I’m just wrapping up Adam Grant’s book, Think Again .
I’d first heard Adam speak at the in-person (yes, there was such a thing at one time!) PMI Global Congress conference in 2019 and appreciated both his ideas as well as how he delivered them. His latest book focuses on the skill of rethinking which is a cornerstone of a growth-oriented, adaptive mindset.
Adam provides lots of good insights supported by engaging examples, but one in particular stuck with me.
In his chapter titled “Dances with Foes” regarding the science (sorry, Donald Trump, not the art) of the deal, he covers factors which differentiate average negotiators from skilled ones. While I was already familiar with the benefits of establishing common ground, asking a lot of open-ended, thought-provoking questions and avoiding the knee-jerk reaction of defending against all attacks, providing fewer reasons appeared to be more effective than providing more.
This forced me to do some rethinking of my own.
In past engagements, when trying to gain alignment from a challenging stakeholder, a common “go to” tactic for me was to prepare for the discussion by identifying as many supporting reasons as I could and then volley those at the stakeholder in a prioritized order hoping to sway them towards my way of thinking. This approach usually worked quite well for me in my youth during school debates or in negotiations with my friends which reinforced my belief in the validity of the approach.
However, in my professional career, while it occasionally succeeded, in most cases it didn’t. In some cases, the stakeholder disengaged from our discussion and the quality of our relationship suffered as they felt overwhelmed or attacked by the approach. In other situations, it revealed weak areas in my platform which they could then focus on with their rebuttals. And once one reason falls, it can create a domino effect which knocks down the remaining ones.
So the next time you are preparing for a stakeholder negotiation, remind yourself that less is more.
(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca as well as a number of other online book stores)