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Hey everyone! Thanks for joining us on yet another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are resuming our conversation with Mr.Kirk Kinnell, a professional and former police negotiator. If you haven’t already checked out part A of the show, please do that first.
Now, without further ado, let’s jump into the conversation with Kirk.
When asked to share his experience in corporation negotiations, Kirk states that he has been involved in many of them over the years. He mentions having found people expressing how fabulous they are or how world-class they are, which got under his skin. That’s because Kirk strongly believes that when you start thinking you are the best, you fail to perform as a team.
According to him, a mature negotiation team should be humble and willing to learn from their mistakes. Also, they should ensure that they have each other’s backs when they make mistakes instead of pointing fingers at each other because they are in it together.
Moving on, Kirk expresses animosity against US law enforcement, citing a few figures that hint at their reluctance to value lives in hostage negotiations.
He then compares US law enforcement with its Scottish counterpart and states that in Scotland, the forces don’t close the party down. Instead, they engage them like human beings. Kirk also highlights that the Scottish forces never shy away from reflecting on their best practices and trying out something dramatically different as far as hostage negotiations are concerned.
All in all, the philosophy in Scotland is that a person’s life is equally important as a law enforcement officer’s.
According to Aram, time is crucial in every negotiation, and we must learn how to use it, manage it and leverage it. But Kirk has a slightly different opinion. He feels that time cannot be bought in every negotiation as in some negotiations, especially hostage negotiations, negotiators must prioritize the tactics and strategy over time.
The former police negotiation also reiterates that the sole intention in hostage negotiations is to stabilize people. And for that to happen, the negotiators require time. Once the party is stable, they’re better positioned to be less emotional and more logical. And when negotiators can get them to that point, everyone can make good decisions.
Next, Kirk highlights the things that can be learned from the world of hostage negotiation.
He mentions that hostage negotiations have a success rate of 99.9%, so it goes without saying that there is indeed a lot to learn from these types of negotiations. Hostage negotiation is a process that includes training, rehearsal, practice, preparation, planning, and debriefing. Given it’s a complicated process, negotiators need to adapt to a particular environment in order to have the results in their favor.
All in all, hostage negotiation is about acknowledging that it is a process and that it has been crash-tested under extreme pressure.
Every corporate negotiator should aim at finding a reasonable solution through their negotiations instead of going for a win-lose situation. Although there can’t always be a pure win-win situation, smart negotiators would never want a win-lose in the corporate world. That’s because if you kill the opposition, you can’t do business with them the next year.
Aiming for something close to a win-win situation helps you build sustainable relationships, which translates to repeat business.
Kirk, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. Write to us at email@example.com and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.
Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, thanks for joining us on The NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Kirk Kinnell, a professional negotiator and former police negotiator. If you haven't already checked out part A of the show, please be sure to do that first.
Now, let's jump in the conversation with Kirk.
Aram Donigian : So, you were just just describing to us, you know, the value of training and, and getting really well prepared, so difficult to do the importance of making this training realistic and relevant, which I think is such a challenge and such a great point. You mentioned deploying as part of a team, and I think for many of our listeners that concept may be something that's just different or unusual.
How do you manage the deployment of a negotiation team? What does that look like? What are some of the different roles that your folks operate in?
Kirk Kinnell : So yeah, absolutely. In the world of negotiation, the concept of the team is critical. So, they would deploy ordinarily in teams of four, right? And the movies, you only see Kevin Spacey and he is on his own and….
AD : <laugh>
NM : <laugh>
KK : But yeah, there's a, there's a full team behind them, right? So the number one negotiator is the person who primarily has been selected to engage in dialogue. The number two is the person who supports that negotiator directly with coaching, perhaps listening for things that he or she has not heard. Because you'll appreciate yourself when you're about to ask a question, you're thinking about what you're going to say and not necessarily about what the person has just said. So the number there is a safety net to make sure that you capture everything that's there.
Number three is keeping a log. And he's keeping a log of really the essence of the negotiations, right? The general flow, things where it changes directions so that when we have our downtime, we can understand and reflect a bit more, a bit more the direction of travel, of the dialogue.
KK : And number four is keeping charts where all of the things that we want to know, you know, that you can look up to your left or right and realize there's something important that you've lost focus on because the negotiation has been running for 2, 4, 6, 8 hours. So, it's important to have that team, but also outside that you would have a team leader or a coordinator who is basically engaging with the commander, the unseen commander, and he or she might even be remote from that team.
