The Coach's Corner

Breaking through an impasse

If you’re like me, there are times when negotiating an agreement in your personal or professional life can take an enormous effort.

So it’s been with great interest that I followed what was happening in our nation’s capital over the debt ceiling – and discovered that in the midst of all the posturing, some amazing conversations paved the way for the deal that’s now in place. While both sides claim it isn’t perfect, they did reach an agreement.

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #1

HEADLINE: The art of negotiating a deal.

No matter what your political stance, the possibility of our government grinding to a halt caused many of us to feel very exposed.

Then something began to unfold behind the scenes. When the White House and GOP leaders hit a wall, four negotiators, two from each side of the political aisle – stepped in for nonstop talks. One of those four is Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Biden administration.

According to Tyler Pager of the Washington Post, when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy learned that Young was ‘in the house,’ he is reported to have complimented her as ‘well respected’ and ‘well liked’ on both sides of the aisle.

How did Young and GOP leaders reach a breakthrough?

“The most important thing is to know what they have to have. You have to be clear about what you have to have. I want to know their value statements and they need to know mine. And we have to find a middle ground. They shouldn’t have to compromise their values, and neither should we.”

Shalanda Young, Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Read the entire story here in the Washington Post.

INSIGHT: Three little words changed everything.

The key to resolution in this stalemate involved a series of conversations where both sides knew where they stood – and expressed what was most critical for each side. If you are ready to work together, and focus on what you want to strengthen in that space, odds are there will be progress.

This week one of my clients shared how he used open-ended questions to transform a conversation with a customer. He’d been hitting a wall and finding little success in sharing his ideas and was not able to get the deal he wanted. Every time he and his customer would talk or email or text – his suggestions were not addressed, and he got no response. So he worked on a change in his approach.

“Three little words changed everything: how, what, and where,” he told me.

When he resisted the urge to tell his customer what to do, and instead began with this open-ended approach, the defenses of his customer went down. He shared that he hadn’t noticed how cornered his customer had been feeling, because he hadn’t asked him questions that allowed him to respond.

Once he stopped directing the conversation, he began listening to what the customer needed most and discovered how to tailor what the customer wanted with his product.

They now have a deal they can both live with and their relationship has improved.

TOOL: The Mutually Beneficial Agreement.

In Fred Kofman’s book, Conscious Business, he emphasizes how finding a mutual benefit can change the stakes for folks who feel they’re at an impasse. Kofman created way to arrive at a Mutually Beneficial Agreement with a template that I share frequently with my clients, family members and anyone with whom I’m having a disagreement.

  1. Define a mutually beneficial purpose.Have a conversation on how you would like to succeed together to accomplish ___________________.
  2. Express your point of view.Offer what you’re observing that is impacting your ability to arrive at this goal _________________. When you’re done, ask, “When you hear what I just shared, what comes up for you?”
  3. Understand the other’s point of view.When you’ve heard what the other has to say, ask, “What do you think might work for us to accomplish _________________?”
  4. Negotiate a mutually beneficial strategy.After hearing both views, what will be the best way to achieve ____________?
  5. Commitment to execution.I commit to __________ what will you commit to?
Here’s my learning about breaking through an impasse.

It’s not my job to change anyone’s mind. If, rather, I choose to listen and find a way that we both get what’s most important to us – there is the possibility for a path forward, together.

I’d love to hear how this approach works for you as you communicate with your team, your family – anywhere!


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