Implementation—A “Yes” Without a “How” Can Be Dangerous


To me, one of the more important things in life is sleep. For me, it ranks up there with some of life’s greatest pleasures, so I go to the sleep bank frequently to make withdrawals. This was the case a few weeks ago when a phone call raised me out of the delicate embrace of the REM stage. It was my eldest daughter.

Her: “Dad?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Her: “um…hey Dad. I was driving on (route) 50 and hit a pot hole…..”

Let me stop here. As a parent, I have been waiting for this call since she first got her driver’s license. In my mind, she was calling to tell me she had cracked the car up.

Her: “…and my hub cap came off.”

Me: “Ok.”

Her: “Yeah…so, I was wondering what I should do?”

Me: “Go get it.”

Her: “Go get it? Um…well…ok…” The translation, which obviously I missed was, “How am I supposed to do that?”

She hung up. Angry that I had been awakened by such a relatively simple issue I began to noodle what I had just asked her to do. I assumed that the hubcap was lying on the shoulder of the road. I envisioned her back-tracking, making a U-turn, pulling off onto the shoulder and retrieving the hubcap…simple. But there was a nagging feeling that she would not do what I said while keeping herself safe. I texted her with, “If it’s safe to do so”.

She called me back a few minutes later and explained that she successfully retrieved the hubcap. I told her that was great and then told her that I texted her. She informed me that she got the text while she was dodging four lanes of rush hour traffic. She went on to say that she had to hop a construction barricade to get the hubcap and then return to her car dodging the same four lanes of rush hour traffic. She equated it to playing the video game “Frogger” where the frog runs across several lanes of traffic to get points. Yes, once again I am in the running for Father of The Year having just asked my daughter to risk her life for a $50.00 piece of plastic!

My problem was I did not appreciate what she would have to do to implement our deal. I was viewing the implementation through my own prism even though she gave me a hint as to the difficulty she was facing. My failure to discriminate and vocalize her affective cue unnecessarily placed her in danger. I was more in tune with how “I” would do things and how “I” saw the situation, not recognizing that she is not me.

This cautionary tale reminds me that as negotiators the deal is only good if it gets implemented. In the hostage world the deal is surrender.

Agreeing to come out (the deal) is not the same as coming out (the implementation). The subject may want to surrender but not know how to go about it. They may want assurances that they will not be hurt, shot, humiliated, etc. If we don’t have an appreciation of and remedies for the obstacles that will impede surrender, we will not realize it. In the business world one of the most common obstacles to deal implementation is failure to understand the position the other side is in and who they have to influence. Knowing this tells us what they care about and might influence them and cuts down on assumptions. A “yes” without a “how” is based on assumptions and as the hubcap story illustrates, assumptions can be dangerous.

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About The Author

Derek Gaunt is lecturer, author of Ego, Authority, Failure, and trainer with 29 years of law enforcement experience, 20 of which as a team member, leader and then commander of hostage negotiations teams in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As a member of the Black Swan Group, he is a negotiation trainer and personal coach. His training has helped leaders and their organizations increase their performance by changing the way they think about communicating one person to another.