Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

I recently led a negotiation ethics seminar with an expert panel that included: the Dallas Mavericks’ General Manager and President of Basketball Operations, a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and a large law firm partner.

Since they collectively have over 150 years of experience in thousands of significant negotiations, I asked each to share their most effective negotiation strategy and an instance in which they used it. We can all learn from them.

Nico Harrison, Dallas Mavericks’ General Manager and President of Basketball Operations

Lesson: Build trust and a relationship with your counterpart as early as possible and spend the time and effort to nurture and strengthen it over the course of the negotiation.

Example: Prior to being hired by the Mavericks, Nico led Nike’s effort to negotiate endorsement deals and renewals with pro basketball players and their agents. He shared the story of negotiating an endorsement deal with a top three NBA draft pick a number of years ago (and whom he didn’t name for obvious reasons).

What happened? Nico and Nike started developing trust and a relationship with this player and his family starting when this player initially showed extraordinary basketball talent, in his early teens.

Three days before the NBA draft, this player hired an agent.

In the negotiation between Nike and this player and agent, who did this player and his family trust the most? It’s obvious. That makes a huge difference in a negotiation. Nike also had developed a strong and valuable relationship with his agent over the years. This also helped it substantially.

Hon. Andrew Hurwitz, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Judge

Lesson: You can sometimes break an impasse in negotiations involving agents like lawyers – where there’s no sweet spot between your authority and your counterpart’s authority – by suggesting you would recommend to your client a solution in that sweet spot if your counterpart will also recommend it.

Example: Andy practiced law for 30 years prior to being appointed to the bench, and he shared an instance where he and opposing counsel initially couldn’t reach a deal. Both had reached the limits of their respective clients’ authority. No sweet spot.

What did Andy do? Suggested he would recommend to his client a figure outside of his client’s authority if opposing counsel recommended that same figure to his client. They agreed and, ultimately, convinced their clients to agree, too.

Shannon Zmud Teicher, Partner, Jackson Walker L.L.P.

Lesson: Focus intently and creatively on finding out everything you can about what your counterpart really wants and needs so you can find the common ground and build the relationship. And do this through “listening, asking questions and then more listening.”

And if this doesn’t work, then as a litigator she would “leverage the information you have to get where you need to go.”

Example: Shannon indicated that she had used this strategy for years to achieve success for her clients.

Latz’s Lesson: Expert negotiators recommend: building trust and strengthening relationships; breaking impasses by jointly recommending a solution outside their clients’ authority; and finding your counterpart’s true wants and needs by asking questions and listening.

 * Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

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