And it's so that he can make representations to that commander about not only the conduct of the team, the progress, but the behavior of the perpetrator. And so we can make an evaluation so that they can coordinate the response by other units like the firearms team, the public order team, or the ambulance, whatever has to be there.
KK : So there's a big picture following on behind the number one, so that when you are a number one, you realize that some of the things that you're talking about will be more relevant to other members or other players in the game. And so when we transfer that concept into the corporate world, when we teach them negotiation, we teach them the benefit of preparation and also rehearsal and being part of that team.
And you see the strength of the team and the strength of the team is in the discipline, it's in the rehearsal, and it's in that understanding, that mutual understanding, let's just call it almost telepathic, right? And you appreciate yourself from your own background when everyone just seems to know what's happening, where it's going, what's about to be said, what's just been said, those moments. And I think it's when you have that you recognize that there are more people than you're supporting to achieve that same goal, but also it helps you not take all of the pressure on yourself, right?
KK : Because for me it's about if you're part of a team, you don't feel under so much pressure that you are alone or isolated because we win as a team and we lose as a team, right? So it certainly keeps the focus. And for me, probably more often than not, I would initially as a young negotiator, want to be the one who, who did all of the talking, right? When you just learn your skills and you, you're enthusiastic.
But as I got older and a bit more experienced, I very often wanted to perform a different role than number two, where I was just listening to something with a little more depth, right? Just trying to get a bit more than the superficial understanding that most people had. And when you understand the situation in a bit more depth, then of course you can influence it one quicker to, to everyone's satisfaction.
So, in the corporate world, yeah, people are really learning quickly that being part of a team training, rehearsing, practicing those skills means that they perform better. And it's the same concept. Train hard, play easy, <laugh>. So we train, you know, I told you from 7:00 AM till 2:00 AM for 14 days, you're never gonna have a siege where you're put under so much emotional pressure. Is that what we, we push them to breaking point knowing that when they're deployed operationally, it's within their parameters.
AD : Yeah. I liked you came back to that piece on training under conditions of mental exhaustion. Make the practice harder than what you're gonna face. Or at least as difficult. And I love the application. I don't know the way you just framed it, Kirk, I think it landed for me differently than how I thought about negotiating as part of a team in a corporate environment.
And what I've, what I've just thought about it before, I think so many people think that the corporate negotiation is one in which it's me at the table and we lose sight of everyone else that's helping me be successful from prep to data collection, to building out, you know, my term and offer sheet to being able to execute there in the moment. All those other pieces.
KK : Yeah. Listen, I've been involved in a lot of corporate negotiations and for the negotiators that I've earned, that's a concept that I sometimes scratch my head with. So, you know, there's a well- known Chinese proverb, “self praise is no honor”, right?
And so when I hear people expressing how fabulous they are or how world class they are, you know, that lack of humility really gets under my skin. And I realize, not sure how you would perform as part of a team, but for me in the last few negotiations I've had, absolutely. Sometimes even people who've only worked for the organization for a year come up with the best ideas, right? And of course, you need the lawyers to come up with the term sheets. You need decision makers to set your parameters and obviously move them when things change during that complex negotiation.
KK : And it's a mature negotiation team that learns, you have to rely on each other. And for me, that's what, you know, that's what makes it more valuable for me. Cause I meet people who are like-minded and we all achieve the same goal and then maybe walk away. Of course, we all reflect on the success of whatever that may be.
But if we make mistakes, then we're in it together. We don't point the finger at each other. Of course, in the world of hostage negotiation, we will be brutally honest with the performance of others, right? But we'll also accept that for ourselves, right? So again, it's having that humility that I'm prepared to criticize you, but I'll also accept it.
AD : Yeah. The power of feedback. Well, I know we're gonna get into just in a moment, more application to corporate and other contexts. I had two more questions I kind of wanted to circle back to from some things you shared right at the beginning.
One was anything we haven't covered yet in terms of the, just how you handle things in Scotland that, that we in the US or elsewhere could learn from some of those lessons learned, right? Your ability to get to almost zero fatalities and, and the success and deescalation. What were some of those key points that you were, uh, able to share with, uh, some of your counterparts over here?
KK : Yeah, well, listen, and again, I've come at this from a standpoint absolutely not of arrogance or thinking we had it right? Because, you know, my colleagues in the US and I'm still good friends with them. And you'll, and you'll see on my team, Mike Mako, my coolest FBI supervisor, a special agent former still on my team.
