Last week, Yankees General Manager and top Negotiator Brian Cashman had to face the media for the first time after the team’s devastating ALCS loss against the arch rival Houston Astros.
At a certain point things took a harsher turn, resulting in the press conference becoming more newsworthy than it would normally be after Cashman got into what was widely described as a “testy” exchange with Sweeny Murti, a leading team commentator and New York sports personality.
The exchange took place after Murti asked if Cashman and the Yankees owners regretted “passing” on three star pitchers who were available before the 2019 season, all of whom are now playing in the World Series for either the Houston Astros or Washington Nationals. (A brief video of the exchange can be found here: https://www.mlb.com/news/brian-cashman-yankees-verlander-cole-corbin)
While neither Cashman nor Murti did anything wrong, one would assume they would probably like to avoid the argumentative appearance of the exchange given the opportunity to try again.
So what can we as managers and negotiators learn from this noticeably uncomfortable interaction?
Cashman’s very human response was a great reminder that we can often get defensive when our decisions are questioned, something that is especially true when we’re in the presence of others and when appearing anything close to incompetent means losing face.
Further, according to much evidence in Social Psychology, our impulse to react in a “fight” mode can be even more pronounced when the implied incompetence relates to an area that we subconsciously view as core to our self identity, something most managers and negotiators who’ve experienced great success in the past usually do.
I know at least for myself it can be easy to fall victim to emotions, making strangely cutting remarks either in my head or out loud when it feels like my decisions are being second guessed. In these scenarios, I try to remind myself that humility is more important than ego, and part of being a manager or negotiator who makes important decisions for a group of people means answering for the consequences of our decisions.
Of course, this is certainly way easier said than done. However, it’s well worth encouraging ourselves to at least try and avoid this very human tendency as much as possible. Also, to remind ourselves that we do have the power, it’s just a matter of having the discipline to use it.
Along these lines, Steven R. Covey shares a powerful quote from Victor Frankel in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” –
Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
The key for managers and negotiators involves the habit of giving ourselves and others the space, so that our responses can be less “fight” and instead much more face friendly for everyone involved in the interaction.