on April 17, 2014 2:03 pm
By Matt Kormann
Vice President, Corporate Account Sales at Freeman
Recently, I joined my local public school district’s board of trustees. Part of our state-mandated continuing education includes a number of team building hours. We accomplished some of those after a recent board meeting. I’ve been through these before. Recently at a leadership development workshop we built a complex and puzzling wooden frame in about two seconds. I learned a ton from that exercise, and it was mostly humbling!
Back to the school board, though. Part of our evening was spent on a negotiations exercise. Eight of us sat in teams of two, and had to make a choice. Mark either “X” or “Y” on a sheet of paper through a dozen rounds. Based on all four team’s responses, we accrued points. The goal was to get as many points as possible.
The thing is, only one combination worked in favor of everyone: if we all chose “Y” every time. Every other possibility left someone on the losing side of the equation. During this exercise, that was me and my partner. We did the math right away and realized the only way for everyone to win was to choose “Y”. We stuck to our guns and marked “Y” almost every time.
A few times, we had the chance to negotiate with the entire group. Otherwise, silence. During those negotiation rounds, if even one person chose not to negotiate, no one could negotiate. Do you think we took those opportunities? We tried. But there was almost always someone who didn’t want to.
It was tense!
In the end, my partner and I ended up with a whopping 45 points. To the negative. That’s not a typo. On a balance sheet, we would’ve been bankrupt.
And then, the big reveal. It wasn’t about how well a pair of individuals did, it was about how well the group did. We came out okay, but not as well as if we’d had the opportunity to negotiate, and not nearly as well as if the entire group had operated in concert.
There were a few big lessons in there.
- One party in a negotiation absolutely has the ability to kill the entire deal
– Even if you think you know the answer, it’s never a given that others will agree
– Often, when we measure important things, competition outweighs rational thought
As a school board, we’re a tight group that functions well under pressure. We tend to listen to each other. There’s very little jockeying for position. Ultimately, we’re volunteering our time because we want our kids and teachers to have the best possible learning environments.
The thing is, I feel the same way about my work colleagues. There’s a reason people tend to stick around here for so long. Even in a sales organization, there’s such a sense of community, family, and collaboration here, that it’s hard not to want it to continue.
Feel like you could benefit from a little small group team building? If you do, you’re not alone. It’s hugely beneficial to take time out, get away from the business of doing business, and reconnect with colleagues. There are hundreds of options in every city and focused on every type of business. Get a recommendation from someone you trust and make the effort. The return on that investment will likely be immediate and powerful.
- Matt Kormann is Vice President, Corporate Account Sales at Freeman. He can be reached at Matt.Kormann@freemanco.com
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