12570 Mike Kennedy: Book Review – Negotiating So Everyone Wins

 

Book Review: Negotiating So Everyone Wins

By the Honourable David Dingwall

Published by James Lorimer and Company

336 pp. $29.95

“Though the book does not include any interviews with serving or former military officers, it nevertheless deserves to be treated as required reading for any CF professional who may be called upon to lead troops into harm’s way. As we have seen, both from decades of peacekeeping and more recently from the war in Afghanistan, military leaders are increasingly being called upon to conduct sensitive negotiations in very difficult situations, where the price of failure can frequently involve violence and bloodshed. Effective application of the principles and guidelines outlined in this book can save lives, both those of Canadian soldiers, as well as the lives of those we are in business to protect.

Review by 12570 Mike Kennedy

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The ability to negotiate successful agreements with skill, confidence, and integrity has always been an indispensible component of any effective leader’s toolkit. This is a truism which has been illustrated time and again throughout pivotal chapters in Canadian and world history. In the War of 1812, the alliance General Sir Isaac Brock forged with the aboriginal leader Tecumseh was critical to staving off an invasion by the Americans that might otherwise have conquered Upper Canada. Nearly 150 years later, the Suez Crises of 1956 was defused in large part by Lester Pearson’s ability to rapidly cobble together the United Nations Emergency Force, consisting of troops drawn from no less than eleven different countries. It was an act that later made Pearson the only Canadian who would ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Negotiation in matters both large and small is an essential part of everyday life, but even so it is a skill for which few of us seem to be naturally born. In Negotiating So Everyone Wins, Toronto lawyer and former Federal Cabinet Minister David Dingwall offers a comprehensive guidebook to the lessons he’s learned about how to negotiate effectively. The book draws heavily on Dingwall’s own extensive experiences gained through many years spent on the frontlines of handling complex and difficult political and business challenges. Much like a combat veteran, Dingwall has survived numerous very difficult situations that would no doubt give many a lesser man pause. He discusses his own successes and setbacks with a refreshing candour, and makes it clear that he’s a firm believer that at the end of the day, the only negotiations that are truly successful are those that lead to outcomes that work for all parties involved.

Dingwall’s own life story is a compelling testimonial to the importance of perseverance, resourcefulness, and a seemingly never-ending desire to grow and learn. The son of janitor, Dingwall was raised in a school basement in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Notwithstanding his very humble start in life, his ambition and drive fuelled a meteoric rise to prominence on the Canadian political scene. After earning his law degree, Dingwall was elected to Parliament in 1980 at just 27 years of age, and would eventually serve as an MP for more than 17 years. After Jean Chretien’s Liberals surged to power in the 1993 election, Dingwall’s talents were quickly recognized through a succession of senior Cabinet portfolios, where he served as the point man on a number of Ottawa’s most difficult and sensitive files. Following a narrow defeat at the polls in 1997, he returned to private life through assignments that included a stint as CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint, and now practicing law at one of downtown Toronto’s most prestigious firms.

Negotiating So Everyone Wins breaks the process down into component parts that illustrate both fundamental elements of successful negotiation, as well as a wide variety of the finer points of the game. The underlying message that resonates throughout the book is that effective negotiation is an exercise that requires a tremendous amount of focus, patience, and discipline. What struck me reading this book is, in a great many ways, the qualities that define an effective negotiation are remarkably similar to those of a military sniper. Just as the act of pulling the trigger and making the kill represents the culmination of the sniper’s craft, so too does the act of finalizing the agreement the negotiator has hammered out. In reality, it is all of the things that lead up to that moment in time that make the difference between success and failure. Much as the sniper must exercise seemingly infinite patience, frequently in the midst of arduous circumstances, so too must the negotiator be willing to demonstrate forbearance and restraint, often in the face of very difficult and unpleasant circumstances, in order to achieve success.

So what makes for a successful negotiation? At the outset, thorough and frequently exhaustive preparation is key. Prior to entering into any negotiation situation, it is essential to have a masterful grasp of the relevant facts that are involved. Equally important is the need to have a clear picture of the desired outcome, map out options and assess potential contingencies, and know very clearly what you are willing to concede, and what you will not.

Similarly, Dingwall makes the point that it is also vitally important to approach negotiations with the proper frame of mind. For example, an individual who is composed and well-rested will undoubtedly be capable of negotiating effectively than will someone who is exhausted or feeling undue stress. Another important requirement relates to the need to project a highly professional demeanour at all times, as reflected in one’s dress, language, and mannerisms. Someone who comes across as being competent, poised, and mature is far more likely to command respect from the other side, and accordingly will be much better able to navigate the rocks and shoals of difficult and emotionally-charged negotiations.

And when you get right down to it, Dingwall makes it clear that there is no substitute for sincerity, integrity, the willingness to listen, and the genuine desire to work towards an agreement that will serve everyone’s best interests. All too often, negotiation tends to be characterized as being a game of hardball, one in which victory can inevitably be achieved only at someone else’s expense. In reality, as Dingwall emphasizes, this is a misguided and dangerous way to view the process. Negotiations are successful only to the extent that they result in agreements that both parties can live with, and this is an outcome that can be achieved only through respect, trust, and collaborative effort. Threats, insults, bullying, emotional outbursts and the like may often appear to be temptingly convenient, but they have absolutely no place in the process of professional negotiation.

Throughout the book, Dingwall vary capably illustrates the key points he makes by recounting not only his own experiences, but also those of other prominent leaders with whom he has crossed paths over the years. Within these pages you’ll find wisdom and insights gleaned from such prominent Canadians as Ed Clark, former CEO of the Toronto Dominion Bank; Buzz Hargrove, former President of the Canadian Auto Workers Union; David Peterson, former Premier of Ontario, and Anne Golden, former CEO of the Conference Board of Canada. At the end of every chapter, Dingwall concisely summarizes the principal subject matter through a checklist of key “Takeaways” that highlight essential points to remember.

As an overall assessment, Negotiating So Everyone Wins is a compelling and highly readable book that does a superb job of addressing the topic. Though the book does not include any interviews with serving or former military officers, it nevertheless deserves to be treated as required reading for any CF professional who may be called upon to lead troops into harm’s way. As we have seen, both from decades of peacekeeping and more recently from the war in Afghanistan, military leaders are increasingly being called upon to conduct sensitive negotiations in very difficult situations, where the price of failure can frequently involve violence and bloodshed. Effective application of the principles and guidelines outlined in this book can save lives, both those of Canadian soldiers, as well as the lives of those we are in business to protect.

Negotiating So Everyone Wins is highly recommended for any Ex-Cadet or CF professional who has a serious interest in the topic. Using lessons gained from a lifetime of experience, David Dingwall has crafted a fascinating and valuable book whose principles are timeless, and one that will no doubt remain relevant for many years to come.