By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to help you regain control of a negotiation on the brink of failure. Reading time: 3:27
The shouting is getting louder. The name-calling more acerbic. The discussion more argumentative. Now your negotiating session is on the verge of falling apart. What do you do? Call on a higher power. And get a Peace of the action.
That’s what Ben Franklin did during the vigorous debate over the philosophy and policy in writing the Constitution of the United States.
The power struggle ensued for five weeks. The largest states wanted representation by population. The smallest states wanted one vote per state to make sure their voices were heard as loudly as the large states.
This Constitutional Congress was on the verge of stalemating at best. Then Ben Franklin gave us all a keen leadership lesson:
Cool it when the going gets hot and heavy.
Franklin called for a three-day cooling off period. He also proposed that when Congress reconvened the first order of business would be a prayer “ to enlighten our minds with a portion of heavenly wisdom, influence our hearts with a love of truth and justice, and crown our labors with complete and abundant success!
Beware of Salving Your Ego
Historians tell us that Franklin was not known as a religious man. But as a leader he understood the power of pausing to take a more deliberative stance that would net a more productive results in negotiations especially when the participants seemed polarized and paralyzed in their own points of view.
Sometimes a leader has to take a step back to take two or three steps forward. Step back in negotiating with your your over-blown sense of enTITLEment. Step back from in negotiating with your self-righteous zeal (“I am the boss”) where you wear you title as if it were a family heirloom entrusted only to you. Step back in your negotiating so that you can more directly solve the problem rather than to salve your ego.
Smothering Your Ego
Take a lesson from Phil Jackson, then the professional basketball coach of the Chicago Bulls playing in the 1994 NBA Eastern Conference National Basketball Association Finals against the New York Knicks. The score is tied with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game. The Bulls call a time out. Jackson devised a play that calls for Toni Kukoc to take the final shot.
Bulls star player Scottie Pippen, miffed at his coach for not selecting him to take the final shot, refused to play. He sat down on the bench. He deliberated disobeys an order from the coach to pass the ball to Kukoc. The Bulls had to execute the final play without Pippen.
They won much more than a game that night. They won a greater sense of commitment to each other thanks to Jackson’s leadership especially in the locker room following the game.
Jackson was fuming mad at Pippen. (How would you feel if your star employee diliberately disobeyed a direct order at a crucial time?) The entire team gathered in the locker room after the game. They expected Jackson to unleash his frustration with a verbal dressing down and financial fining of Pippen for his blatant insubordination.
Instead, Jackson took a page out of Ben Franklin’s “Cool-It” playbook.
Jackson calmly looked at the faces of each player and said: “What happened has hurt us. Now you (the entire team) have to work this out.” Then Jackson walked out of the locker room. He methodically smothered his own ego in favor of the team’s more productive result: restoring trust and individual responsibility to each other.
Ben Franklin would have been proud. Phil Jackson called on a higher power. And got a Peace of the action.
Cool it to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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