CommCorner guest 006: Micah Duchesne

Micah Duchesne is equal parts laser-focused and on a ceaseless quest for new ideas. Artfully designing organizational strategy is his cornerstone professional competency and differentiator. In his work, the psychology of teams and the lags dysfunction can cause must be accounted for and worked through. As evidenced by his blog this week, Micah understands the human factors of strategy implementation and deployment and is able to support executive leadership through on-boarding and aligning the many moving parts to the one goal.

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Innovation implies change and change is hard. Change arising from innovation is challenging on two fronts: the initial outside-the-box thinking and the next part, getting the buy-in you need to make the big thing happen. Rallying people around a common goal, especially when there are thousands of them, can make change difficult. People like Micah are able to first envision the future and then take the critical next steps to make that future a reality by building the strategy and getting everybody amped to make it happen. The world needs more people like Micah - people who believe first that it's possible, can figure out a way to make it happen, and then it does and that awesome.

**NOTE FROM HANNAH: This is really fun because this week CommContributor Wednesday is on Valentine's Day and Micah is my personal forever Valentine. Complete coincidence, but happy nonetheless.*

on negotiating

 

In the Clutch

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The work has been put in, yet it all comes down to a pitch, a negotiation, a crucial conversation. It’s clutch time. Moments like these are abundant in life, and, here in the Silicon Valley, they can make or break you. It’s often daunting. Most of us weren’t trained in high-stakes, interpersonal communication. We just want to design creative products, provide a needed service, or make an impact. But, that’s the reality. Unless you can fork over the big bucks for a professional negotiator, you’re likely to be the one holding the ball with the game on the line. How do you score in the clutch? Let’s get to it and find out.

 

Make the Connection

 

The first thing you must do is establish rapport. Start with the fact that you’re both human. Seriously. There’s a saying in the corporate world: “Enter and exit as a human.” Without getting all existential, it can be easy to forget to look at an interaction from this perspective. Take a deep breath (try not to pass out) the moment before your engagement and enter, as they say, as a human. Take some time to get to know the other human. Business can wait for a moment.

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Now that you’ve established rapport, get them to open up about their interests. Try to uncover the various dimensions. Are there personal principles that govern these interests? Are there underlying aspirations? Are their considerations subject to change? If you’ve done your due diligence, what have you discovered about their best-case scenario in the impending business interaction? This clarity is often mutually beneficial. We usually have a general inkling of what we want, but the psychological toll of negotiations can produce a mental haze.

 

Control the Conflict

 

There aren’t many who claim to love conflict, but I've met a few. Even if you’re one of those peeps, you too should brush up on your conflict management game. Here’s the skinny. Odds are, your interests will not entirely align with the interests of your partners or clients. The terms are too demanding, the price is too high, the price is too low, etc. That’s okay; it's just the starting point for negotiation.

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Now, it’s time to build confidence. You’ve established rapport and have begun to understand their interests. Both parties need to feel like there’s going to be a happy ending, so start with that in mind. Be direct and ask what success looks like for them. In other words, everyone needs to agree to the criteria by which the options will be evaluated. Remember, no silent disagreements. If there are any terms that you can’t or are unwilling to deliver on, now is the time to speak up. But wait before you deliver the entirety of your terms. Without being too awkward, pause for another deep breath before moving on.

The key to managing the delivery of your terms is to use a little outside-the-box thinking to create win-win situations. Savvy negotiators find ways to expand the pie when resources appear to be constrained - finding ways for both parties to get what they ultimately want. When you’re ready, go in convincingly. By now you’ve gotten a really good pulse on how your terms will be accepted, so your expectations should be close to in-sync. You’re ready to offer your win-win solution.

 

Make the Commitment

 

All of the terms for each of the parties are unlikely to be met. It’s important to understand that going in and to be prepared for it. Know three things: your goals, your flexibility, and your breaking point (when to walk away). This will make navigating unaligned interests much easier. I alluded to it earlier, but you’d be surprised how many of us go into negotiations without having these things solidified in our minds. I believe in writing these terms down and bringing them into the negotiation with me. That way, if my counterpart in the negotiation really dislikes the terms, I can always blame the paper – j/k.

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Well, if both parties are still at the table at this point, it’s now time to commit. At Amazon, there’s a mantra in the executive leadership that says, “Have a backbone. Disagree, and commit.” No pressure or anything! I kid, but there’s some actual insight to be gained from this. In the heat of conflict, things can get messy, even when we manage things to the best of our abilities. Regardless, it’s important to put it all behind you once the terms have been agreed upon. After all, it’s likely time to roll up your sleeves, get to work, and have some fun.

 
Hannah Duchesne