The day I was laid-off from IBM was a revelation for me.
The year was 2005, and as I sat in the parking lot reflecting on my time with the company and all I’d achieved there, I felt a profound sense of emptiness. I had plenty of wins to my name, but they came at the expense of business relationships with my colleagues, clients, and vendors.
I saw, for the first time, the difference between winning and succeeding. I had prioritized wins, which were short-term in nature, while ignoring long-term relationships and results.
As my former colleagues came streaming out of the building at 5:00 pm, I wanted to stop each one and implore them not to make the same mistakes I’d made. Instead, I created a workshop called Soft, Yet Powerful Negotiations for professionals who manage relationships every day.
I taught that workshop for a decade. In 2016, I realized the curriculum I was teaching could be turned into a book. For the next three years, I took my learnings, combined them with the Indian principles I’d returned to after abandoning them while working in corporate jobs, and added in business examples.
One decision I made early on was to write the book from the perspective of the reader, not from my perspective as a teacher. I did this because I wanted to make the principles I was sharing come to life for the reader. Some early feedback I got (from a teenager, no less) helped me shift the tone to make sure what I was writing didn’t read like a dry, boring lecture.
One of my favorite ideas as I was writing the book was the idea of silence, so it’s thrilled me that readers have also latched onto this idea as one of their favorites. Contrary to what other books might teach, silence is not a tool to be used against someone else during a negotiation.
Silence is our true nature. It is not a thing to be used. Silence means decluttering your mind so that you can approach a situation without the weight of preconceived notions or biases.
When you silence your mind before a negotiation, it can help you see the other party not as an adversary, but as an ally who is going to work with you to achieve the goals you have.
Beyond the application of ideas from the book, it’s been amazing to witness the impact the book is having on people already. I know the ideas I’ve shared can help people in their careers.
What I’m seeing, though, is an impact that extends to other aspects of life. The eight principles in the book will improve your business relationships, but some can help with your personal relationships, too. For example, how do you negotiate with someone who’s acting in a way you don’t understand? Put yourself in their shoes: do they have needs that aren’t being met?
Dealing with a volatile situation that’s causing you to question yourself? Try this: list out ten of your accomplishments from the past year. Now, consider what led to those accomplishments. What you’ll find is the inner strength you need to tackle whatever challenge you face.
The title of my book is Beyond Wins. I can’t go back in time and change how my career at IBM and other employers turned out, but with this book, I can help people avoid the myopic viewpoint that caused me to focus on wins at the expense of long-term relationships and, ultimately, true success.
Mala Subramaniam is a public speaker, leadership trainer, and executive coach. A decade of training and coaching corporate clients, Mala has reached 25,000+ professionals to build skills in cross-cultural communications, presentation, and negotiation. Insights are based on global marketing positions held in IBM, GE and Dun & Bradstreet.