Microsoft Research Visiting Speaker Series | MSFT for Work | 18 Apr 2014 2:01 PM
Whether you’re struggling with a difficult customer or arguing with your spouse, negotiating effectively is crucial to leading wisely and living well. For Erica Ariel Fox, a long-time lecturer at Harvard Law School and founding partner at Mobius Executive Leadership, understanding your “inner negotiators” can help you turn breakdowns into breakthroughs, at home and in the workplace.
Walt Whitman once asked, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” For Erica, Whitman’s “multitudes” have become the foundation of her philosophy. Find out how tuning in to your multitudes and understanding your inner negotiators can help expand your personal potential.
Judgment Call: Inner Ethics
Erica tells a story about how at age 25, she taught an executive education program at Harvard Law School. Each day an executive came to class with a problem he or she was experiencing, and as a group, they negotiated possible solutions. The “student” was a foreign Supreme Court Justice. The day before the Justice presented his problem, Erica nervously fantasized about international diplomacy and the array of ethical dilemmas he faced daily—she thought, what advice can I give this man?
The next day, the Justice presented his problem: “How do I get my wife to stop picking out my ties?” Well, it’s a conflict, isn’t it? Not a conflict between the Justice and his wife (because he never confronted her about it) but a conflict within himself. That’s when Erica realized, the most important negotiations in life are the ones in a person’s own mind. Her focus shifted inward—how do we negotiate the conflicting parts of ourselves and close the “performance gap” between our best potential and what we actually do?
According to Erica, the “multitudes within us” can be boiled down to the Big Four: the inner CEO (dreamer), CFO (thinker), VP of HR (lover), and COO (warrior). Much like Jungian archetypes and the popular Myers-Briggs assessment that derives from it, she considers these four aspects of the human “profile” to be underlying and inborn to all people. However, unlike with other personality classifications and assessments, Erica doesn’t believe people are restricted to one personality label. Rather, everyone contains the Big Four and uses them at varying degrees.
Consulting the Big Four
Learning about your profile, negotiating with yourself, and expanding your profile over time are part of Erica’s roadmap for closing the performance gap and Winning from Within, the title of her New York Times bestselling book. According to Erica, negotiation doesn’t just happen when you ask for a raise, or interview for a job. Rather, the best negotiations start with the self because, from there, you’ll be more focused on what you want and how to achieve it.
She warns readers about falling victim to their own labels just for comfort’s sake. According to Erica, people should push beyond their comfort zones and exercise all aspects of their Big Four when appropriate. This is especially true for leaders. Erica gives an example of the time she helped a European CEO, faced with a difficult decision, find his own solution. The CEO was on the brink of signing a major deal with an American company but felt the American CEO intentionally tried to deceive him, and he couldn’t trust it was an honest mistake. While the European CEO recognized this as a big opportunity for his business, the lover/warrior within was deeply offended and ready to back out of the deal.
Erica’s approach was to set up four chairs. She asked the European CEO to sit in each and express his opinion and concerns from the perspective of the dreamer, the warrior, the thinker, and the lover while she recorded the exercise. Afterward, they played back the video and listened to the CEO’s own, collective wisdom. He was then able to make a deliberate, mindful decision about how he wanted to proceed. For the European CEO, negotiating his inner voices was a matter of giving each voice equal say and equal respect.
According to Erica, “We have the innate capacity to live fully, broadly to our potential.” She believes it’s the stories we tell ourselves that limit how expansive our lives could be. The first step to leading effectively is understanding and negotiating our own volitions. Once we start to understand our profiles, we can begin to close our own Performance Gaps and understand what we actually want. So get started and learn about your profile with this quick survey.