By Maurie Cashman
Everyone needs an Abigail Adams. I had a great conversation with a friend of mine this week and he asked me how I deal with getting people to make decisions and follow up on them. Coincidentally, I had a similar conversation with another close associate about how to present difficult situations.
â€œIâ€™ve always needed a devilâ€™s advocate to look over my shoulder at what I drafted to say, â€œThis works, this doesnâ€™t work.â€ I learned this, by the way, in part by reading about John Adams. John Adams wasnâ€™t the greatest personality in the world, but he had one of the worldâ€™s great negotiations when he convinced the 13 colonies to become the 13 United States of America in the Second Continental Congress. Quill in hand, he would draft and he would find someone [to act as a devilâ€™s advocate]. That was Abigail Adams. He would give her the draft, and she would tear it up and put it back together. He obviously ultimately made convincing arguments. We got the Declaration of Independence.â€ Ron Shapiro
I believe this quote really hits the mark. I have been blessed with people over my career who forced me to really hone my message and delivery. These were usually mutually beneficial in that we knew each other well enough to be able to recognize each otherâ€™s styles and to help them to maximize on that style. One size does not fit all.
Each of us has a particular trap that we can fall into, which is our communication style. I may have a need to be the smartest person in the room. I may like or dislike conflict. I may have a need to be liked. Perhaps there is a long-term strategy that must be achieved, even though you hate to lose a battle, you must to win the war. Perhaps you have to tell your family that you are selling the family farm because it just isnâ€™t working anymore.
When in a negotiation I have found it important to have a few things in my process:
- What are my (or more likely my clients) must have objectives when entering into a negotiation?
- What is the personality of my client in relation to mine?
- Can I quickly assess the character and personality of the party(s) I am negotiating with?
- What are the strong and weak spots in my position and how am I going to handle them?
Finally, when I get done I often turn to my Abigail Adams for an assessment. This isnâ€™t always the same person and I try to keep a bullpen of people that I know I can go to for strong advice. My ultimate review when I am completely unsure is my wife, who knows my foibles and blinds spots best.
She is my Abigail Adams. Who is yours? Do you follow a process in negotiating or in dealing with difficult situations? Please provide some comments on your Abigail Adams.