07/05/2016 01:19 EDT | Updated 07/05/2016 01:59 EDT

How To Negotiate So Everyone Wins

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As early as this Thursday, we might stop receiving mail. The negotiations between Canada Post and Canada Union of Postal Workers have failed.

The disruption will affect thousands of businesses and millions of Canadians. An agreement might be reached just in time to avoid the strike. Still, we have reached this cliffhanger after months of failed negotiations.

From Brexit to the Canada Post, the world is awash with examples of failed negotiations.

The disruptive strike could be avoided if one were to seek David Dingwall's advice on successful negotiations. He knows a thing or two about negotiating. For years, he was Cape Breton's voice in Ottawa when the fisheries were struggling, and the town's welfare depended on the catch. He was also the Minister of Health who delivered Bill C-71, the most comprehensive piece of legislation that governed the manufacturing, sale, and labelling of tobacco products in Canada.

It was only natural for Mr Dingwall to document his years of experience as a master negotiator in a book. Negotiating So Everyone Wins is full of sage advice from Mr Dingwall and 22 other Canadians whose successful leadership depended on how well they negotiated.


From Brexit to the Canada Post, the world is awash with examples of failed negotiations. Many in Britain feel that their government did not effectively communicate the implications of leaving the EU. No wonder, the Google searches from Britain for what is the EU or Brexit peaked hours after they elected to exit the Union. Vote first and research later is not necessarily a wise strategy.

Negotiating So Everyone Wins differs from other books on negotiation that often promote my way or the highway paradigm. Instead, it advises on how to negotiate for mutually beneficial outcomes. At the same time, it celebrates Canadians whose strategic negotiating skills helped turn conflicts into agreements.

One learns about Gerry Godsoe from the Maritimes, who counselled businesses and governments. " ... [H]e was one of the most insightful people I have ever encountered," recalls Mr Dingwall. Mr Godsoe's secret for success was his magnificent smile, sense of humour, charming attitude, authenticity, non-linear thinking, and the ability to push the argument forward by simply listening.

The book comes bundled with YouTube videos of conversations about strategic negotiations with 22 leading Canadians. One can hear Ed Clark, the former CEO and President of TD Bank, explain how he promoted opposite incentives for their acquisition experts. If they failed to acquire a business "because it was too pricey and we don't like the risks, we have a celebration for the team, and it's the same celebrations as if they had completed a deal," revealed Mr Clark. This astute strategy prevents "deal fever" where one is rewarded only for making a deal and not for avoiding a bad one.

Mr Dingwall explains how he once rearranged the furniture in a semi-circle to reorient the feuding participants' sightlines so that they could focus on the topic at hand rather than staring straight at each other.

Earlier, I sat down with Mr Dingwall, who is also a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University, to see how his advice would benefit not just the business leaders and politicians, but also young women who are joining the workforce in large numbers.

Be Strategic and Take Your Time

Mr Dingwall believes a successful negotiator is first and foremost a strategic thinker who not only looks at the big picture but also sweats the small stuff. Even more importantly, the negotiator takes the time to understand the complexities of the deal being negotiated. Nothing, warns Mr Dingwall, is more harmful than not spending enough time to understand the context.

Negotiations 101 for Young Women

With universities graduating more young women than men, the demographic makeup of the workforce is changing fast in Canada and the western world where an unprecedentedly large number of women are showing up for work. At the same time, women struggle to receive comparable remuneration as do men for the same job.

"Women are not equal, they are better at work than men," said Mr Dingwall. "They should be firm in their ask -- not aggressive, but firm." But how much should the young women demand in compensation? "Don't ask for a dollar amount. Instead, ask to be paid the fair market rate," he advised.

Political Negotiations, a blood sport

Mr Dingwall remembers Jean Chrétien, Canada's former prime minister, as a strategic negotiator. When the Liberals assumed power under Mr Chrétien in 1993, Canada's economy was faltering. Massive cuts in spending were inevitable. Knowing that hard decisions had to be made, Mr Chrétien spent the first year communicating with the electorate advising them of the lack of good choices and the need for making tough decisions. As the prime minister, he made efforts to first sensitize the masses before launching the hard-hitting cuts. Even more important was that Mr Chrétien was authentic in his message.

The Final Takeaway

Negotiating So Everyone Wins has another unique feature. Each chapter ends with takeaways that summarize the key lessons as bullet points. If you are planning a change in career or personal life this summer, you must read this book to negotiate a better deal.


Negotiating So Everyone Wins was published in 2016 by James Lorimer and Company, Ltd.

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