“At least there aren’t so many flags this time” – said my, slightly surly, Scottish colleague.
He was referring to the number of St George’s flags flying from car windows on our way to an English course venue – it is, of course, World Cup time. I tried explaining that in years gone by with the various ‘Golden Generations’ the English media had been very adept at whipping up an optimistic frenzy based on us beating sides that were either very unlucky, argued incessantly between themselves (on and off the pitch) or were the lowest of the low in terms of their rankings. Once the England team had lost, this would normally be followed by the inevitable media witch hunt. This has been my experience for the past, nearly 50 years.
With some of my more super-optimistic compatriots it would be very interesting though to ask them for a wager on a World Cup win – very, very few would take you up on it, I think.
In business, now more than ever, the future is unclear – a fully functional crystal ball would be a highly priced commodity. It doesn’t, however, stop us from taking calculated risks. Performance bonds, late penalties, retrospective discounts, trial periods all represent examples of where risk is present in every-day life. Stocks and shares get marked up or down not against performance, but against perception of the initial projected plan (or wager if you like).
Even when taking insurance out on your home – you’re betting the insurance company that your home will burn down (in which case they pay up), they’re betting you it won’t (they collect your premium).
As negotiators, we need to be more curious - these opportunities potentially enable us to trade an opinion against an opinion – potentially creating value from either embracing or mitigating risk. The next time a customer or supplier says to you ‘trust me X will never happen’ you could say ‘well if you’re so sure, you’ll have no problem giving me item Y or issue Z if it does’. If they then start to backtrack, I’d want to explore why they weren’t prepared to underwrite the outcome which they felt so confident about.
You can do the same thing of course with an overly confident England soccer supporter (the way things are going, you might not have to look too hard to find one) – with a wager or bet, at the very least you can avoid a long, drawn out, circular argument in favour of time spent on a different, more productive conversation.
For what it’s worth – I’d say, semi-finals at absolute best, hopefully not on penalties.
About the author:
As a Senior Consultant I advise clients on our training and consultancy and deliver our negotiating programmes. Before joining Scotwork, I was a Regional Manager with a former subsidiary of BP – developing and supplying environmental products and services within Europe, Asia and Russia.