negotiating

 

A Negotiating Session is not a Session to Negotiate

In the late 1950's General Electric had a Vice President in charge of labor relations named Lemuel P. Boulware.  His approach to labor relations and labor negotiations was controversial, and the labor movement invented the derrogatory term "Boulwareism" to characterize his approach.  He was an interesting speaker and I had the priviledge of hearing him talk "Under the Elm" at Association Island in 1957, the last time that General Electric used that facility for its annual management conference.  Here he is:

I do not remember whether it was at this occasion or another that one particular point that Boulware made burned into my brain.  His thought was:

A negotiating session is not a meeting to negotiate; it is a meeting to see who has done his homework!

The more I thought about this notion, the more I liked it.  Later in my career, I had opportunities to apply this idea.  Prior to key budget meetings, for example, I would take the time and trouble to meet privately with each of the executives who would be reviewing my budget.  In that private session, they had the chance to ask questions and to get comfortable with what I was presenting for approval, without having to perform before an audience.  By the time the budget meeting actually occurred, everyone there was comfortable with my request and there was a short and friendly meeting, followed by approval of my request.  Of course, it didn't go that smoothly all the time, but taking the trouble to "do my homework" before the meeting definitely paid off handsomely.  I strongly recommend this approach, where appropriate, for your consideration.  It takes some work and time, but I found it was welcomed by the other people involved and that it was effective.

In some sense this idea is related to the notion of "completed staff work".  If you are on someone's staff and are given a problem to investigate, the notion is that you take the initiative to carry this work to its ultimate completion by:

Thoroughly studying the issue
Determining what the possible options are for your boss
Evaluating all the options
Deciding which one is best for your boss
Laying out how that option is carried out
Completing any paperwork needed to implement the action, ready for signature

Once again, the philosophy is getting the "homework" thoroughly done before you got back to your boss, or go to the meeting or whatever the circumstance may be.