Leadership is fundamental to driving world class performance from negotiations. Playing out in front of us we have what will be one of the most important negotiations at a global level, ‘Brexit’ in the next few years. Irrespective of the politics, partisan views, and the rhetoric flying around, there are potential risks and opportunities for all parties.
In the red, white, and blue corner we have the UK government. In the blue and yellow corner the EU institutions and the 27 other member states of the EU.
It’s much easier to write a more compelling article likening it to a fight, with competitors and corners, and highlighting the differences. But we have to challenge ourselves as to whether such an approach if carried through to the actual negotiations, will drive the best performance and outcomes.
Over many years the IACCM has produced research into the power of relationships in driving better business performance. This isn’t about ‘warm and fluffy’ relationships, but about relationships with ‘hard edges’. Where strong relationships are a key enabler to helping us collectively achieve better outcomes.
Deploying a relational approach isn’t always easy. In the heat of the moment it can be difficult to ‘hold the faith’, potentially risking a drift back to a partisan or principled position. Leadership is key to success. Leaders need to clearly articulate: the environment and spirit; the strategic purpose and goals; and provide support, confidence, and encouragement to those involved during negotiation and delivery.
It’s the ‘how’ that differentiates
Setting aside any views on Brexit, it was interesting to watch the speech by Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, yesterday in which she set out her 12 principles for the imminent Brexit negotiations. Whilst much of the attention was on the ‘what’ contained in the speech, there was a healthy dose of ‘how’. Much of what she laid out was about setting the environment, the style of the negotiations, and their purpose, a vision of the outcomes. The language she used, the approach she laid out, and the goals aspired to, were very much partisan but wrapped in a desired environment of mutuality.
Ensuring that we focus as much on the ‘how’ as the ‘what’, and mutuality are core to successful relational contracting. This is often counter to the desire to achieve our own goals and to do so under time pressure and leadership is key to achieving what can feel counter-intuitive to many.
Environment, Vision, Confidence
Only time will tell if and how Theresa May’s words covert to reality, however, it provides a useful trigger for us, as leaders. Are we creating an environment that creates and leverages the collective relationships of our organisations to drive better business performance?