Years ago I was a project manager for an international franchise organization who was involved in acquisitions and rebrandings. I was working closely with their legal counsel primarily dealing with franchise agreements and defining trading areas. This legal team was amazing! They were so bright, talented, focused and strategic. We had a great rapport.
On one occasion two members flew in from Montreal to Toronto to meet with me. We had a tight deadline and too much to do. We had been hard at work all day and it was going on 7:00 pm. Our eyes were starting to burn and we were feeling nausea from all of the reading. At one point one of the lawyer’s said, “I can’t believe I came all this way to feel sick! If I read one more Appendix D, I’m going to throw up!”
I thought that was a good time to change the mood so I started singing , “ I would walk 500 miles” then the other lawyer sang, “And I would walk 500 hundred more” lastly Mr. Appendix D sang, “Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles and falls down at your door!” Then Mr. Appendix D found that song on his laptop and played it. The three of us stood up and stomped around the boardroom. It was a great stress relief! We worked well into the night and managed to meet our ambitious deadline.
A few days later they were back in Montreal and called me to help them out with mediation. They had an unintentional situation that needed damage control. One of the lawyer’s filled me in on the pertinent history and another lawyer began to coach me as to what to say and what not to say. After about half an hour of coaching I told her that this seems too complicated. Then I asked her, “What is your bottom line?”
I continued, “Be fair, and tell me what your best case scenario is?” She told me the best case scenario. Then she explained that she didn’t think I would be able to even get to that point in the mediation, as the other party’s mediator was known to be very aggressive. She wished me luck.
About an hour later I was on a conference call with the other party’s mediator. I said “hello” and then she interrupted me to begin her rant. I pressed the mute button and ate my golden delicious apple (it was really delicious). She went on and on and on. It must have been at least 20 minutes, which is a really long time to be yelled at by someone I didn’t even know. She eventually paused, so I thought that was my cue to start.
I had a lot of work to do and was not interested with dragging this out any further, so I simply proposed the bottom line. She was silent. I asked her to kindly relay the proposal to their legal counsel and ask them to reply to our legal counsel. I wished her a good day and then I hung up the phone. Done!
It was the end of the work day and my phone rang as I was getting ready to leave the office. I picked it up. It was the legal counsel. They were so happy to inform me that the other party accepted the proposal. They asked me what it is that I said to be so convincing. I told them, “I silenced her with a fair offer. No one can argue with that – not even her!” We laughed.
The next day, I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a delightful basket with cheese, crackers and chocolates and a card that read, “Special delivery from 500 miles!”
Michelle Nasser, Executive Coach firstname.lastname@example.org