If you are watching the politics of the moment you will be watching the leadership battle for the conservative party, and thus premiership of the UK. What you are essentially watching is a battle of egos in the attempt to win over the members of the party as to who can do the better job.
Hunt claims to be the master negotiator and entrepreneur. Johnson the ex-London Mayor boasts about his ability to lead huge organisations through change and having the strength of character to make difficult things happen.
You can decide who you think is the most credible, and who you would trust. (If you are a member of the conservative party, you can even help decide who will win).
But be mindful that for a good negotiator, essential to deliver the critical issue of Brexit, they require the emotional intelligence to recognise the place of the ego and when that is getting in the way of a good deal.
Great negotiators are judiciously self-aware. They understand how they are being impacted by a negotiation, why they are feeling threatened or how they are preening at the expense of the other side(s). This enables them to keep their focus on what is most important…the outputs they need. Being critically self-aware is often a basis for making sure their characters are put in check.
Many years ago, when I ran my own business, I was approached by an organisation who wanted to buy my company. I was both excited about the prospect of realising the equity I had built up over the preceding 12 years, but also keen to be recognised for creating a new brand and business in a difficult trading environment.
When the original offer was made, yes dear reader they drove the process, which I came to recognise was not the best strategy, and thereby structured my expectations over what would and would not be acceptable, my partner and I became outraged. Had they no idea how hard we had worked to build the business, attain our blue-chip clients, employ and retain high calibre staff, what on earth did these bean counters know about the real world. We felt almost personally affronted. Our egos dented.
We took advice from a broker (who frankly had much more M&A negotiation experience than we did) who gave us some sage advice which I share with you here.
He first asked about how well the business was performing and what the next few years would look like?
We said pretty well, we had been growing significantly and saw that trend continuing. He said, now is a good time to sell. He told us that the value that anyone would pay would be based on a multiple of profit over the next 3 years.
What would you have said, we asked if we had said the future was looking rocky? He said his advice would have been the same. Sell now. Why, we asked? He said because if the future was going badly at least we could realise some equity now.
He made us realise that the issue that was driving us was understanding our own objectives and the flexibility we had within what I would describe as our intend and must positions on these factors.
His advice was to craft a deal that recognised both the value we had created, but critically placed a bet against our ambitious future performance.
Being well prepared by addressing our own realistic objectives gave us the ability to drop our egos out of the discussion, and eventually reach a deal that rewarded our performance to that point, and satisfied our ambitions based on the future we could create.
Of course, ego has a place in negotiations. But it shouldn’t be the driver.