December 2018 — #Class of 2018/19, #Susan Kabani


On the 10th of December, I had the pleasure to facilitate the Startup Leadership London Fellows 2019 class on Negotiation & Leadership.  I volunteered to run this class because I am strong believer in the power of Negotiation, and believe we need this skill throughout every aspect of our lives.  

As a student of negotiation, I have always learned more about negotiation strategies through exercises rather than sitting through a theory class. Thus, when I was structuring this class, I found a variety of active simulations where the fellows could trial the principles in the theory that I was going to introduce.

The class began with a negotiation ice breaker where we asked the SLP fellows to pair up. They were then instructed to engage in thumb wars where the person who won the most thumb wars would win one of the two prizes I had brought.  The objective of the exercise was to find the "negotiators" in the room who would agree to let one partner win as many times as possible and spilt the prize.  The objective of this exercise was to understand the different personalities among the fellows, and whether someone was a natural collaborator or competitor.  In the evaluation of the last exercise, we discussed personality types in more depth.

After the ice breaker, I gave an overview of the different styles of negotiations (hard and soft) and introduced Principled Negotiation – The Harvard Approach which was written by Professors Roger Fisher and William Ury. I had recently attended a Negotiation course in Dubai run by leading international Alternative Dispute Resolution Firm ADR-ODR International, where I had been introduced to this style of negotiation by Barrister Rahim Shamji. We were fortunate that Mr. Shamji was also able to attend our SLP class and facilitate the final of the three exercises.

After the overview to negotiation styles, I introduced the "Orange negotiation", where the class was broken into two groups, A” & “B.” I played the role of Mandez, the keeper of the only remaining Mandezine Orange (a very rare variety), with whom the teams needed to negotiate to get the Orange. 

Each team was given a scenario explaining why they must buy this special fruit and were instructed that they must only contact the grower one spokesperson at a time.  Each group was also given private instructions, where Group A learned that they needed the rind of the orange to create a nuclear component that would solve the world's food shortage problem. They were also told that they have unlimited resources, which occasionally makes them a bit careless or arrogant. Group B learned they needed the pulp of the orange to create a serum to protect pregnant mothers from a deadly disease that was ravaging the area. Without it, all of the expectant mothers would become tragically ill and die. 

We then gave the groups separate rooms to discuss their strategy before negotiations began with me.  The hope was that the two teams would bypass me and negotiate directly with each other because they realised that they each needed different components of the orange.  

It was very interesting to observe the negotiations styles of my classmates. Some of the people that were identified as the competitors in the thumb war were also the most likely to continue to get the orange for their own team.  However, in the end, the two teams went directly to one another to discuss a collective strategy to get and split the orange. 

The final exercise was called 'The Island of Opportunity, which was facilitated by expert Rahim Shamji.  In this game, we split the class up into four tribes and asked them to negotiate how to split a newly discovered island. Each tribe was given a set of facts and interests which they needed to protect in their negotiations for their tribe's survival.  My hope was the introduction to principled negotiation has shown the fellows the importance of building a clear understanding of needs prior to negotiating with the other team and find a solution that was best for everyone. 

For the final portion of the class, Mr. Shamji facilitated a discussion to speak about different personality types from competitors to collaborators.  Although our personalities may naturally fall into one category, he said that with training, we can understand which approach to use in which situation to achieve the best outcome.  

Overall, I felt the class was a good combination of practical training and theory, and that the fellows very actively participated.  It was enjoyable to observe the different personalities shine through in the negotiations and see how different styles could be equally effective. 

To next year's CEO, I would recommend building in as many exercises as possible. However, I would also add a section on Thomas Kilmann personality test where people can see what personal style he or she naturally is as this can have a big impact on negotiation style. 

My two book recommendations on this subject

Getting to Yes

by Roger Fisher and William Ury

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: The bestselling book everyone is talking about (A No F*cks Given Guide)

by Sarah Knight