Negotiating Brexit: a test of wills and skills

Great Britain is about to undertake its most important negotiation in decades.  Our government will negotiate the terms on which we leave the EU.  A number of factors will determine the outcome, and at this stage it’s impossible to predict the deal that will be struck, in attaining access to the single market while controlling the free flow of immigration.

The result of a negotiation is partly influenced by power and leverage.  But negotiating successfully requires both parties to creatively seek a win-win outcome that enhances or at least protects their relationship.  Clearly, this is vital in the case of Brexit.  We saw a lot of posturing during the referendum campaign from Brexiter politicians.  They argued that Brussels will want to cut a favourable deal, due to the value of EU exports to the UK.  We have since seen posturing from EU leaders, who have indicated that Britain will only gain full access to the single market, if it allows freedom of movement.  Politicians are of course well known for posturing with promises and threats.  This is not helpful.  Taking positions in advance of or during negotiations can create big obstacles, especially when multiple players are involved.  

Britain and the EU will need very skilled negotiators to achieve the right outcome for all parties.  What does a skilled negotiator look like?  A skilled negotiator is first and foremost a creative problem-solver.  A skilled negotiator knows how to assess the interests of each party.  A skilled negotiator knows how to create options and arrange them into the right package.  A skilled negotiator knows how to influence the zone of possible agreement and where to set their red lines.  A skilled negotiator knows what information should be exchanged and when.  A skilled negotiator knows how to approach and conduct the bargaining phase of a negotiation.  A skilled negotiator knows how to get around obstacles and difficult people.  Finally, a skilled negotiator will know how and when to close the deal.

You may not be charged with negotiating our Brexit, but your approach to your negotiations over small and large matters, has a profound affect for your personal and business life. If you would like to improve your negotiation skills and those of others in your business, contact me to find out more about Grow the Top Line's 'Negotiating Success’ programme.  We tailor our programme to our clients so their people acquire the skills, knowledge and confidence to effectively negotiate in their business situations.  Participants learn models and undertake negotiation simulations receiving observation and coaching based on tailored, relevant case studies.  The programme is co-delivered by two coaches - Marco and Ian Smith of Grow the Top Line. Identical twins, Marco is a business growth expert and Ian is a leading commercial barrister. Our unique combination makes for a cutting edge programme.

Finally, if you are interested in reading more on the subject, here is a very interesting article by the Harvard Business Review, called 'How to Negotiate with a Liar'.  Given the nature of the referendum debate, this might be an especially useful read for our politicians!