Monthly archives: September 2008

Why corporate training fails

An interesting look at why corporate training often fails. Key factors that you need for success are applicability and interactivity. Most of the time corporate training results in a temporary motivational boost. Upon return to the office, we find that this motivational boost subsides. Training should be focused on resolving issues, with real and tangible results, e.g. a new reward structure or new organizational structure.

How not to use Power Point!

This is an entertaining and true video about Power Point. I have suffered through many presentations with too much animation, data and text in one slide! Key points to remember :
1) Keep slides brief – maximum of six lines down, six words across.
2) Keep charts brief – there should be only one takeaway from each chart and it should be clear the moment you see that chart.
3) Don’t read the slides – this negates the need for a presenter. I have heard many people say “just send me the slides please!”
4) Have a focused and clear message BEFORE you begin writing the presentation.

I particularly like his example of every marketing slide you have seen. As a brand manager, all our Power Points had a similar chart or 2 or 3…

Islamic negotiation

A contemporary look at Islamic negotiation and its application in the modern day business world

A Muslim participant asked me “Is there an “Islamic” method of negotiation? I was training an Islamic financial institution at the time. We talk a lot about Islamic Financing, but do we actually negotiate in an Islamic manner. This being the month of Ramadhan, I thought it an appropriate time to post my comments on this topic.

This article will look to answer the following questions:

1)    Is there an “Islamic” method of negotiation – if so what is it?

2)    Is it applicable centuries later, in particular to the business world?

My research has come up with a simple answer – Yes. When we look at the history of Islam, Islamic negotiation has 3 key principles: –

1)    Honesty

2)    Fairness

3)    Respect

These three principles are remarkably similar to modern negotiation theories such asHarvard’s Program On NegotiationFischer’s Getting to Yes and Nierenberg’s Negotiation.

1) Honesty.

“Truth stands out from error…And God heareth and knoweth all things.”

The Holy Quran, Baqara Sura II:256.

Malaysian Malay culture has an adaptation of the “taqiyya” or exceptions to this rule and termed it “Bohong Sunat” (white lies). The exceptions to this rule are in cases of war, to facilitate a reconciliation, and in a husband and wife situation of conflict. We will not discuss this further as it is rare that any of us will be pressed to use these exceptions.

Modern day application

The key takeaway here is to be honest in your negotiations. Honesty puts you on the long road to gaining trust and respect with your counterpart. Lying loses hard earned trust and respect immediately. In my experience as a negotiator, I find that being honest has led to many long-term mutually beneficial relationships. My honesty in justifying the reasons for a price hike with my clients led to immediate approval as well as increased business. I had explained that this price hike was due to external factors and was necessary to maintain our levels of service to the client. In addition, I gave them data on what other firms were charging to prove that our rates were below the market rate.

2) Fairness.

“But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is the One that heareth and knoweth.”

The Holy Quran, Anfal, Sura VIII:61

When we look at the Prophet (S.A.W.), we find that he worked towards being extremely fair, especially to his vanquished opponents. It was common during the time of the Prophet, peace be Upon him, that to the victors would go the spoils which included killing the men and raping and pillaging the survivors. The incident with the Quraish, where the Prophet (S.A.W.) told Abi Sufian, “He who shuts his door is safe, he who goes to the home of Abi Sufian is safe.”

Modern day application

We may find ourselves in situations where the balance of power is overwhelmingly in our favour, where we have a proprietary product. The example is of Johnson & Johnson in the stent market, where they had first mover advantage and allegedly “exploited its monopoly”. Johnson & Johnson reportedly did this by gouging their customers and refusing any discounts.

This backfired when a competitor, Guidant emerged and took a 70% market share from Johnson & Johnson. Had Johnson & Johnson taken a fairer (“just”) approach, it is would probably have been more difficult for Guidant to take that 70% market share.

3) Respect

“To every People have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow, let them not then dispute with you on the matter, but do invite (them) to your Lord: for you are assuredly on the Right Way. If they do wrangle with you, say, “God knows best what it is you are doing. God will judge between you on the Day of Judgment concerning the matters in which you differ”

(Al-Hajj 22:67-69)

Islam teaches tolerance and respect of all people regardless of color, race or even religion. During the persecution of the Jews by the Christians, many Jews sought and received refuge in Muslim communities and countries.

“It is a fact of history that when the Jews were being persecuted in Europe during the middle ages they found peace, harmony, and acceptance among the Muslim people of Spain. In fact, this was the era of Jewish history that they themselves refer to as “the golden age.”

Modern day application

Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, wrote a book entitled The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, New York: Warner Business Books, 2007. His work documents the high cost of not respecting people in organizations. The famous example of Patterson, CEO of Cerner, where he told employees that he expected the car park to be substantially full between 730am to 630 pm and all employee benefits were frozen with immediate effect, led to Cerner’s stock price declining by 22% in 3 days when the email was leaked.

In summary, these principles of Islamic negotiation:-

1)    are relevant and applicable to modern day negotiation in any country

2)    have stood the test of time of over 5 centuries, and

3)    are also applicable to modern day business situations.          

Juarez Salih Lowe is a negotiations trainer, coach and consultant. His team of trainers has trained people from Maybank, TM, Ambank, Petronas, MIDF, YTL, Johnson & Johnson and L’oreal.

For further information about how your organization or team can implement these negotiating principles contact juarezlowe Sdn Bhd at negotiation@juarezlowe.com or 03-22614248