The Negotiator Magazine

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The Wall Street Journal article covered advice Chief Executives would give to subordinates that might help them in successfully climbing the management ladder. Here are some of the "verbal jewels" they offered: "You have to establish a sense of confidence with everyone you interact with." "You must establish credibility quickly and then build momentum." "Don't make promises you can't keep or try to do too much." Another said he would tell all his subordinates, "If there are any politicians in this company, I will figure out who you are and I'll fire you." And lastly, one Chief Executive recommended using questions as a method for management promotions. He recommended using such questions as, "What do you want to keep?" "What do you want to change?" "What are you afraid of doing?" Plus others.

To me it is absolutely amazing that none of them offered the following simple advice that would further their careers in management: During your business career you will constantly be faced with many problems that need to be solved. I have found out the best method of achieving this is by asking questions in order to understand the nature and cause of the problem by getting all the necessary information and then, by negotiating with others, coming up with the right answers and action.

The third article, published by Business Week, listed those individuals who in their opinion were the best and worst executives for 2004. Without mentioning names or organizations, the following are comments the magazine made concerning specific management styles or the lack of one. I'll cover the best executives first. "He repositioned the firm's portfolio with major acquisitions in health care, entertainment and commercial finance." "Created a more diverse, global and customer driven culture." "Launched an initiative to sell low-cost PC's in developing countries." "Increased membership profitably with innovative service offerings and smart financial management." "A ruthless drive for efficiency, such as centralized purchasing and investing in technology." "Made $3.6 billion worth of software deals," (which surely must have taken a lot of negotiating to accomplish). "Kept a tight lid on costs which helped boost profits." And finally, "Turned the company from the butt of talk-show jokes into a leader in customer satisfaction."

Now let's see what Business Week wrote about the "rotten apples." "Any exec can make a bad situation worse, but it takes a certain talent to take it into a near catastrophe." "He was supposed to be a political risk manager, instead he compounded the problems." "He expanded too fast after the lPO, saturating markets with so many stores that the brand name quickly lost its novelty." He dropped the ball on quality." (The company finished the year earning 50% less than it did in the previous year.) Another CEO's poor performance was based on "Aggressive and premature bookings." And another was cited for "Accounting misdeeds and obstruction of federal investigations." And finally there was the exec that "Mislead investors about the impact of a hostile takeover." There was absolutely no mention of negotiating skills or the lack of them in all three magazines. Since the magazines failed to do so, I would like to mention two former Continental Airlines executives that truly understood the confluence of management and negotiating. The first is Gordon Bethune who pulled the airline from the brink of bankruptcy a decade ago through his negotiations with customers and labor unions. The second is Larry Kellner whose expert negotiations led to refinancing the airline's fleet of planes at much lower interest rates. Their combined negotiating skills had a positive effect on the airline's financial balance sheet. And as you read this article some of you will no doubt remember individuals that also displayed outstanding negotiating abilities in fulfilling management responsibilities.

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August 2005