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Another fine mess!

Published: Jan 17 , 2019
Author: Alan Smith

Ever found yourself in that nightmare scenario when you are in front of another party in a negotiation and the partner you have taken with you to the meeting seems to have gone off track, starts revealing new information, giving in on things you had both agreed before the negotiation, being conciliatory when they should have been tough or tough when they should have been conciliatory.

Even worse, the other side have picked up on this and have started to focus on your colleague, even though you had agreed to lead the negotiation?

A lot of this can be solved through being thoroughly prepared for the negotiation and having a clear plan, but it can be tough in the real world when your partner (who may even be your boss!) starts to go rogue.

If you have seen the fantastic movie, Stan and Ollie, you can see just how easy it can be to go off track, and how in the case of Laurel and Hardy it can set the tone for the rest of your life.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were at the height of their powers making successful films for the legendary producer Hal Roach. Roach was born in 1892 in New York. After a tough life working as a mule skinner, wrangler and gold prospector, among other things, he wound up in Hollywood and began picking up jobs as an extra in comedies. By all accounts, including his own, he was a terrible actor, but he saw a future in the movie business and in producing movies particularly comedies.

His relationship as the producer for Laurel and Hardy was very much on his terms. He paid the two stars (superstars as they would be today) a salary which meant that despite their success they remained relatively poor taking no share of the box office which frankly is how most successful actors today make the big money, but was pretty rare in those days.

The other clever move was to keep Laurel and Hardy on separate and unsynchronized contracts. When Stan’s contract came up for renewal Stan and Ollie agreed to ask for changes which Roach refused, Ollie then did not stick to their plan and carried on making films for Roche without Stan which partly caused the pair to fall out of favor and both to lose out.

On screen, Hardy was the father-figure to the more innocent Stan but off-screen their personalities were very different, with Laurel being the more serious professional. While Hardy was happy leaving his work behind when he left the set to go gambling or play golf, Laurel was a workaholic, refining scripts and film-takes long into the night.

These differences did not help them as a team, Roach seemed to be able to pull them apart despite their obvious respect, admiration and indeed love for each other.

What’s the answer to these challenges? Well if you find yourself unable to control your colleague despite all the preparation and practice you can afford, and that taking time out during the meeting to get it back on track still doesn’t work. Then my advice is to not take them with you. Take someone else or just do it yourself with their authority.

For Ollie maybe he would have been able to maintain the partnership with Stan more profitably by breaking it for the negotiation. It certainly got them into a mess by them doing it together.


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Alan Smith
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