So, I'm good friends with a lot of people in the us. So this is not, don't come at this with that we told you so. You had to learn this, this because a lot of the lessons that I was teaching them, well, I learned from them many years ago, right? And, and that's the nature of knowledge, it just gets recycled.
But some of the things that we did, you know, and 2016 we looked at the number of people that were killed by US law enforcement, and obviously it was very topical and the number of black and minority ethnic people killed by US law enforcement, and please forgive me if I can't remember the numbers exactly, was like 850 people killed that year.
KK : But when you look at the figures, which is what I did, 950 white people killed. Wow! 1100 cops killed. Wow! Right? And so when you look at that, of course I was coming at that from a perspective where the political pressure was being applied at that moment in time, right? But that made me realize that an actual fact at the scene of the incident, well, that's where there was too much pressure being applied in general.
The officers were going in, going in close, presenting their weapons, giving instructions, obviously protecting themselves. But that combination of things was almost like escalating the conflict and not deescalating the conflict. And the comparison in the UK and in particular in Scotland, was that we would arrive at the scene, we would have ballistic vehicles by the armor, well-equipped carbines at a distance, and we would be 50 meters away, a hundred meters away, and we could engage the person and allow that situation to be de depressurized.
KK : We didn't close them down and we engaged them like human beings. And, of course we would put a cordon or a bubble around the boat then, and that was a movable bubble. If we could move that bubble while they want to walk around to vent their emotions, then that's what we had to do.
Because for us, it was not, we arrived at the scene and we don't move. And we have to be the authority figure. We recognize that we don't have to listen to the other person, listen to their perspective and understand what's going on.
And if you're backing instructions at people, then you'll never understand what they're doing. But to be fair, a lot of the US law enforcement agencies, and in particular the N Y P D, you know, the emergency service unit, and the guys I worked with there, they were already doing some of this stuff.
KK : They were already teaching some of this stuff, as was most of the organizations. It was just about joining it up at a moment in time and saying, right, let's reflect on the best practice, right? There's no way in the US, you are doing something dramatically different from what we are doing all of the time. It's just sporadic. And, you know, in terms of the political pressure, that's something they had to deal with. And I have to be honest, my heart goes out to the guys because they were putting their life on the line every day.
And all we're trying to do is, of course, keep them safe, but also for the same for the public, right? No one has to lose their life. And so that's really where it was coming from. The philosophy in Scotland was about the human life of the person there is every bit as important as the law enforcement officer, right?
KK : That's sanctity of life. And I know that's something that the head of the perf team, Chuck Wexer, he grabbed that phrase and, and became a preacher to US law enforcement on my behalf, right? He saw that and saw the essence of, of what law enforcement officers saw themself doing, right? And so, especially when, you know, I remember giving an interview for the New York Times, and we were asked about the protests.
And for me as a negotiator, I'm always listening for the motivators and drivers of people. And I said, listen, law enforcement officers in the UK want the same thing as Black Lives Matter protest, right? We all fight for injustice, right?, we want the same thing. So there role is to facilitate that lawful protest, hear that voice.
Now, however many perspectives you hear, and of course people might hijack the story for their own agenda, but the basic concept is we all want justice and we want people to be alive, right? So I'm focusing on what we are understanding negotiation, our common shared objective, what's the common goal? And that's always a common goal. We just have to take the time to find it.
AD : Yeah. So two things there: finding that common goal, being open to that possibility that exists, and then what you said about taking the time. And so it just again, clicked with me this idea of tactical patience that we so often would talk about in the military, but the way you described showing up at a scene, and rather than kind of running headlong and closing, creating a little more space and, and allowing things to diffuse.
And I think time is an interesting ingredient to every negotiation and how you, how you use it and manage it and leverage it.
Yeah. Listen, it takes as long as it takes, right? Because, you know, I understand the concept of buying time, but it's not so much about buying time, right? Hope is not a strategy, right? We don't just buy time and hope that it'll work out okay,
You appreciate it over time. You know, that the highs and lows, eventually they tail off. And what we want to do over time is to help stabilize people. And when they're stable, they're in a better position to be a little less emotional and a bit more logical. And when we get 'em to that point, then that's when everyone can make good decisions.
So time is our friend when it comes to that. Yeah. I also recognize tactically, sometimes we have to have to move early and intervene. Sometimes intervention is every bit as important as negotiation.
