Tip of the Month: May 2019
Don’t Take Any Advice – Including Ours – to Extremes
We offer a lot of tips for negotiators. Perhaps the most important is: don’t take our tips to extremes – doing things in moderation is often better than pressing to the limit.
Many good ideas can be taken too far. Consider the recent rash of books advising firms to give frequent feedback, such as Kim Scott’s *Radical Candor* or Ray Dalio’s *Principles*. The mantra is that firms are too polite, that people need to be told how to improve. In the April *Harvard Business Review*, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall preview their forthcoming book arguing the limits to feedback.
They say: focus on strengths not weaknesses. Many people – especially many millennials – want positive affirmation, not advice. They crave attention, not criticism. Sure, give them facts, tell them “that didn’t work” – but don’t tell them what they should be doing differently. In part that is because most of us are terrible at rating what it is that makes others effective: much feedback is flat wrong.
And also, each person is unique. Buckingham and Goddall argue there are no universal attributes of successful people; how each person reaches the goal depends on who they are. They counsel that we should value each person for their unique strengths.
We don’t know who is right in this debate. But our strong suspicion is that both sides make valid points about the problems that come from pushing any strategy to extremes. We are humble enough to know that many of the suggestions we put forward make sense in some circumstances but not in others.
After all, the whole premise of our company is that negotiators have to be creative at evaluating each situation because what works in some business relationships (like a simple haggling over a one-time purchase) is not what makes for success in other relationships (like a long-term sole-source contract).