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Interview with Frank Zerunyan J.D. on his new book: Newgotiation for Public Leaders: The Art of Negotiation for a Better Outcome

Contract Cities sat down with Frank Zerunyan J.D., Councilmember in the City of Rolling Hills Estates and Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy to discuss his new book, Newgotiation for Public Leaders: The Art of Negotiation for a Better Outcome.

This is what we heard:

Contract Cities:

Frank, thank you for taking the time to discuss your book. Can you tell the membership what your inspiration was in authoring this piece?

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

The idea for this book came about through a meeting I had with my co-author Yann Duzert in Brazil. I was teaching there when I met him and we began discussing his training and study in decision management. His research emphasizes the importance of the cognitive sciences in the decision making process. As he began describing this model for negotiation, I thought, this is something that we really lack in public administration: an understanding of a collaborative decision making process and a process that doesn’t create winners and losers, but rather better outcomes for all.

I asked Yann if he had studied collaborative governance, which we teach at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. The two concepts seemed such natural partners that the idea for the book was really born out of that interaction.

Through this book, government leaders learn a common language that can be used to achieve better outcomes for all parties involved.

Contract Cities:

Tell us more about Yann Duzert, your co-author.

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

Yann teaches at FGV the Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration. He consults with major organizations and corporations, teaching them a new way to negotiate called Newgotiation. This concept turns the traditional hard negotiation model on its head and creates a paradigm where win-win situations are the rule, not the exception.

Contract Cities:

What are some of the common pitfalls of the traditional negotiation process that you see in the public sector today?

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

The hard negotiation concept that we have been taught for years, that I was taught in law school, fails miserably in the public sector. Our time in public service is full of different negotiation processes, whether it be working through labor contract negotiations or working with neighboring cities on storm water issues, we are constantly at the negotiating table. Think about for a moment, what good a hard negations process does you in these instances?

If there is a winner and loser in labor contract negotiations, does anyone really win? If your City has a better position than your neighboring City on an issue are you really better off in the long run? You have to continue to engage these entities for years to come, so how is this really a good way of doing business?

A system that emphasizes winners and losers inevitably leaves parties feeling slighted, as if someone got a raw deal, and that does not make for long-term success in the public sector.

Traditional negotiation is a competitive process, one where dominating the other party is considered success. The techniques used in this process are designed to create winners and losers, and to not share anything along the way. Parties use domination and persuasion skills to make the other succumb. When you are a steward of the public trust, this is not the best way to approach an issue.

Newgotiation for public leaders turns this traditional process on its head, inspiring trust as all parties take a long-term view in problem solving. The process focuses on relationship building because a short-term viewpoint doesn’t work in public office. Our methodology looks at the values of collaboration. When you start collaborating on the needs and wants, you can enlarge the negotiating pie and everyone gets bigger slivers. We create clear language and technique while abandoning the traditional hard negotiation model. Once leaders realize that creating ill will from the negotiation process doesn’t get you anywhere, this model can start really making a difference.

Contract Cities:

Your book details the 4-10-10 Newgotiation Technique – can you give us a brief overview of that?

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

There are 4 steps, 10 elements and 10 indicators that you use to move through this process. This is the common language that everyone in the process should use. Whatever you negotiate, be it with your spouse or your neighboring community, all negotiations should embrace this 4-10-10 technique.

The 4-10-10 technique calls for preparation and setting the stage for the negotiation process. By identifying the elements critical to the negotiation process, then moving through the four-step process, all parties can experience a more streamlined, collaborative process. In the end you measure the success of the negotiation against the 10 indicators to determine how the process worked.

Throughout this process everyone should be looking for sustainability, looking to build the relationship for the long haul.

Contract Cities:

What would your comments be to someone who is reluctant to depart from the hard power way of negotiation and move to this new model?

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

No one likes change or paradigm shifts. However, to survive, change is extremely important. Adaptability makes better leaders and if you take a long-term view and build trust and relationships, you’re going to fair better in the negotiation process and add value in the long run.

Contract Cities:

What do you believe are the benefits that can be realized in the public sector if this new paradigm is embraced?

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

You can get a better deal with a long-term viewpoint. Employing current negotiation techniques, 30% of the time we achieve the win-win situation – we can improve that ratio. As leaders in the public sector we are stewards of the public trust, therefore we should be looking to build relationships and set our communities up for long-term success. By implementing this new way of negotiation, we create a long-term outlook to conducting the public’s business and set our communities up for more successful relationships in the future.

Contract Cities:

What are some other opportunities to learn more on this topic?

Frank Zerunyan J.D.:

First and foremost, read the book. It is very short, concise and manageable. Additionally, we teach this topic at the USC Sol Price Executive Education Forum so public leaders can learn more about this new way of thinking. Those interested in more training can conduct a customized course on the topic. I am traveling to Armenia to teach an intensive training course to four ministries in the Republic of Armenia’s government, all mid-level government leaders looking to change the way they think about the negotiation process in the public sector.

Click to purchase Newgotiation for Public Leaders: The Art of Negotiation for a Better Outcome.

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