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You First

Garage_sale Another aspect of finishing up my mother's business was the estate sale (translated: overglorified garage sale). My sister and I took it as an opportunity to also rid our respective homes of unwanted stuff, so it was quite the sale. The first day of the two-day event got some great traffic, and we pared down the belongings significantly.

On the second day, we decided to try an experiment: we removed all the price tags and allowed people to make offers. What surprised us was how many customers declined that to place an offer. They wanted us to throw out a number... THEN they were comfortable countering it with something else. A couple of times we had people surprise us and offer more than what the prior day's price tag listed. But that was a rarity.

As a project manager and a consultant, I see that quite often. People don't want to define; they want to edit. Throwing out the first offer takes leadership and audacity. Throwing out a counter-offer is easier. There's a target at which to shoot. Negotiation isn't always about contracts and dollars; it may be about resources and requirements.

Of course, going first has its demands as well. It means one has to at least entertain counter-offers tactfully. I once worked on a project where the lead BA was comfortable with defining the requirements (i.e., offer) but would never entertain counter-offers ("my way or the highway"). The IT lead was uncomfortable with both offers and counter-offers; the only request was "I need more" without telling the rest of us what "more" looked like or why it was needed. It made for difficult scope and schedule discussions.

My friend, Lisa Gates, specializes in negotiation. She coaches women everywhere how to negotiate more effectively. Her commentary about negotiation itself is very telling:

Just look at the word negotiation. It hangs in the air like a dirigible, just a bunch of hot air and bloated promises. It’s enough to make your stomach turn.

Why is that? Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in their ground-breaking books Women Don’t Askand Ask For It, have unpacked the answer to that question withexhaustive research and numbing statistics. Like my business partner and I, they’ve developed courses and training opportunities for women to begin turning those numbers around.

But because just the word itself carries such a heavy negative load, women don’t perceive negotiation to be transformative. And even if they do learn the strategies and tactics of interest-based negotiation, they don't believe they'll use what they learn. Yet in our experience teaching women, once the fundamental skills of interest-based negotiation are learned, everything changes.

Regardless of your gender, if you're going to learn to "seize the accomplishment," you need to be comfortable with both aspects of negotiation: offering AND counter-offering. Knowing how to define the value of what's being negotiated is key. If you know what "it" is worth (whether "it" is a software contract, a resource, or project requirements), then you are better prepared to negotiate for what you want.

Me? Well, let's just say I'm cured of my desire to hold another garage sale ANYTIME in the foreseeable future.

What's That Scratching Noise?

Scratching_door I've noticed over my few years of blogging that readership tends to taper off over the summer months. That's a good thing for me, because I've been a tad busy with Mom's estate and just generally catching up on life here at home.

Spending time out at Mom's house has allowed me to see my childhood home in a new light. A lot of the furniture has left and all of the knick-knacks have departed to new homes. The house is down to bare bones in many ways, in anticipation of its next occupants (my sister and her husband). This sparse decor has revealed some reminders of my past.

When I was a young lad (yes, I was a child at one point in my life), we had a dog named Sam (short for Samantha, but that's another story). Sam was the canine version of the "wild woman of the world" (she showed up pregnant and gave birth to puppies soon after her arrival). While she liked being fed and loved, she longed for the outside world and would bolt around the neighborhood whenever possible; she always returned though.

During days of inclement weather, we would bring her inside. Because she shed her body weight in fur, Mom insisted she be kept down in the laundry room (which was actually a rather spacious room, housing the second bath). It was here in this room that I noticed scratch marks on and around the door. Sam wanted out.

Sam's been gone almost a quarter of a century, but the scratch marks remain. I wonder how many of us still have scratch marks inside of us. Dreams, ambitions, goals, true identity, potential accomplishments. Things we shut up because we didn't want them to get out and run around the neighborhood. Things we shut up because we thought we were protecting them from the harsh elements. Things we shut up because we were afraid somebody else would take them. Funny thing about dreams and goals... they don't like to be shut up any more than Sam did. So they started scratching. And they left marks deep in the basement of our souls.

Something to think about for a Friday: what left scratch marks in you? Why did you shut them up? Be honest with this next one: is it still too late to open the door and let those dreams out to run?

Carpe Factum!

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