Alumni of our courses may sense something familiar about the photo accompanying this blog – a group of sheep, standing forlornly at a shut gate, unable to progress along their chosen path (let’s for a moment ignore the sheep on the right who appears to be considering their options). It’s an example of how obstacles can become impassable – even when they’re not. Negotiators need to be keenly aware of such obstacles, recognising them first before assessing alternative choices.
I was sent the photo by a former colleague (a fellow alumnus) who knew it would tickle me, given what I now do. Indeed it did, and so much so that I thought it would be an entirely appropriate platform on which to base a blog for the new year. Blogging is one of the pleasures of the job, particularly when the muse is in, and with such a perfect photo what could go wrong? And so I set about my writing with all the gusto you might expect with a fresh new year’s breeze in my resolute sails. So many examples to choose from! Decades of experience in media gave me a veritable Aladdin’s cave of gates from which to choose; my own experiences of selling, managing teams, purchasing and internal negotiations also produced a bumper harvest of gates; a plethora of participants in the last year alone had share stories of their own organisational gates. And could I capture any of this in the way I wanted to? Bah! No, I could not.
I had composed around a dozen or so different blogs, all of which I’d rejected or was otherwise unhappy with. By now, the deadline was starting to loom and a pleasurable and insightful experience of writing a blog was starting to take on something altogether different and less enjoyable. It took me so many attempts that it was only after I worked on a course last week – and hence had an enforced break from the cursed photo – that I realised. In writing about sheep at a gate and stretching every metaphor beyond breaking point, I’d constructed, walked to and stubbornly bashed my head against a self-made gate. My objective was to write a blog. The inspiration for that blog was simply one method by which to facilitate my objective – but instead, it had become an obstacle. And once I recognised that, it wasn’t too hard to walk around the gate.
Happy new year, and do your best to avoid gates!