AD : Absolutely.
KK : So I recognize that, you know, there are many elements to what we're talking about here.
AD : One more question, Kirk, and I, I'm not gonna get this exactly right, so maybe you kinda clarify what I'm asking here, but you talked about kind of doing some organization around other institutions like, you know, worldwide and being able the ability to learn from each other and share common practices, that in itself sounds like quite a complex negotiation around trying to achieve alignment between a lot of agencies who probably are quite proud of what they do and find that, you know, think there that they do it the best and very successful.
Can you tell us a little bit more just in terms of managing that sort of engagement? Because that sounds just between a lot of bureaucracies and hierarchical organizations, that sounds like a very difficult challenge to get a number of the…Yeah… aligned.
KK : That's very tough. I'm not ever going to pretend that's easy, but there's only one answer there, right? So let me give you a little bit about the things that I've seen and faced and I've learned over the years for that. So right now, in the corporate world, one of the obstacles that I face in training negotiators or executives or marketing people is that they will say, and rightly so, I don't need training, I'm already pretty good at this stuff, right?
And so yes, you are. Of course you are. You're successful, you make X amount of money, but are you the best you can be? Have you stopped learning, right? So that's my way to try and overcome that obstacle is to say, you know, have you stopped learning? Is there even something you could learn from someone else? Because the mindset of 80% success rate, you know, on industry average sales marketing negotiation is between 50 and 60% success rate.
KK : That's right. Imagine if you could have one of 99%, what would that mean for your business, right? So that's the first thing open their minds up to, perhaps there's another way, but in terms of multi-agency, and we're probably talking, I think you're probably alluding to things like international kidnappers, where you have multiple governments or global conflict right now where different countries have got different agendas.
And again, one of the problems, there's a large ego in the room where there's a strong agenda. Again, I just take the time to figure people out individually and try and find something in common that everyone has. So even right now, when I'm, when I'm doing some training with people in the humanitarian world, right?
Even if you're negotiating with, you know, a non-state armed group and you want to get food into a camp or medical supplies into a camp, the person who is preventing you from getting food into the camp for a reason is if you can focus on what you have in common, right?
KK : Is that everyone wants their people to be alive, including him. Once you start to find out a way that they can see that common goal, that's when we start to move things, right? But if people feel under pressure, if they feel challenged, if they feel marginalized, you know, so we have to recognize that everyone has an agenda, but make them feel that their agenda, what we serve by following this.
So, even if it's not directly, they can get an indirect benefit of supporting a policy decision, a tactical move. Because the bottom line is if we focus on other people, then we can relinquish and maybe even compromise some of those, some things, stubborn things that have been going on and getting in the way.
NM : So you mentioned a few of the applications from crisis negotiations to other areas. And so kind of wanna start bridging that gap here. So how can we take the lessons learned from crisis negotiations and apply them to a business, government, military? What we get a lot from clients or, or other people that we're talking to when we first start talking about lessons learned from crisis negotiations is wait, wait, wait. That's not a prolonged negotiation.
That's something that's just a one and done thing. So we obviously know that there's plenty of lessons to be learned and gleaned and applied. So, anyways, what are, what are some of those applications that you see?
KK : Well, the first thing, and I start off with this one, what can you learn from the world of hostage negotiation? A success rate of 99.9% for starters, right? If you are even getting close to that, then maybe there's not a lot you can learn. And that comes from investing in the training, rehearse, practice, preparation, plan, debrief, all of that.
So we've got a process, we've got an A to Z process that we give people, but we also recognize that it's a complicated process, so we have to adapt that for your particular environment. So, I may have, let's just say for example, one to 10, step 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and I do it for your company, you know, or I do it for someone else's company, but they may only have six as well, and you've got a different five, right?
So, it's about recognizing that this process has been crash-tested under extreme pressure situation.
KK : Life or death situations and has a 99% success rate to influence the behavior of other people. How valuable would that be for you and your world? And I'd draw a comparison to say, let's talk about lawyers and the way that they look at, let's talk about maybe negotiating over something going to the court of arbitration.
And I say every time someone goes to court, one lawyer wins and one lawyer loses, right? But we never talk about the ones who lose, right? We only remember the success stories. And I try and get 'em to think about that and say, well, if you are able to negotiate with a 99.9% success rate, then perhaps we could find a common goal where everyone seems to benefit because it doesn't have to be win lose, right? And I talk about win-win in a way that it sounds a bit naive, right?
