendix B The ‘upset’ conversation For when something has gone wrong between you

16 Three chapters to the conversation The ‘What Happened’ Conversation –Stop arguing about who is right : Explore each other’s stories –Don’t assume they meant what you think : Disentangle intent from impact –Abandon Blame : Map the contribution system The Feelings Conversation –Have your feelings (or they will have you) The Identity Conversation –Ground your Identity : Ask yourself what is at stake

17 The ‘What Happened’ Conversation What’s my story ? Be as factual as possible, avoid interpretation What’s your story ? Be interested, interview for detail, contain any trigger moments What did I intend ? What was your impact on me ? What did you intend ? What was my impact on you ? What did I contribute to the situation going wrong ? What do you think you contributed ?

18 The Feelings Conversation What are the feelings that underlie my attributions and judgements about you in relation to this situation? Name all the feelings the situation has triggered in you - positive and negative - don’t vent, describe Unexpressed feelings –leak or burst into the conversation –make it difficult to listen –take a toll on self esteem and on our relationships Listen to and fully acknowledge their feelings - even those that seem unreasonable to you ! Allow them space to think/speak, contain your reactions

19 The Identity Conversation How does what happened threaten my identity ? –Usually the most difficult to get clear on –Difficult conversations threaten our identity (usually one of : am I competent, a good person, worthy of love ?) –When our identities are threatened, we can fall into denial and/or exaggeration –It takes practice to regain your balance within the conversation - the more difficult conversations you have, the better you will get !

20 Steps to a positive conversation Prepare by exploring the three conversations Decide on your purpose in raising the conversation - is it legitimate or are you just trying to be ‘right’ ? Frame the conversation –state your purpose –describe the problem as the difference between your stories –invite them to join you in sorting this out Explore their story and yours - from the three angles Go on together : –invent options that meet both sides concerns –set standards from now on –talk about how to keep communication open

21 Appendix C The ‘bargaining’ conversation For when they won’t do something you want them to

22 5 principles of negotiation Know your BATNA Invent OPTIONS for mutual gain Insist on objective CRITERIA Separate the PERSON from the problem Focus on INTERESTS not positions

23 The first rule of negotiation : Focus on the problem not the people IT ! If the problem IS the relationship, tackle that separately (using the ‘upset’ technology)

24 Focus on interests not positions Why ? –Positions get entrenched (and often personal) –Interests can be compatible even when positions seem opposed –Asking about interests makes the other party feel listened to How ? –Ask what they really want to get out of this –Tell them your needs - make them come alive –Recognise interests are often pretty simple (security, belonging, sense of control etc) –Ask ‘How can we BOTH get our interests met ?’

25 Objective criteria for starting the negotiation Fair standards There are a number of ways of deciding what is ‘fair’ –precedent –best value –split the difference –what a court would decide –reciprocity Fair processes If the process feels fair, the other party is much more likely to engage with it –how do others do this ? –who needs a say - ?vote, ?consensus –let a third party decide –take it in turns

26 Invent NEW options - together If you are getting stuck, you need some new options - and it’s best to create them together New options do not include ‘the position you came in with but reworded’ ! Be creative - base possibilities on interests not positions Don’t assume one party has to lose - there could be a win-win-win Make it easy for them to choose Remember, it’s up to you to help them save face

27 Know your BATNA The BATNA –Always know your best alternative to a negotiated solution - i.e. what will you do if you can’t reach agreement –This is especially important if the person is more powerful than you –Examples : do it alone or with someone else, remove yourself from this relationship, appeal to a higher authority

28 What if they use dirty tactics ? 3 types –stonewall (flat ‘no’ with no alternative, delay tactics, escalating demands) –attack (personal attack, threats, good guy/bad guy) –manipulation (phoney facts, ambiguous authority, partial disclosure) Pause, don’t react Name the game - use humour if possible, be firm if not Try to go focus back on the problem Use your BATNA

29 Resources Armstrong, D. Taking Positions in the Organisation Heen, S., Patton, B. & Stone, D. (2000) Difficult Conversations. Penguin. Fisher, R., Patton, B. & Ury, W. (1991) Getting to Yes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Ury, W. (1991) Getting past No. Bantam.


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