Never Split the Difference – Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

never splitFollowing up on my blog from August 2017, Negotiation – An Overview, I summarize the excellent book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, from former FBI negotiator, Chris Voss.

I highly recommend that you read this book to gain deeper insights into negotiation.

My summary below gives some of the insights found in this book.

  • We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on a cognitive bias for consistency rather than truth.
  • Slow. It. Down. Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to make.
  • Put a smile on your face.


  • Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation.
  • Label your counterpart’s fears (and barriers) to diffuse their power.
    • It seems like … is valuable to you
    • It seems like you don’t like…
    • It seems like you value…
    • It seems like…. Makes it easier
    • It seem like you’re reluctant to…
    • It seems like… is important
    • It seems like you are worried that …
  • List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can.
  • Mirror the person to whom you are speaking; a “mirror” is when you repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said.
  • By repeating back what people say, you trigger this mirroring instinct and your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting.


  • Being pushed for “Yes” makes people defensive.
  • Getting the other side to say “No” has an amazing power to bring down barriers and allow for beneficial communication.
    • Is now a bad time for you?
  • One sentence E-Mail when you get no response:
    • Have you given up on this project?
    • Have you been moved off of this project?
  • Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure and in control, so trigger it.


  • Persuasion is about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea


  • The two sweetest words in any negotiation are ‘That’s Right.’”
  • Trigger a ‘That’s Right’ with a summary. A good summary is the combination of rearticulating the meaning of what is said plus the acknowledgement of the emotions underlying that meaning.
  • Active listening arsenal: effective pauses, minimal encouragers (yes, OK, uh-huh), mirroring, labeling (it all seems so unfair. I can now see why you sound so angry), paraphrase, summarize.
  • That’s Right is great.  But if “You’re Right” nothing changes.


  • Deadlines regularly make people say and do impulsive things that are against their best interests, because we all have a natural tendency to rush as a deadline approaches.
  • No deal is better than a bad deal.


  • The most powerful word in negotiation is ‘fair.’
  • To get real leverage you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.
  • By anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss, you inflame the other’s side loss aversion so that they’ll jump at the chance to avoid it.
  • People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart see that there is something to lose by inaction.
  • Whether we like to recognize it or not, a universal rule of human nature, across all cultures, is that when somebody gives you something they expect something in return. And they won’t give anything else until you pay them back.
  • “Hey, dog, how do I know she’s all right?” (read the book to understand why this is a great negotiating question)
  • Create the illusion of control for the other side.


  • “He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.” Robert Estabrook
  • Summarize the situation and then ask: “How am I supposed to do that?”
  • Avoid why questions and use what and how questions
    • Not: Why did you do it? Instead: What caused you to do it?
    • What about this is important to you?
    • How can I help to make this better for us?
    • How would you like me to proceed?
    • What is it that brought us into this situation?
    • How can we solve this problem?
    • What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • With these questions, you have asked for help – triggering goodwill and less defensiveness. Also you’ve engineered a situation in which your formerly recalcitrant counterpart is now using his mental and emotional resources to overcome your challenges.
  • Why is always an accusation in any language


  • Negotiation is often called the art of letting someone else have your way.
  • Using the idea of loss aversion, change your rhetoric to “not lose” instead of “keep.”
  • “7% of a message is based on the words while 38% comes from the tone of voice and 55% from the speaker’s body and face.” Albert Mehrabian
  • The Rule of Three is getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation.
  • “Liars use more words than truth tellers and use far more third person pronouns…in order to put some distance between themselves and the lie.”  Deepak Malhotra
  • Use your own name to make yourself a real person to the other side and even get your own personal discount.
  • “I’m sorry that just doesn’t work for me.”
  • Three negotiating style: accomodater, assertive, analyst


  • Mike Ackerman model based on work by Howard Raiffa
    • Set your target price (your goal)
    • Set your first offer at 65% of your target price
    • Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85%, 95% and 100%)
    • Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying ‘No’ to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer.
    • When calculating the final amount, use precise, non round numbers, like, say $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.
    • On your final number, throw in a nonmonetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.
    • Note that this system incorporates the psychological tactics we’ve discussed – reciprocity, extreme anchors, loss aversion.


  • To get leverage, you have to persuade your counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through.
  • Label your negative leverage and make it clear without attacking
    • It seems like you strongly value the fact that you’ve always paid on time
    • It seems like you don’t care what position you are leaving me
  • The paradox of power – the harder we push the more likely we are to be met with resistance.
  • People operating with incomplete information appear crazy to those who have different information.
  • Where your counterpart is acting wobbly, there exists a distinct possibility that they have things they can’t do but aren’t eager to reveal. They may just not have the power to close the deal.


  • The adversary is the situation and the person that you appear to be in conflict with is actually your partner.
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2 Second Lean: How to Make Your People and Your Business Better Every Day

I summarize some of the key concepts from the excellent book: 2 Second Lean: How to Grow People and Build a Fun Lean Culture. Written by Paul Akers, 2 Second Lean is a quick and easy ready that will help all of us simplify and lean out our companies, whether they are manufacturing, technology, distribution or services company.

I recommend that you read it.


What is Lean?

Two foundational principles of Lean Thinking

  • Eliminate waste
  • Continuous improvement

“Waste is like gravity; it pulls at you 24/7 and if don’t have a method to overcome it, you will lose and waste will win.” Jeff Kaas

“Lean is hard work that makes everything else easy.” Paul Akers


Why Lean?

The purpose of a company is to improve the quality of the customer’s life.

