Negotiation Mastery Blog

Can We Have Some New Leaders Please?

Or: “A primer on how not to negotiate”

Looking back on 2011, the negotiation story of the year has, of course, been the Eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, it will probably be the story of next year too. It is a pretty tough nut to crack, I have to admit; if I was in charge of Europe, I’d even find it a challenge myself.

It’s the perfect storm: the European ship fighting through the force of nature that is the market, with money pouring out of unpluggable holes, only to find that the ship simply wasn’t designed for such seas at all. No wonder it is listing so heavily and looks, for all the world, it is going to sink anytime soon.

And I’m afraid the captains and the crew don’t seem to have a clue what to do; in fact, I think they are a large part of the problem.

Cameron’s accidental coup

Let’s look at Europe’s finest, let’s take them one by one and look at their wonderful negotiating skills in practice, starting with David Cameron and his amazing blunder last week.

Almost certainly, the 26-to-1 result was an accident, Cameron expecting last minute concessions that were not to materialise. A good outcome or bad, and whatever its impact, it was a mistake that he now has to make the most of.

How to turn a problem into a disaster in 6 easy summit meetings

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, of course, were the culprits who refused to budge on what were fairly small demands. Merkel has bull-dozed her way through every meeting in the last 6 months, not giving an inch. As the political and economic world clamours for the European Central Bank to be let loose on the problem to solve it once and for all, she prefers to listen to her electorate and keep the Bank tightly reined in.

As a result, a problem slips into a crisis and the crisis into a catastrophe. We lurch from one summit meeting to another, and the crisis only ever deepens. A necrosis (Greek word, that) spreading from country to country; an economic car-crash unravelling in slow motion.

Nicolas Sarkozy, of course, has had to bear most of the brunt of Merkel’s smug unbudgeability (Greek word, that, too. Well…) but he seems to have learnt from her and dealt Cameron the same “They shall not pass” treatment that he has received for most of the year.

Let’s negotiate like we used to in the playground

Nor has Sarkozy been guilt-free in the ensuing war of words between the countries. Whilst most of the mud-slinging has come from his senior ministers, Sarkozy calling Cameron “an obstinate kid” sparked it all off and his (and his party’s) standing in the polls seem to have benefitted quite nicely (and with an election due this spring…oh, I’m sure that’s not connected at all).

Great to see everyone is focussed on the problem at hand and behaving like grown-ups!

Let’s move further afield: Italy, Berlusconi…ok, let’s move quickly further afield still!

Papandreou, the guy should be strung up! Criminal! What was going on his head when he demanded a referendum straight after being gifted a bail-out by his fellow Europeans? One of the most shocking diplomatic moments I have ever witnessed.

Europe’s finest – oh, it makes you proud!

Sadly, this has been a primer on how not to negotiate. Successful negotiators know that the key is always to create extra value; depressingly, in these talks, we have seen so much value disappear before our eyes, to everyone’s cost, and how much more is to follow?

On a brighter note, it is Christmas next week, and I think I will write on something more cheery! I think I will need to!