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Today I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the Business Renaissance Institute (www.bri-usa.com), whose mission is to “transform workplaces by adding more humanity to the bottom line.” Among the approximately 30 attendees, all but two or three had PhD following their names;  this is a group of highly educated, evolved and successful people who want to make a difference.  The topic under discussion was From Me to Wenot coincidentally, the title of a new book written by three  BRI members/founders, each of whom spoke briefly about it.

I want to share an anecdote from Dr. Richard King, whose numerous and impressive credentials include a three-year stint as CEO of the Birtcher Corporation;  he was hired to turn that organization around.  Upon assuming his new position, Dr. King met individually with the six people directly under him and asked them these three questions:

  1. Are you happy working here?
  2. Why aren’t you happy working here?
  3. What can you contribute to this organization?

After these meetings, Dr. King and his team were able to effect the changes necessary to turn the Birtcher Corporation around.

As arts aficionados and practitioners, we should be living BRI’s mission to add more humanity to the bottom line every day.  Our product is the humanities.   But product notwithstanding, sometimes the day-to-day challenges of creating and delivering that product can cause us to lose sight of humanity in the workplace:  people don’t always agree, issues at home may make us cranky, and so forth.  Dr. King’s three questions could go a long way toward restoring a happy, collaborative and creative environment at work;  the kind of environment that fosters artistic output.

What does this have to do with negotiation?

1. You may not be able to let everyone have their own way, but you can hear them out and acknowledge their feelings.  Sometimes that alone is sufficient validation to elicit a more collaborative attitude.

2. By asking someone what s/he can contribute to the project or organization, you re-kindle his/her commitment. Committed people can do amazing things.  Conversely, if someone is not committed to an agreement, they will later find reasons to back out.

3. The answers to those three questions may give you new perspective and new ideas, as well.

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