The purpose of a company is to deliver value at a very high level to the customer.

The purpose of a company is to strip away the non-value-added activity and deliver more value consistently day after day, month after month, year after year.


One Piece Flow

One piece flow is counter-intuitive in our world of “if something is good, more is better.”

  • Move away from batch production
  • Simplifies and makes obvious production bottlenecks and waste
  • Ensure that quality issues are caught immediately

There are Eight Types of Waste

  1. Overproduction
  2. Overprocessing
  3. Excess inventory
  4. Defects
  5. Transportation
  6. Wasted motion
  7. Waiting time
  8. Unused employee genius – the greatest waste

Lean is about eliminating waste and about continuous improvement, by approaching everything with an eye towards making things simpler.  Find waste in a process by thinking about what bugs you.

Lean is a Culture

“Our number one concern is how to build our people and how to build a culture of continuous improvement.” Toyota Vice President

To make the culture change permanent requires changing the habits of the team.  At its core, lean is really about the process of growing people.

Great Housekeeping is Critical to Lean

You cannot be lean if you are not first clean.

  • The Traditional approach is 5S
    o Sort
    o Straighten
    o Shine
    o Standardize
    o Sustain
  • Simplify these into 3S
    o Sweep
    o Sort
    o Standardize


Lean is About Simplicity

  • What things have you been over-complicating?
  • What are the top three things you need to simplify for your team to succeed?

2 Second Lean

  • Set a goal to cut waste for every activity by 50%. Cut waste in half.
    • Then ask each person for one 2 second improvement a day (each and every day)
    • The best place to start is with what bugs you.
  • For Akers, this is far superior and easier than kaizen events that others do
  • “We are at war with waste.” Karl Wadensten
  • A lean culture is a free culture where people are trusted to express themselves and be creative.
  • Make videos of lean improvements (iPhone with editing software works wonders)
  • Look for the 2 second improvements that don’t cost a lot of money
    • Money suffocates creativity.


Humble Lean

  • Lean leaders must respect their people and recognize that each person brings their own unique genius to the table
  • Politics is the 9th waste and it’s a big one that is mostly ego driven


Paul’s Three Pillars of Lean

  • Teach your people to see waste
  • Continuously improve everything, everybody, every day
  • Make “before and after” videos of all your improvements


Other Ideas from 2 Second Lean

  • For each person, focus on yourself. Focus on eliminating your waste. We all have enough waste for ten lifetimes.
  • “90% of what you and I do every day is waste.” Paul Akers
  • Can’t find something to improve. Simply fix what bugs you. Fix everything you struggle with. Anything that is not flowing is an easy opportunity to improve.
  • Look for the largest constraint. The bottleneck – the biggest backup of work in a particular process – is the best place to see and eliminate waste.
  • Eliminate and simplify processes by asking:
    • “Is the activity that I’m doing delivering value to the customer – or is it just a process that’s been added on?
    • Am I trying to eliminate waste even though the process is delivering no value?”
  • Never look for the complex solution to solve a problem. Always pursue the simple and elegant one.
  • The goal is for everything to be struggle-free – or to have zero struggle in every activity.
  • Akers believes that Kaizen events are essentially the batch work application of Lean principles. They do not introduce flow to the shop floor; they are by nature disruptive.
  • The 2 Second Lean approach is successful because it just asks for small improvements on a daily basis at a prescribed time. In doing that, you introduce flow to improvements.


Summary – Keys to 2 Second Lean

  • 3 S-ing – Sweep, sort, standardize
  • 2 Second Improvements
  • A morning meeting
  • Before and after videos
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Negotiation – An Overview

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The 5 Fundamentals of an Innovative Company

picture1The world and the customer are changing rapidly.   To keep up with these changes and to truly differentiate themselves in the marketplace, companies need to innovate.

Yet, too many companies still rely on small updates, upgrades, or makeovers of their product lines as their “innovation.”  That is just not good enough.

“We live in a world where the returns on incrementalism are going down and the returns on real innovation are going up.”  Gary Hamel (Strategy Consultant)

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Getting It Done: Achieving Twice as Much in Half the Time

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5 Steps to Creating a Unique Strategic Vision

tempToday, companies struggle to consistently increase sales and profits faster than the overall market.

In too many cases, these companies lack a unique strategic vision that would differentiate the company and its products and services from the competition.

Instead, their strategic vision is to do more – sell more products in more markets to more customers – and execute better than anyone else.

Strategy guru Michael Porter refers to this as the “Be the Best” Mindset.  This mindset generally leads to a zero sum competition where everybody is going after the same customers with the same undifferentiated products; but, at lower prices.  With this approach, everyone loses except the customer who now gets the same products and services at those lower prices.

To develop a true strategic vision, our companies must find a way to be unique.

  • How can we differentiate ourselves by meeting the different needs of our targeted customers in a way that is clearly superior to our competitors?

Below, I list five steps that all our companies should take to create that unique strategic vision.

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Three ‘Cheats’ of the Ethical Leader

tempAn ethical leader is someone dedicated to always doing the right thing for the employees, the business, and all stakeholders.  Alas, this ideal for the selfless and driven leader clashes with the reality of who most of us really are.

So, how do we, as flawed human beings, become the near perfect ethical leaders that we need to be to drive our businesses to success?

The answer is simple… we cheat.

We create sneaky tips, tricks, reminders or work arounds that help us to live up to the ideal of the ethical leader.   By following each of the three “cheats” below, we can all become more effective and more ethical leaders for our teams and in our businesses.

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