This past week was a disturbing start to a highly anticipated 2021. The last time the U.S. Capitol succumbed to such a large-scale insurrection occurred during the War of 1812. There are still lots of questions to be answered regarding how this happened, and the debates around it will no doubt be endless. What’s not debatable is that this kind of behavior undermines a peaceful transition of power — a cornerstone of our democracy. It’s also a cornerstone of how most business gets done, but with every transition of power or relationship, things can go awry.
Recently, we won a new piece of business with a great organization that we’ve been talking to for more than a year. We worked primarily with one point of contact during the entire process. We got to know him and were able to build a nice rapport and trust. Throughout the process, he introduced us to others in his organization, including his boss, but he was our primary contact. Shortly after going through the contracting procedure and closing the deal, we learned that he was leaving the company. At no point had he let on that he might be leaving, so it came as quite a surprise. Upon his exit, he let us know that we would have a new contact and wished us luck!
In business, transitions of power can be unnerving, as they can create a lot of uncertainty. They’re even worse when they occur in the middle of a negotiation or shortly thereafter. We’ve all been in that situation at some point in our careers. Like you, we’ve seen transitions go well and we’ve seen them go very poorly. When you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to go beyond the obvious actions of connecting and establishing rapport, and do these three things to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
- Calibrate and level-set. The new person you’re now dealing with may or may not know everything that’s gone on up to the point at which they took over. Take the opportunity to learn what they know and share what’s transpired, so that you both are working from the same new starting point. Through that process, you may be surprised to learn things that the previous contact never shared.
- Test assumptions — yours and theirs. Uncertainty is laden with assumptions. The less information we have, the more we fill in the gaps with our own suppositions — and we usually assume the worst. Before you go too far down the rabbit hole, ask questions to validate (or invalidate) your thinking. This will help you to avoid embarrassing or costly incorrect assumptions.
- Align on the finish line. As new people get involved in a negotiation or project, there’s a chance that outcomes and goals may change. Even as we calibrate and test assumptions, it’s important that everyone is heading in the same direction. Therefore, align on the desired outcomes in order to avoid wasting time and experiencing other frustrations.
It can be as simple as that. Having said that, we recognize that not all transitions are easy. But delineating the starting point, testing assumptions, and defining the finish line will set up a more successful transition every time.
As for our new client, we followed our process and it was enlightening. Not only do we like our new contact, but our new contact brought a broader perspective and a greater level of understanding to the table, which is really benefiting the relationship.
Now, if we can only get our country’s leaders to become more enlightened . . . Here’s to a better trajectory for 2021.
We Can Help to Ensure as Smooth a Transition as Possible
Has a transition of power created a lot of uncertainty in your negotiations, threatening to weaken relationships and even undermine a promising deal? We can help! Drawing on 45 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.