This was initially from a negotiation session but applies to every interaction that we have in our lives: you have an advantage if you know something unknown or uncertain to the person dealing with you. Sounds too simple? In each of actions in our lives, as a team-member, parent, sports person, worker, manager, anything, we deal with uncertainties and unknowns. If you observe carefully, whoever in the team has a logical guess, better information, better skills than the others, has the advantage. To move to complex deals in business, any piece of information that reduces someone’s uncertainty but not another’s, re-balances the power equation.
I was approached by a member from a different team in my office, who mentioned that her boss thinks she is inexperienced to handle a complex project and asked for tips on being more convincing about her analytical skills specific to the project. I asked her to make two columns on a sheet of paper and write down what are the ‘unknowns’ to her and her boss in the context of the project. They can be something like skills needed, or timeline, or budget approval delay that she may not be aware of but her boss may be, and so on. Then I asked her to highlight the unknowns that are exclusive to her boss – again specific to the project – and those that she has knowledge or skills in. She came with two – good number for the scale of the task – two items which her boss was uncertain, she was knowledgeable, and that was the clue for the next discussion. The following question was, can she keep her advantage in the long run – what if the software platform is changed, say, or people with her skills are brought on the team after the pilot stage? Timeline!
Let’s look at it from both sides – her manager was not ignorant of his own unknowns.
In life, we are on both sides – if we know that someone’s unknown is our strength, there are enough people thinking the same when they deal with us. This helps to remain prepared in the game – you can control & influence to an extent but knowing your boundaries and being prepared has no alternative.
Sounds too much common sense but I do see that people forget or under-estimate this!
- Liam Dann: Odds are you don’t know the risks (nzherald.co.nz)
- Practical Tactical Thursday – 6 Things to Consider Before Accepting a Counter Offer (loosenyourwhitecollar.com)
- Four components of risk (herdingcats.typepad.com)