Derek Gaunt

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.
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Recent Posts

Communication Skills: Did You Know There Are 5 Levels of Listening?

By Derek Gaunt | August 13, 2020

This blog was originally published on 5/14/2018 and updated on 8/13/2020.

Most people who think they are good listeners underperform—by as much as 60 percent, in fact, according to some research. It turns out that overconfidence actually impedes their success. 

Being too confident actually prevents you from truly understanding the motivation of the other side, which prevents you from being able to use Tactical Empathy™ to get the outcomes you’re going for. 

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Communication Skills: How to Use a Cold Read and Accusation Audit

By Derek Gaunt | August 06, 2020

This blog was originally published on 4/17/2017 and updated on 8/6/2020.

A few years ago, I was the only hostage negotiator in a room full of SWAT guys. 

The quarterly meeting was for SWAT guys, by SWAT guys, and I was an interloper in hostile territory.

Why was I there? To request a piece of their pie. 

The SWAT group had a training operations cache of about $78,000. Because they hadn’t spent any of the money over several years, I wanted to know whether I could grab $9,000 each year to train negotiators.

I used two communication skills—a Cold Read and an Accusation Audit™—to walk out of the room with what I wanted.

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How Negotiation Tactics Work Together Like a Symphony

By Derek Gaunt | June 29, 2020

At The Black Swan Group, we teach a number of tactics that people like you can use to get better outcomes in your personal and professional lives. In our experience, our clients get the most bang for their buck when they use several of our tactics in concert with one another.

To me, conversations between people are like stews. When you’re making a stew, you’re not going to use too much salt or too many carrots or too much meat. You’re going to parse out the ingredients, using just enough of each, because the stew is the cumulative taste of a perfect balance of all of them.

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Which Are You? Boss, Manager, or Leader?

By Derek Gaunt | June 22, 2020

Just because you’re in a position of authority doesn’t mean you’re effective at your job. 

To truly get your direct reports to the next level, you need to be a committed leader who inspires everyone to do their best. Being a boss or a mere manager won’t get the job done.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the differences between each kind of authority figure—the boss, the manager, and the leader—as we rank them from worst to best.

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How to Show That You're Ready for a Leadership Role

By Derek Gaunt | May 25, 2020

In an ideal world, leadership roles would fall into your lap without any heavy lifting.

But that rarely happens. If your goal in your career is to become a leader, you have to take proactive steps. Sure, you can tell your superiors that you’re set on climbing the ladder, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words.

Becoming a leader is hard work. It takes time and it takes skill. But it also takes patience.

If you want a leadership role, here’s what to do.

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Passionate Leadership: 4 Must-Have Traits

By Derek Gaunt | May 11, 2020

We’ve all worked for bosses who weren’t exactly inspiring. Whether an individual didn’t treat you with respect or berated you is beside the point. You didn’t operate at your full potential because you didn’t have the support or the encouragement you required to do so.

You don’t want to become one of those bosses down the road. As a leader, you’re committed to your team’s success. You want to help every one of your employees get to the next level.

And that starts with passionate leadership. Here are four must-have passionate leadership traits that will help you inspire greatness in your team.

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5 Signs of Bad Leadership (And How to Correct Them)

By Derek Gaunt | April 06, 2020

Though the best leaders inspire their teams and help their organizations achieve incredible results, the worst ones draw the ire of their direct reports and contribute to a toxic culture.

Because you’re reading these words, you care a great deal about doing what you can to be a great leader. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five telltale signs of bad leadership—and what you can do to correct them.

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4 Leadership Exercises You Can Try Today

By Derek Gaunt | March 30, 2020

No matter how good a leader you are, you can always improve.

The next time you enter a difficult conversation in the workplace, here are four leadership exercises you can try that will improve your communication skills and your ability to influence your team.

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4 Key Components to a Successful Email Negotiation

By Derek Gaunt | February 10, 2020

People often ask me if I have any tricks for negotiating over email.

Here’s my first tip: Stop doing it. 

Every email exchange should be an attempt to bring the other side to the table in person—or at least get them on the phone.

But in this time of global interactions, email negotiation is sometimes unavoidable. Even if you’d prefer to hash it out over the phone, you might have no choice but to negotiate over email—particularly when it’s the preferred method of your counterpart.

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How to Demonstrate Leadership During a Crisis

By Derek Gaunt | February 03, 2020

The way someone acts during a crisis is a telltale sign of whether they’re a good leader or a mediocre one.

In the world I came from—the world of hostage negotiations—frequently there was a crisis. I had people under my charge who were tasked with executing my game plan and in order to get the outcomes we were aiming for, I knew I needed to maintain my composure.

Here are five tenets that helped me do exactly that. 

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