Back in the sixties, Leslie Gore, an American pop singer, recorded the hit Don't call me, I'll call you, a song with a provocative lyric, a rather paranoid response in song to the pressures of Pop stardom. Those were the golden days of Hollywood superstars and beautiful singers. The melodic expression tuned by an astonishing gorgeous blond girl was not very successful because the words were considered rude. It worries me that recently; some executives and entrepreneurs are using this expression as a motto.
Last week I was in a meeting with the owner of a technological company —a young, successful executive who started the business about six years ago— and told me about his worries. He was concerned because his firm’s performance was dropping down as fast as it went up some years ago. The situation was hard: sales were decreasing, his original suppliers did not work with him anymore, and the new ones were not efficient enough. Furthermore, some of his best executives had left the company, and he knew it was not a matter of salary because he paid extremely well. I could tell how difficult it was for him to talk about the problems, but as soon as he finished his speech, he turned to me and said: “Send me your best budget, and please, do the best you can. And by the way, don't call me, I'll call you.” He looked up at me with a big smile, feeling so proud about his negotiation.
Some entrepreneurs do not understand the meaning and the rules for negotiation. They make big mistakes without even noticing. Unexperienced executives feel proud about the way they end their meetings or conversations and the reality is that they are on the way of closing, not a negotiation, but their business. Ending with the words “Don't call me, I 'll call you” is the worst they can do, yet it is becoming a fashion to do so. Why?
There are some executives that feel the power when they take control of the communication process. There is a thrill when they say the last word, or when they are the ones that regulate the rhythm of the negotiation altogether. They have the impression that by doing this, they are in command. But, what they do not realize is that they are closing the communication channel. So, bad news, those are not good skills.
Negotiation is a social activity that searches for agreements, not for impositions. It is the pearl of the communication method because it is a complicated process. It involves the will of two or more parties that wish to achieve the same goal at the same time. The good news in negotiation is that everybody wants to get to an identical place. It is the maximum category on the communicative theories due to the complexity. Each party has to prove superior skills and abilities in order to understand the others and make their own ideas comprehensible for the other team. It has to have clear proposals and specific objectives. By doing this, goals are achieved more easily. The secret for a good negotiation is to achieve a benefit that is good for every party involved.
If one party is not happy with the results of the negotiation, problems will appear sooner or later. The best results are reached when everybody is satisfied, and that is the difficult part when people do not get it. A negotiation is not some sort of competition or war, nor is it a contest in which one is the winner and the other is the loser. Negotiation is a process in which every party has to be a winner.
Surprisingly, most people get confused and instead of negotiating, they bargain. There are a lot of executives that believe that the only variable that exists is the price. They do everything they have in their power to pay less, and sometimes they take aspects to limits in which the other party is taken to an uncomfortable zone. They are not able to see that their business is being compromised because nobody likes to lose. With this, quality may be endangered, or quantity may vary, or the product may diverge, or there is a high possibility that that will be the last time that you will be dealing in the business ground with that person.
To close a good negotiation there has to be goodwill from every party, empathy and understanding. Everyone involved in negotiating has to walk at the same pace and rhythm. If someone slows down or runs faster, the others have to point that out and recover the pulse. Communication channels have to remain open during the negotiation. Closing the communicative windows may derive in serious problems that may kill the process.
A good negotiation takes time. Each negotiating team must have a period to study and make a proposal. Then they need a phase to fully understand the plan and maybe gather together in order to make precisions and adjustments. A “Don't call me, I'll call you” attitude cancels the possibilities of leading to good grounds.
Egos are not welcome in serious negotiations. Egomaniacs are not good negotiators because no matter what they say or feel, their tactics are over anyone else’s. The truth is: that is a sad mistake. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common problems in the field, especially when speaking to successful entrepreneurs. Some executives feel they do not have time to lose. They think the time is money. Unfortunately, in the negotiating territory, if you do not give the needed time to get to a deal, it may cost much more in the long run.
If a boss does not have time to negotiate, he has to delegate it to someone who does. This activity needs time, patience and perseverance. “Don't call me, I'll call you” does not gather the correct attitude. Instead of grounding certainty and goodwill, it is seeding the opposite conviction.
I wonder if that is why “Don't call me, I'll call you” was not Leslie Gore's greatest hit.