The Most Dangerous Negotiator Is You

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Surprise article. My wife is now a week past due with our first child. 

On the one hand, I’m eager to jump into my role as an attentive father and loving husband—I’m ready to get my hands dirty. 

On the other hand, I’m grateful for the unexpected solace. 

This last week produced three executive offers for my clients. And we’re deep in negotiations. We’ll win a multi-six-figure annual improvement and break our first seven-figure improvement of 2023. 

What may surprise you is that big signing and retention bonuses, accelerated RSU vests, and severance agreements are still on the table. 

If you focus too much on the layoff racket or flaccid opinions of fly-by-night career coaches on LinkedIn—you may scratch your head in doubt.  

How can this be? 

2023 Economic Meltdown

Rightsizing is rampant—and despite the CEO of Redfin blowing self-interested smoke up your ass about the housing market improving from the bottom—the lagging indicators of capitalistic greed will rip the super bubble apart. 

Dig into FRED economic research, and you’ll notice a disturbing trend. 

  • We have the lowest levels of savings in over 50 years. 
  • We have the highest levels of debt ever.
  • The GDP is growing (from Government spending—while housing and big-ticket purchases are in decline). 

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to predict human nature on what comes next. It’s also a safe bet that you should be highly suspect of whatever bullshit any POTUS is saying about the state of things. But enough fear-mongering. 

I easily fluster when cognitive dissonance is eternally repeated by those that have no idea what’s going on. 

While much of the market is panicked and insecure—leading executives are calm. The wartime CEO is a reality that we embrace and relish. And the getting is good right now. 

Yes, companies use the economy as an excuse to trim the fat. But in the same breath, they’ll make big-time investments and up-level their talent. They had the financial coffers to retain their staff but used the money elsewhere. 

Don’t be surprised. Fortunes grow in recession, not bull markets. It’s not like you’re discovering a new character trait about big companies. You just fell for the woke-place culture bullshit they fed you. Or you simply had wishful thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice?

Either way, a dose of reality is a welcome remedy for those motivated to do something about it. There is a sizable opportunity if you resist the appeal of pity party mode. 

Some executives are winning big and cleaning up. Investors are too. Pay attention. Yes, substantial roles are still out there. But you don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.  

So let’s make a deal.

Don’t Play The Fool

I have fielded hundreds of questions lately in the vein of, “Can I really get that in this market?” or “Is now a good time to leave?” or “I’m expecting less because…” 

Stop!

I’m going to sound like an asshole. But whatever, you’ve been warned. 

If you ask questions like “Can I do this?” You lose.

Your mindset is wrong—and the longer your mindset is wrong, the more you lose. Conversely, a fix in your perspective will compound considerable returns over your career. 

So pay heed; the following can be the difference of millions of dollars for many—or between being happy or complacent throughout your life. The stakes are real.

Get Your Mindset Right 

Your career is not permission-based: “CAN I?”

Your career is action-based: “HOW CAN I?”

Example 1. 

“Is now a good time to leave?”

Should be:

“How can I make a smart move right now?”  

Example 2. 

“I’m going to wait this market out.”

Should be:

“How do I make the most of the market today?”

Example 3.

“I have a red flag about this company for X, Y, and Z reasons.” 

Should be:

“How can I negotiate these red flags and solve the problem?”

Example 4. 

“There are too many areas in this job offer where we are misaligned.”

Should be: 

“How do I create a new offer that meets my terms and needs—and make it their idea?”

What I’ve found is that most executives suck eggs at negotiation. That’s fine; we can fix that and train for skill deficiency. Plus, it keeps me employed. 

But what’s much worse is that most executives are extraordinarily good at negotiating against themselves. 

Stop limiting your thinking to what most people tell you to be true. Most people are mediocre—and the average, the constant drumming of cluttered noise—isn’t going to work for standout executives.

I did a poll a few months back on LinkedIn, and 77% of people would immediately give their salary requirements when asked (thus vaporizing most of their leverage in the blink of an eye). Many of these respondents were CAREER COACHES AND CSUITE EXECUTIVES. 

Not everything is what it purports to be. Be careful where you make your bets. Sigh… There I go being bitchy again. 

Negotiation No-No

I suspect that you can study the nuances of negotiation your entire life and still get your ass kicked when you meet your match. That may be why negotiation is so compelling to me. It’s never finished. 

In my experience, most executives fail at negotiation because they: 

  1. Never do it. 
  2. Think it’s manipulative or dirty.
  3. Are afraid.
  4. Think it’s an event, not a process. (This mistake costs them 6 to 7 figures in career earnings—and sometimes that much in a single year.)
  5. Rush the process; act with haste.
  6. Think there are rules. (There are no rules — only principles.)
  7. Need the job more than the job needs them.
  8. Are not differentiated, are easily replaceable, and haven’t created distance from their competition.

If you fall into the camp above—you’re likely negotiating with yourself and limiting the potential in your life. 

One observation I’ve had about the executives that get what they want is that they have the most alternatives to the opportunities they have.  

They can say no anytime, but they still invest time in seeing every compelling opportunity to fruition. They don’t spill the beans about how much power or leverage they have—rather, they calculate and control the pace of information to their counterparts (and constituents) across time. 

In short—they’re often the ones who care the least about whether a deal meets their needs—because they simply won’t take a deal that misses the mark. They think more creatively and work with their counterparts to create new ways of reaching a desirable agreement.   

They are content with what they have—and will only be coaxed if the deal is right for them. 

Alright, I’ve waxed about negotiation plenty, and there is undoubtedly a lot to unpack. It will have to wait until post-baby W—cause now Mary needs me to make dinner, and this article got away from me again.

I’ll leave you with a simple framework to consider when facing any conversation courtesy of my good friend and brilliant negotiator, Susie Tomenchok. (I recommend messaging her with a thumbs up or high five- tell her the GOAT 🐐 sent you).

Susie says: 

“You will create the best outcomes by approaching every situation with P.A.C.E. in mind.

Prepare – consider your frame, approach, and best possible result.
Aware – pay attention to the other party’s responses and how you can guide them toward the ultimate goal.
Close – move toward agreement and be open to reiterating and documenting agreements.
Evaluate – take time to consider what worked well with you and the best next steps to increase your skill or future investment in the relationship.

When you implement the framework daily, you build muscle memory to apply it regularly and intentionally when the stakes are high.” 

The acronym PACE is a natural aha moment for me—and with Susie’s permission, I will continue researching the impact of its structure.  

PACE is brilliant because your three levers of negotiation are INFORMATION, TIME, and POWER, and you must orchestrate the pace of how you use them to be effective. 

Executives that master the PACE of how they collect and share information over time while using their power are the ones that create limitless careers and endless opportunities.

Or it’s just the executives that call me or Susie. You decide. 😉

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