Saturday Morning Rounds August 22, 2020 - What drywall can teach us about negotiations

Posted by BossB, MD on August 22, 2020
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds

A weekly round-up of career & negotiation content for women physicians

What got our attention

Have you ever found that some of the best "ah-ha moments" you have in your work come from concepts and experiences that you encounter completely outside of your field?
Well, we had one of those this week.
Some context - we've been renovating our basement for a few months now, and luckily we have family visiting right now who are experienced in such things to help guide the final steps of that process.
We're currently on the "putting up drywall" step. IYKYK.
Now the last thing that Carlton built here was a fence - also at the guidance of expert family members - and that was a project that required a lot of precision. A "measure twice cut once" kinda deal.
For this project, the first step was to take measurements for the drywall where it was to be installed. Simple enough.
Next, it was time to outline & cut the first chunk - Carlton went upstairs to do so. Nobody could do anything without this step completed, so as more and more minutes ticked by without said piece of drywall appearing, our expert helpers decided to check in. Upon doing so, they found an explosion of straight edges, levels, and pen marks - but no cuts. That's when one of them said:
"Drywall isn't carpentry - it doesn't have to be perfect, just get it close and we'll spackle it from there."
The essence of the message is this: precision is great, but it is rarely an end in and of itself. Make sure you only take it as far as it actually serves you.
More on how to apply this concept to negotiations in our "tip of the week." 

Who we're following 

Speaking of concepts that originate outside of one's field but provide some of the most valuable frameworks for improving one's work, Yuval Noah Harari (@harari_yuval) is an author that should definitely be on both your radar and your bookshelf.

His most well-known work, "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" is required reading for anyone who wants to better understand who we are and why we do what we do. He's now turned his lens to the present and the future, with his latest titles being "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" and "21 Lessons for the 21st Century."

His Twitter feed is a great place to stay abreast of books that are worth reading, concepts to help us understand the world (especially what's happening geopolitically), and a rich, thoughtful, informative perspective on LGBTQ issues & topics.

BBMD tip of the week

Now, back to the limits of precision.
We've said many times before that any "ask" should embody what we call the "2 Rs" - it should be reasonable and it should be relational.
A reasonable ask is exactly that - an ask that has a reason. And almost any ask that has a good reason is going to be precise - meaning it won't be a round number.
Think "I'm asking for a $25,670 raise" as opposed to "I'd like a $25,000 raise."
This approach invites curiosity from your counterpart and activates their sense of fairness. It's much harder to deny something that has a well-reasoned logic behind it and is attached to real-world variables (avg pay for your specialty in your region, the money you generate for your employer, etc etc etc) than it is to deny a round, imprecise number.
But the point of this approach isn't to get a specific number in return from your counterpart, and if that's what you expect to happen, you'll be disappointed and frustrated almost every time. When we make a precise ask, what we're really trying to do is:
  • Anchor high
  • Get more information from our counterpart

So a typical response to the kind of precise ask outlined above might be "well, the most we can do is $20,000."

And if you're too focused on precision you'll miss the fact that you just got a HUGE WIN. You maxed out their range, and you now know all of the cards they have to play. But instead of celebrating in that moment, we've seen people get upset and recklessly spend relational capital/goodwill by arguing that their counterpart's offer is imprecise, and therefore unreasonable.

Precision has its limits, and is rarely an end in and of itself. Drywall isn't carpentry. If you're close enough to where you want to be, we promise that figurative "spackle" can handle the rest. And we're always happy to hop on a free 30min intro call to help you brainstorm what your specific version of "spackle" might be.

Quote we're contemplating
"I was taught that if you're going to study something, you must understand it deeply and be familiar with primary sources. But if you write a history of the whole world, you can't do this. That's the trade-off." - Yuval Noah Harari
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Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!