A Jedi mind trick for creating more value

The participants in the executive program returned to the seminar room after having carried out a negotiation simulation with each other. The key focus of the negotiation had been to maximise value and the group of international senior managers and executives had performed quite well.

In the following debrief we discussed how we could have created even more value, and the group collectively identified quite a few additional options. Well done!

But then I put a very simple question to the group: “We’ve now pushed the limit of what we can achieve in the negotiation, so let us try something else. What if I now asked you to forget about the negotiation altogether, and instead simply treat the case you were given as an exercise in how to maximise value for the two parties involved?”

I was temporarily blinded by all the metaphorical light bulbs that simultaneously switched on in the room 🙂 . Creating dramatically more value suddenly became very easy – even trivial.

So what changed? The task was still the same, but the participants’ frame of mind had changed. When asked to merely solve a well-defined problem (i.e. “What would it take to maximise value for both parties”) we do precisely that – solve the problem. We know how to solve problems and we do it well!

In contrast, when we believe our task is to negotiate, chances are – ironically – that our brains start to run destructive processes that severely limit our ability to influence others or create value. The vast majority of us have flawed beliefs of how influence works, so when we attempt to influence we actually – unintentionally but effectively – sabotage the process instead.

So what is the Jedi mind trick I’m referring to in the title? “We are presently not in a negotiation… We are presently not in a negotiation… It is just a problem to be solved… We are presently not in a neg…” In other words, with most people we want to avoid associating the word “negotiation” with our current interaction.

Interestingly, when we cross paths with the minority of people who subscribe to value creation, win/win and systems maximisation, we actually want to do the opposite and encourage them to make the most of using their skills for everyone’s benefit. So here the mind trick then changes to:We are presently in a negotiation… Every interaction is a negotiation… We are presently in a neg…”

Should you negotiate with your child?

“Absolutely” was the answer I gave to the coaching client who asked the question. But before I explain why that was my answer, let us fully understand what she meant by her question.

In this instance, my client took negotiation to mean a way of interacting where the child would have input into the rules that are imposed upon him or her. Effectively what my client wanted to know was whether she should give in to her child, and move the domestic political system a few steps away from dictatorship and towards a democracy.

But this is a narrow view of what negotiation entails. Rather than a process for reaching compromises, negotiation is a process for creating value and for removing unnecessary pollution in interactions. Thus the benefits of making any person in your family a more skilled negotiator will transfer to every area of your family’s interactions – whether they be about conflict, difficult teenage issues, vacation planning, domestic chores, or career choices.

So the answer to my client’s question was clearly in the affirmative – yes, negotiate with your child! This will give your child valuable practise, experience, and ultimately proficiency in the #1 skill for business and life. The most frequent feedback I get from managers and executives in courses is: “I wish I had learned these skills 20 years ago so that I could have used them in my life!”

Imagine instead equipping your child with these skills at age five…. Without having to pay hefty fees for professional negotiation training!

Another benefit of honing influencing skills early is that it would bypass several blocks that prevent many adults from achieving an exceptional level of negotiation performance. These blocks come in the form of limiting beliefs that prevent us from trying what really works because we have been conditioned to believe that it can’t work. It is as simple as that.

Now, some readers may feel apprehension with creating a little negotiation monster at home. This apprehension is fuelled by a fear that your little one will become too skilled at negotiating, and thus take over control at home.

That is what we call “fear of success” 🙂 and I have once suggestion for you:

IF you… with 25+ years head start in life… and with access to professional negotiation training and coaching… can’t negotiate better than a five, ten or fifteen year old child… then the problem is certainly not with your child’s skill level.