KK : And I recognize there can't always be pure win-win situation, but we really don't want win-lose in the corporate world, right? Because if you kill the opposition, you can't do business with them next year. So for me, win-win is about building sustainable relationships, building relationships that are so strong, they are sustainable.
You can overcome bumps in the road. And when you build sustainable relationships, for me, that means repeat business, right? And it also means profit, repeat, profit.
So, as a long-term business strategy, learning from the world of hostage negotiation who repairs bumps in the road and damaged relationships rather than several start relationship and go separate ways, we always look for added value and there's always value in every relationship. We just have to take the time, negotiate and gauge each other, understand and find that value.
And usually what I find where there's been being contract disputes or a difference between two organizations, it's usually a small thing which has caused an emotional overreaction.
KK : And we're fighting about clause five, but it's not really about clause five. It's the way they made me feel last year when they said clause five. And so the same thing, it's just a siege, right? But it's in our corporate premises and we don't really understand it, right? But once we unpack that siege, once we unpack those problems, we usually find there's a reasonable solution. And the broken chain that exists between two companies, you know, is very easily to be repaired.
In fact, sometimes the relationships can be stronger because a lot of the times when I've healed some relationships or resolved some contract disputes, you know, we're back 12 months later, want to do business again, right? Because everyone's in it for the same thing, money, right? They want to, they want to make profit, they want to be successful, they want to have that journey where we cause at least the least amount of damage we can to our partners.
And if they understand the concept of negotiation, you know, it's not about win-lose, win lose is a short-term game, but big companies who understand the long-term game, that's why they're employing me right now. Because they want their people to think about things about overcoming these obstacles rather than end up in court.
AD : And there's tangible value to be gained from strengthening that sustainable relationship. And I think, you know, the importance of getting that and then, and then finding ways to, as you said, you know, strategically build that relationship to achieve better outcomes.
KK : Well also if, if the ego of people or the hurt feelings, we recognize that that can cause damage, but if it gets in the way of a billion dollar contract, then doesn't make sense to keep going that way. Right? Take a step back and, and find a solution that's good for everyone, right? And so that's why it's more important to understand that negotiation and influence is stronger than manipulation, right? Some of the negotiators that are out there teaching you tricks on how to beat people and overcome them, usually they can smell it and see it and taste it and feel it, right? And they don't want to do business with you again.
So for me it's about negotiating with integrity. It's about recognizing that you can do something wrong, but getting them to a place where they feel they can work with you again.
KK : And when with both of you can apologize for the bumps and the roads and move on, then usually there's, that's the solution.
AD : Yeah.
KK : Sometimes you've got a bad doctor, you know, you mentioned it earlier. Sometimes we have people who are, you know, organizations who behave badly, and we use those very same skills in the world of hostage negotiation to bring them down because we have, in the corporate world, we have extortionists, you know, we have some horrible people that want to crush you.
And I use those same listening skills to find leverage and turn their horror against them. And usually that's when perhaps we do want to defeat them when they have good, bad motivation.
AD : That's right. And I don't know what the percentage is, but I, you know, it's probably a smaller percentage than what we assume it is. I'd like, I just wanna comment, Kirk, the things you're saying about the strength of a relationship is how well we can discuss the difficult things, right? That tells us a lot about how strong our relationship is when we disagree. And then also, you know, negotiating with integrity, how we negotiate, how we use these conversation skills that you're talking about, it's really the first indicator of what it's gonna be like to work together going forward too. And that's helpful to keep in mind.
KK : Yeah. Listen, absolutely. So we mentioned earlier about humility, and humility being the desire to understand one's perspective usually before you even express your opinion, right? We want to hear theirs, right? Sometimes the problem comes when we just argue our point over and over again and we try to convince them that we are right and they're wrong, and we recognize that. But obviously some psychological studies tell us that the more you try to convince someone they're wrong, the greater the resolve becomes <laugh>. So we, we just allow them to hear themselves, hear their perspective, hear others, and usually that solution becomes obvious to everyone, right? We don't have to bash them over the heads
AD : <laugh>. So, I'm curious, we've, this has been a great conversation so far and hopefully we've softened you up for this next question. You're a career negotiator, so much experience. Have you ever had a negotiation failure? And is there one you could share with us, and what you learned from it?
