For God’s Sake, Think About Others!

Prince Humphrey's Castle in Avonblechshire-upon-Stoakley

This is the story of Prince Humphrey.

Once upon a time in the fair Kingdom of Avonblechshire-upon-Stoakley there lived a handsome prince named Humphrey. He was a very well meaning chap, and very happy-go-lucky. On his days off, he often frolicked in the Fields of Tralagagme chasing butterflies and writing rancid poetry. When he felt good, he often stopped passers-by to read his poems to them, oblivious of their trapped-doe eyes and too-frequent glances at the town clock. When he felt bad, however, he was a curmudgeon.

Prince Humphrey's Castle in Avonblechshire-upon-StoakleyNow, the Avonblechshire-upon-Stoakley community was very interested in competing in larger markets and absorbing a more intricate risk portfolio. So in addition to his Princely duties, Humphrey took a side job as a commodities trader.

Initially, his firm was very pleased with his solid work ethic. Humphrey spent hours on his Reuters Dealing terminal monitoring conversations. He brought his Apple iPad to the bathroom and researched wonderful new Economic Derivatives that could bring his workplace fabulous wealth. The effort he put in was tremendous. There was just one small problem.

Prince Humphrey’s people skills were an unmitigated disaster.

He couldn’t understand that, of course–the people who heard his poetry in the street always seemed so rapt. And because he was a Prince, many people would stop him in the Avonblechshire-upon-Stoakley Piggly Wiggly to offer him good tidings. From his perspective, everyone loved him, and he knew he worked very hard. Anyone who thought otherwise was clearly laboring under a misconception.

The problem came to a head when Humphrey’s firm asked him to distribute dividends to five of their largest global clients. The firm told Humphrey to fly the customers into the French city of Jai-Ratte-La-Tete, divide the dividends equally five ways, and present each client with a cheque. For his efforts, the firm would reimburse Humphrey all costs for the event, and pay him a percentage of the total transaction. Humphrey had his assistant draw up a detailed itemization of all the expenses associated with the event, and an explanation of the fee structure for the firm’s customers. There was no way this could go badly.

Except Humphrey, as you may have noticed by now, was not exactly in tune with other people’s wants or needs.

As the day of the event arrived, Prince Humphrey went to his meeting. He proudly walked up to the podium before the smiling faces of the already-assembled clients. Instead of congratulating them on their earnings, and focusing his presentation on their rewards, he blurted out, “I get a cut of all this money and after expenses, you guys can have whatever’s left! Hooray for ME!”

One by one the smiles fell from the bewildered faces of the clientele. Poor Humphrey knew something had gone wrong. For the life of him, though, he couldn’t understand why the meeting participants looked so upset. Emperor Takanakanakanawa in particular stared very angrily at Humphrey and pulled a Blackberry from his pocket.

Shortly thereafter, the firm sent Prince Humphrey a text telling him he was fired, and the FED was on their way to take him to prison for being a schmuck.

The moral of this story, besides the fact that Kingdoms should never expose themselves to unfamiliar risk without an adequate hedge, might be this:

Negotiations.
Are Never.
About You.

This blog post was brought to you by the “I Wanna Wring Someone’s Neck” Society.

I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • Ty Kiisel

    Geoff,

    Just received your post in my email inbox. Wow… what can I say, this is a great post. I don’t think it matters whether or not we are project managers, stakeholders or individual contributors on a project team—our day is filled with negotiations. This is great advice. Negotiations are never about you.

    —Ty

  • Elizabeth

    Oh dear, Geoff. What happened to make you write this? It sounds like you are speaking from experience of a bad negotiation situation!

  • Hehe yah sorry to inflict the world with my own personal therapy. LOL

    Someone I love very dearly handled some negotiations recently with someone else I love very dearly and just…completely messed it up. I’m still not 100% certain what was said but the bad feelings, hurt and hostilities on both sides are now pretty extreme. All from one conversation where facts were not accurately transmitted.

    I’m playing tag between them and trying to correct the misunderstandings but geez it’s an awful mess.

    I plan to write a more “soothing” piece in the next few days about basic negotiation rules, and steps new negotiators can take to make sure a) information is transmitted accurately and b) someone selling something can get what they want.

    Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth! 🙂

  • Thank you very much, my friend! 🙂 I plan to write a less…angry…piece shortly that offers specific negotiation techniques. 🙂

  • Rick Valerga

    Hey Geoff, I hope that you’re able to smooth things out. Thanks for the analogy and the reminder.

  • Hehe time heals all wounds. Even if I can’t. LOL We’re getting there! 🙂

  • Pingback: Negotiation is Never About You! Part 1 « Papercut Edge()

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