Winning isn’t Always the Best Outcome.

“The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.” — Wayne Dyer

It’s easy to conflate winning with success. It’s understandable. The common ways we think about winning and success are closely linked. If we win, we consider our efforts successful, and we typically quantify success by how much we’ve won.

I want to explain why that’s a precarious way of thinking and being. The best example I have is a deal I was working on in the 1990s, in the early days following the Cold War.

Business was just starting up again in Russia, but given the history the country was leaving behind, the Russians were cash-poor, had no access to foreign currency, and couldn’t get money out of the country. It would have been easy to walk away from a deal like this. The challenges were obvious and huge.

Most companies were trying to do everything by barter. Except the “unicorn” that approached a client of mine. A Russian group reached out and had cash, and had it stateside. They’d just done a deal with Perdue to fill half a tanker ship with chicken. They wanted my client to source tons of other goods to fill the other half.

So, we set off on what was a tough negotiation. The Russian team was not budging on what would be considered a common aspect of deals like this. My client, Jeff, was a middle man. He would connect them with suppliers, and a “non-circumvention” clause would protect him from getting cut out of the deal, as well as future deals. Their refusal to cooperate with this clause was causing Jeff to lose his equilibrium. It was putting the deal in jeopardy.

I had to get Jeff refocused to salvage the deal. I’ll share some of the key moments that highlighted the importance of focusing on success and abandoning the scarcity mindset of winning.

Revisit Objectives

I couldn’t fault Jeff for being upset. The refusal to bend on non-circumvention was a strong-man tactic that threatened Jeff’s ability to do business. His contacts were his livelihood. I had to remind Jeff that we weren’t at the table to agree on a non-circumvention clause. I asked him to list out his real objectives. It included the amount of money he wanted to make sourcing the goods, and a few other key terms.

Understand the Real Objectives

One of the material terms Jeff wanted was protection from being cut out of the deal and future deals. The language of non-circumvention had turned it into something more than it was. Jeff had to see that it was just one of his objectives. More importantly, removing the form and legalese that created the specter of “non-circumvention” helped him understand what he really wanted—protection. Why should he care what we call it or how we get it?

Once he was clear on his objectives, I was able to get through to Jeff and things started coming into focus. I asked him to trust me about what would come next. He agreed.

I went to the lead negotiator of the Russian group and said, “Listen, it’s evident that this is a highly-contested issue. Why don’t we just leave it alone for now? We’ll come back to it maybe the next time we sit down. Let’s talk about what else we have open.”

They agreed, and we now had some time to plan. To read about the outcome of this negotiating, look out for next week’s blog.

To understand Authentic Negotiating, you have to understand the difference between winning and success. If you’re fixated on getting a win, you’ll never truly succeed. That’s easier to say than it is to do. A successful Authentic Negotiator knows when to put their ego aside and put their objectives front and center. How do you rate? Take my Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz to find out: https://coreykupfer.com/authentic-negotiating-success-quiz/.

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