KK : Yeah, listen, lots of failures, right? And my, the failures over my life have been the negotiations that I didn't realize I was in, right? That's when, that's when I fail, when I'm, when I'm just engaging people and I don't realize that they want something else as part of this dialogue. And I'm maybe a bit bullish and a bit stubborn and yeah. Lots of times, yeah. I mean, I think if I'm to share what I would perceive to be a failure as I was deployed to a situation in Glasgow many years ago where a man, alcohol and drugs and under the influence breaks into a property and starts to throw things out of the third floor of the, the property. And it's a difficult situation. I attend there as a uniform officer and try and engage him. And when I engage him, he's dangling from the window by his fingertips.
KK : And as I engage him and convince him that we mean him no harm. Again, the most dangerous time in negotiation is when you think you're winning. I was hopeful that he would climb back in and he slipped on his, his foot slipped on the wet stone outside and, and he felt his death. We had a debrief as we had with every single job, and we really couldn't find something that we did wrong or not delusional or just recognizing, you know, sometimes these things happen, but even though we did nothing wrong, again for humility, we have to still count that as a failure because the perspective of other people is more important than our perspective.
And from his perspective, then that ended the worst way it could have ended. And a human being lost his life. And so the lessons from that, the debrief for that, where we could find no blame internally because we're, we're keen to do that, was just a reminder about humility, reminder about why we're actually there, we're there for other people.
So that lesson of failure reminds me that every negotiation I go to is about other people. And that, that helps keep me hopefully grounded and, you know, with a bit of humility and a bit of integrity and, you know, just make sure that that ego stays in check. Because even in the world of corporate negotiations, I try not to make sure the team get too bullish, even if we've had some successes because it's not over till it's over, right?
AD : Right. So, flipping the script a little bit, how about a success, something you consider to be tremendously successful? Didn't start off that way, looked a little hopeless example of just a negotiation success and, and what was it that made it so successful?
KK : Okay. Yeah, that's a really good question. So yeah, I'm split between one from the world of hostage negotiation and one in the corporate world about.
AD : Tell us both you, can you tell us both.
KK : <laugh>? Yeah, I'll give you both then. Okay. I'll give you both. <laugh>. So the world of host negotiation, I have a siege and it's a guy with a gun, he's armed and he fires some shots out of the window, and the outskirts of Glasgow. And again, alcohol and drugs and a and a volume of drugs that you wouldn't believe a person would survive taking this types of drug.
And we are there for one and a half days, the seed. So I'm on duty, I'm negotiating with them for eight hours. I go home, change over to another team and come back on the following day and surprise, surprise. And so that seed is still on, just go straight there. So I go back and I'm, I'm part of team three, the third team on with this guy, and I'm negotiating for about four or five hours with him.
KK : And eventually I really figure him out. We've tried everything we can, but we're trying to figure out a guy who's under the influence heavily of alcohol and strong drugs. And eventually I make a proposal to him based on what he told me.
Again, humility, understand other people. When I really thought about him, I understood what was making him tick and not what he was pretending would make him tick. And I heard in the dialogue that status was important to him, right? He fired the gun at the window, the whole street and the area we're all going to know he was an important guy.
And so I sold him 10 years in prison and I told him that, you know, eventually this siege is going to end and this siege is going to end with you either tossed up like a Turkey
KK : Or you can come out with your head held high. And I saw right away a light going where he wanted the notoriety of a tough surrender and we kind of choreographed a bit of a fight so that the outside media would see this knowing that when he walked into the jail, everyone would be talking about how tough he was.
And I sold him that idea. So I sold him a version of him and that was no magical solution that we had to offer it. But it's about recognizing that the solution always comes when you understand other people, right? And when I walked out of that siege, the commander basically asked me, how did you manage to solve that, right?
And that the truth of the matter is he helped me solve it. So that's why I think of that as probably the best success because for me, the penny drop moment for everyone was the solution lies with them not us, you don't need to be the clever guys all the time.
KK : Right? And so, in the corporate world, most of the jobs I have in the corporate world, I actually can't talk about them because of non-disclosure agreements, and you recognize this, but I can give you some of the, the story around about this one. So it's an 850 million buck deal. And I engaged with the other team and there's four lawyers and three negotiators on the other side of the table. And they introduce themselves, right? And they are very powerful lawyers, US based representing presidents and former presidents of the US and, and they're a big team. And my opening sensation is….[sound]
NM : <laugh>
KK : And eventually I realized, wow, if there's seven people in front of me, they're building a big wall to hide something, right? And so over the period of a few months, we engaged them in dialogue. And again, I was able to present to them things that they had yielded to me during the dialogue, which was there at Kelly Seal.
