We had been negotiating with our partners all day. The situation was desperate, and tempers were frayed. I don’t like to raise my voice, but these guys were driving me crazy, with their unreasonableness. We were getting nowhere.
Then one of my team members, a young lawyer, whispered in my ear, “why don’t we ask for time out for 20 minutes.”
I looked at him, quite surprised.
“I have an idea, which can help break the log jam.”
Almost irritated, by his impertinent interjection, I agreed to take a short break.
“What is your idea?” I asked him.
“Can we take a walk outside?”
I agreed, more out of the need for fresh air, than the fact that this youngster could have an idea, that could change this difficult situation.
We stepped out the two of us, into the humid African night.
“My suggestion is that you step out of the negotiations,and allow me to take over.”
I was stunned, by his proposal, but I listened.
Twenty minutes later, I appointed him “Lead Negotiator”, and left the room. I put everything in his hands,and pulled all the other top executives out.
Through the night, and most of the following day, he continued with the negotiations. In the evening he brought me a final draft for signing. I signed.
It remains to this day, one of the most important agreements,I have ever signed. It is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to our group. Over the years, there have been attempts to overturn it, in international courts, and arbitrations, but it has stood, solid.
The young man is now a near “twenty year veteran”, in our group, running one of our most important companies.
If you went to Bill Gates, or any other great entrepreneur, they will have similar stories of people in their organizations.
We need to move away from the notion of “workers”, and “employers”. We need to embrace passionately that successful businesses, can be just like successful professional sports clubs.
So, let me ask a personal question:
“If your company were a soccer team, where would you be; in the starting eleven, or on the bench?”
A player does not beg anyone for a job.
— its up to you:
Make the decisions, today that make you a “player”, that can change the direction of the game,and the destiny of the team.
At a critical juncture in an important meeting, I was ready to throw on a “super sub”, to change the trajectory of the game.
Great managers like Arsène Wenger, Alex Ferguson, José Mourinho, understand their players, in terms of talents and skills. They know when to throw in a “sub”, if things are not working on the pitch.
The guy was a much better negotiator than me. In everything they do, my best players must be better than me!
Humility is a quality of great price; it is a companion with wisdom, and prudence.
Meekness is not weakness.