Setting the Scene: Automotive executives fly into a storm

Setting the Scene: Automotive executives fly into a storm

Negotiations involving great uncertainty and the need to take immediate actions often result in vital scene setting considerations being neglected. In this issue of Negotiation Insights we look at the important role managing a negotiation’s atmospherics can have. When managed well you can get discretionary negotiation effort from the other party, however when done poorly you risk derailing the negotiations and compromising your outcome.

When you think about a significant event such as arranging a funeral or dating someone special, it is highly likely the scene you want to create will be carefully considered. However, when it comes to business, negotiators often overlook the importance of carefully setting the scene. An example that comes from the height of the Global Financial Crisis, is when Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all suffered unsustainable debt levels and dire cash flow predictions. To avoid the catastrophic collapse of the US automotive industry and massive job losses, Chief Executives from the big three automotive manufacturers headed to Washington to negotiate a financial rescue package.

Not surprisingly a very anxious public was now watching the negotiations, which only increased Congress’ need to set a scene of austerity and ensure that any money would go toward a sustainable plan.

In a miscalculation of Congress’ need to see expense restraint, the three Chief Executives flew to Washington in separate private planes. Highlighting this concern, New York Representative Gary Ackerman told the three Chief Executives, “There is a delicious irony in seeing luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses".

As a result of these miscalculations the Executives had unintentionally set the scene to build resistance with the very people they needed to have on side. Their decision not to show austerity had created an atmosphere where Congress needed to talk tough and show US taxpayers that their money would not be wasted.

Self-coaching tips

  • Consider the impression you want to make and be clear on how it will help you and the other party reach an outcome
  • If the negotiations are public, consider the scene you want to set from multiple stakeholder viewpoints
  • There are many variables that can be leveraged to influence a negotiation’s atmospherics, including location, time, language and the communication medium.



Avoiding Buyer's Remorse: Knowing when to close

Breaking Deadlocks: AFL resolves stalemate

Changing Perceptions: Shane Warne recalls advice

Collaborating to Create Value: Power to the people

Coping Strategies: Managing difficult Negotiators

Creating Alternatives: Flying fresh milk to China

Creating Points of Influence: Russell Crowe gets his leading lady

Cultural Differences: SONY Walkman designed for harmony

Defining Fairness: US German trade negotiations

Difficult Conversations: Thalidomide sufferers seek empathy

Elon Musk: When to negotiate

Engaging the Enemy: US and Taliban peace talks

Finding Common Ground: US Firearm reforms

Gun Tragedies: We hear you

Hostage Negotiations: A frontline perspective

Identity Needs: Tobacco now a nobody

Influencing Timelines: The brave new world of regulators

In Focus: Black Friday Negotiation Strategies

In Focus: Negotiating Roles

In Focus: Winning Together

Leadership Without Authority: Reducing domestic violence

Managing COVID-19 Renegotiations

Managing Power Imbalances

Managing Uncertainty: New freeway gets a red light

Measuring Negotiation Costs

Mindsets: It’s a choice!

Negotiating Teams & Coalitions

Negotiating with Agents

Negotiation Preparation: Prime Minster wins election

Negotiation Styles: Managing aggressive behaviours

Price Haggling: Strategies to position value

Problem Solving: Calm in the cockpit

Problem Solving: Delivering outcomes

Restoring Relationships: Saying sorry

Setting the Scene: Automotive executives fly into a storm

Shaping Mindsets: AVIS We try harder

Taylor Swift: Giving others a voice

The Authentic Negotiator

The Power of Language: A statement or a question?

Timing Concessions: Bangladesh factory tragedy

Traits of Skilled Negotiators: Nelson Mandela

Verifying Trust: World soccer cup and gulf of Mexico oil spill