And they walked away from that deal and ripped up the contract, which was with 850 million bucks. And it saved my client from paying out that amount of money. And it had been to the court of arbitration in Geneva who said the contract was watertight and should be paid, but we managed to create a happy divorce where no one really wins, but no one really loses everything that they can lose. And when you come to that, you realize that even when there is the most complex situation, if your mindset to conflict is we're always going to search for mutual value, you'll find it.
And once I got them into that mindset that they saw there was something in it for them, then they were more open to that.
AD : Thanks, Kirk.
NM : That's awesome. So Aram and I are always interested in how negotiations comes up in your personal life. You shared with us an example from crisis negotiations and business. What about personal?
KK : Yeah, listen, in terms of my personal life and probably as a younger man, I would've agreed with all of the negotiators who say I've been all over the world, but at home, I'm the worst negotiator in the world. And probably early in my life, I would say, yeah, absolutely. I probably lost every single one. I didn't know I was in a negotiation and I was emotional, right? And yeah, they had lived with a negotiator so they knew how to play me, right?
And I <laugh> and I wasn't playing games. But actual negotiations in my personal life for the last few years have absolutely enhanced my life because I'll learn that sometimes at home, I'm in a negotiation and sometimes I've just got to shut up and listen, right? And, when you shut up and listen and make people feel heard and understood, and I train them to do the same to me, then we can start to have conversations, express different perspectives without it becoming, you know, a battle.
And it just becomes an expression. We find a mutually agreeable conclusion. Listen, most often in family, I don't care if I lose most of that battle because if they're happy, I'm happy. Right? And, and for me, that's a win, right? So in terms of that, I think when I, when I get to the point where I recognize that anything that they win is also my win, then we're all gonna benefit, right?
NM : That's right. So as we start to wrap this thing up, is there anything that we haven't asked you that you wanna share or anything like that, Kirk?
KK : No, listen, I mean, I think I've probably, you know, for the good conversation and I've tried to convey any lessons that I think for other people out there, I think I probably just would, would wrap up by reminding people to plan as much as you can, prepare as best you can, anticipate what's coming.
You know, role play, do your research, do your due diligence, debrief every single job. Excellence only comes from debriefing. Even the very good ones, the pursuit of excellence is constant, right? But the one thing I would like to leave your ROS with is make sure that your humility dominates your ego because it makes life just so much better for everyone around you. And if you care about other people, you'll take control of that.
NM : Absolutely. Beautiful. Well, before I kick it over to Aram, I just wanna say thank you so much for joining us today. If the listeners haven't already had to negotiate resolutions.com, that's Kirk's website and you can see everything that Kirk's doing and reach out to him there. Is that the easiest place for them to get in touch with you, Kirk?
KK : Yeah, listen, absolutely. I'll share a link with people you'll know, they'll be able to find me on the internet. But listen, thank you very much for the chance to talk about this stuff today. It's been good for me to have a good conversation, but actually really interesting to hear your perspective and what you're doing and what you're trying to achieve. So good luck guys. Keep up the good work because I've listened to all of the podcasts you've done before and you have some great conversations. So if I can even be a fraction of some of them, I'd be happy.
AD : Well, it has been Kirk for sure. Thanks so much for joining us, taking the time outta your, your day and with being on different sides of the pond. Uh, thanks for making this happen. Your insights have been really helpful. Trying to go back and recapture, I think you summarized it better than I could. I love the piece that you said, you know, let our humility dominate our ego. I think that's a challenge. If you're a human, I think that's a challenge.
One thing I didn't highlight earlier that I just took away personally was the challenge as a teacher and a trainer of this stuff, it's so easy to put the blame when something isn't understood on the student, on the trainee. You reframed that and said, you know, what did I do wrong in my instruction? How can I teach more effectively? How can I simplify things? That's a great challenge for me. I'm gonna put that into practice this week as I get ready for my next lesson when I, where, when I'm teaching, right? So I just think it's a great application of these skills. Thank you for that and thanks for your time.
NM : Absolutely. Well, thanks for listening to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Really appreciate it. If you haven't already, please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. You'll be able to find great episodes like this where we get to speak to great people like Kirk and everyone else we bring on to the podcast.
So, head to negotiatex.com to learn about all the great things that we can do for you and your organization. And, we'll see you in the next episode.
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