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Building Successful Trading Relationships

November 10, 2010

We have a choice in how we manage our relationships. We can focus on what divides us, and seek to protect ourselves. Or we can work towards reconciling differences, finding ways to work within them towards some shared goals or visions.

That sentiment was the essence of Barack Obama’s speech in Indonesia this week – and it is a critical message for those who seek to negotiate and manage trading relationships. President Obama empahsized the growing interdependency that we all have on harmonious relationships. Of course there will be disagreements, and we must create structures within which to manage those. But if we focus only on the negative, we make the divisions and conflict almost inevitable.

“Gone are the days when seven or eight countries could come together to determine the direction of global markets,” he observed, in another principle that is important for all corporations and negotiators to remember.  “Our world has grown smaller and while those forces that connect us have unleashed opportunity, they also empower those who seek to derail progress. One bomb in a marketplace can obliterate the bustle of daily commerce. One whispered rumour can obscure the truth, and set off violence between communities that once lived in peace. In an age of rapid change and colliding cultures, what we share as human beings can be lost.”

Trading relationships are potential sources of growing unity, or of division. The benefits of trade drove the growth of inter-tribal behavior; yet disputes over trade – and relative economic wealth – have also been the source of most human conflict.

For those in the world of contracts and negotiations, we have a choice regarding whether we start with assumptions of bad faith and lack of trust, or whether we seek a path of collaboration and mutual benefit. Many negotiations and trading relationships today appear to follow the former route. Our anonymity, shielded by electronic tools and systems, has doubtless worsened that situation.

If we wish to excel in the value we bring to our business, we must challenge our assumptions and be ready to ‘think the opposite’. A good start is to focus less on what divides us and more on what may potentially unite us – a shared vision, rather than an assumed apocolypse.

One Comment
  1. well said Tim!! I can’t figure out why so many of us agree that the “adversarial” model is dead, but so few of us have changed our behaviour!!

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