The philosophy of “BUILD THEM A GOLDEN BRIDGE” is from one of the Sun Tzu strategy, “Don’t push your enemy to the corner, and build them a golden bridge to retreat across.” Why? Even though you have evaluated the situation objectively (step one), created positive environment to negotiate (step two), and engaged your opponent in problem solving negotiations (step three), you still have to bring he/she to a concrete agreement. Too often, this is where negotiations fall apart, because they underestimate the influence of human factors when they are forming terms and conditions in agreements.
A classic case study from a spectacular failure of a world’s biggest media merger can demonstrate the devastated power of human influence in negotiating simple details. In 1958, CBS was fighting a hostile takeover bid by media tycoon Ted Turner. Neutharth, president of Gannett, had long had his eye on CBS and had cultivated a cordial relationship with CBS president Tom Wyman. After several exploration meetings the two men reached agreement on most of the fundamental issues. They decided that because of his age and greater experience, Neuharth would become chairman and CEO, while Wyman would become president and chief operating officer. It all went very smoothly, until when executives from both companies began to prepare details. Neuharth described this turning point in his memoir.
A dozen bankers, lawyers and executives were assembled around the long rectangular table. Tam and I sat side by side. I was really pissed that people in this room for nearly three days had been unable or unwilling to do what Wyman and I had agreed upon... I didn’t waste a lot of time with social niceties:
“Tom and I thought it might help if the two CEOs got in on the act and explained to all of you how to get this deal done. It’s pretty damn simple… Tom and I have agreed on the management structure of the company. The directors will be seven (CBS), seven (Gannett), and one (jointly selected). I will be chairman and CEO. Tom will be president and chief operating officer.”
The CBS guys looked surprised and puzzled. Our people nodded and smiled.
“You don’t have to argue about this or even talk about it or think about it. It’s all settled.”
Wyman looked uncomfortable. He sat up straight in his chair. “Yes, we’ve agreed on that,” he said a bit hesitantly…
I sensed immediately that I had screwed up. I had come on too directly and forcefully. Wyman’s people were hearing this news for the first time from me, not from him… I should have let Wyman explain the terms. He could have put a more gentle face on it. I had satisfied my ego at the expense of crushing his.
Two days later Wyman telephoned to call off the deal. After Neuharth hung up the phone he turned to his executives and said, “The game’s over. We lose. And he’ll lose.”
This case is a perfect demonstration of four common obstacles for reaching agreements: Not their idea (the CBS executives were not involved in the decision making process), Unmet interests (As Neuharth mentioned, he overlooked Wyman’s hidden interest, his ego), Fear of losing face (Wyman was embarrassed in front of his subordinates when Neutharth announced the final decision), and Too much too fast (Neutharth was too forceful to push the CBS executives to agree with details, he did not give time for them to think about the implications of the situation).
You can build a golden bridge across these obstacles by using four methods:
1) Involving your opponent as much as possible throughout the crafting agreement process.
2) Exploring and satisfying unmet interests
3) Helping your opponent to save face
4) Go slow to go fast
Details of these four methods are given in the chapter summary at the end of the entry. Although these methods aim to build a golden bridge from different perspectives, they do share three fundamental principles:
1) You always build a golden bridge from your opponent’s ideas, and guide the direction towards to what you want. If you push your ideas right at the start, people most likely reject your suggestions, no matter how good your ideas really are.
2) A golden bridge is not only for your opponent to across it. You also need to build it for the people who have influence of your opponent’s decision. For example, your opponent’s boss, organizations, colleagues, family and friends. Remember their power of influence is defined by their emotional connection, not their formal titles or positions. As the author stats that “negotiation is not just a technical problem-solving exercise, it is also a political process … negotiation is a ritual- a ritual of participation.”
3) You have the responsibility to understand the motivation behind your opponent’s behavior. Don’t ever categorize they are irrational. As one leading hostage negotiator says, “They’re all rational. Everyone negotiates. Even the ‘dregs’ give value for money. If hostage-takers are susceptible to being influence, then your boss and teenager probably are too. “
If you could successfully guide your opponent across a golden bridge, congratulations! You have arrived at a win-win agreement. If not, don’t worry, you could move to the final step “BRING THEM TO THEIR SENSE, NOT THEIR KNEES”Click here to download Chapter Summary 1.4 or View it here