January, 2017

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Negotiation Lessons: Why Mexico’s President cancelled meeting US President?

You might have already read and/or watched the news about Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto canceling meeting with US President Donald J. Trump.

If you had followed the events leading to the cancelation, you weren’t surprised at all.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order to build the wall in the southern border of the US believing that Mexico will pay the cost in one form or another.

This decision was unilateral and was made without the consent of Mexico’s government.  The Executive Order offended Mexico’s delegate who are here in the US to have some form of negotiation with Trump’s administration. Following the signature, the high level delegates called their President to cancel the scheduled meeting with the President of the US.

While this was still going on, on Thursday, Trump tweeted saying: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” It didn’t take long for Mexico’s President to just do that- he cancelled the planned meeting, following Trump’s lead, via twitter: “This morning we have informed the White House that I will not attend the meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the POTUS”.

Why he canceled the meeting, you may ask, especially knowing that Mexico is going to lose the most? According to Trump’s earlier tweet, “The US has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico.”

It is simple. In any negotiation, if your counterpart gives you an ultimatum with his/her walking away price upfront (in this case, Trump revealed that he walks away if Mexico doesn’t agree to pay for the wall), you immediately realize your best and worst scenarios. And, if you figure out that you won’t get a satisfactory agreement from a negotiation and some how you could be able to live with the worst scenario, then, you too walk away. That is what Mexico’s President just did.

Of course, at this point, it’s too early to reach any conclusion. I hope that the two nations may keep working on a win-win deal, at least, behind the scene… I guess, they have already realized that negotiation of this magnitude doesn’t succeed on Twitter 🙂 lol

That being said, my interest here is to share some negotiation lessons with leaders like yourself:

1.    Don’t give ultimatum upfront. This is true even if you have the upper hand as you enter into any negotiation; of course, if your desire is a win-win deal. In the US – Mexico case, we aren’t sure whether Trump was making a tactical move to begin the negotiation on strong foundation and from higher ground or whether that was a misstep and oversight. Otherwise, you shouldn’t demand concessions before the start of a negotiation. You should wait for the right time to demand concessions, and if necessary to make some concessions.

2.    Don’t reveal the bottom-line too soon. This is especially important during negotiations between two nations. Negotiations in business are totally different than negotiations between nations, especially those from different cultures. In the former case, as far as the negotiators get a deal acceptable by the majority of the shareholders, they may be considered successful. Unfortunately, negotiations between nations are complex. There are countless stakeholders with diverse, sometimes irreconcilable, interests and priorities. Trump attempted to negotiate on twitter and revealed his bottom lines for all stakeholders to read too soon. Sensitive negotiations should be done behind closed doors, at least, at the initial stage. There should also be an agreement from both parties on how and when to communicate the progress of the negotiation to their respective stakeholders.

3.    Don’t undermine emotions. Negotiators should pay closer attention to their own and the emotions of others. How negotiators handle emotions could make or break a negotiation. This is especially important during negotiations between nations. His inner circle and thousands of citizens pressured Enrique (it didn’t matter whether he wanted to attend the meeting personally) because they felt that Trump’s tweets did hurt their national pride! According to news from Mexico, the President was forced to cancel the meeting because citizens felt that their country and its people are bullied and therefore, regardless of the economic consequences of walking away from the scheduled meeting, they demanded their President to cancel it.

4.    Don’t damage long-term relationships. Neighboring countries like the US and Mexico shouldn’t just negotiate to get a better financial deal. They need each other for other collaborations that are critical to their countries, people, and the region long after the current Presidents are gone. That doesn’t mean the current governments shouldn’t aim to get win-win deals for their respective countries but this shouldn’t be sought in the expense of permanently damaging their relationship. Win-lose negotiations always burn bridges and also injure healthy relationships.

Hope this helps!


Assegid (AZ) Habtewold is the owner of Success Pathways, LLC, and lead trainer and workshop facilitator. He provides soft skill workshops on themes such as Negotiation Skills, Conflict Resolution, Diversity and Inclusion, Problem Solving and Decision Making, Leading Change, and other leadership related topics. Here is the link to checkout the learning objectives of our Negotiation Skills workshop: https://successpws.com/?page_id=1483.

By the way, AZ has Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, Master’s in Computer Science, and Doctor of Strategic Leadership. He wrote two books on leadership. He has been facilitating soft skill and leadership workshops including negotiation skills for some government agencies, technology, and non-profit organizations. In his upcoming book, which will be published soon, he discussed extensively about the importance of leaders honing their negotiation skills.

Empower Your Project Management Team…

As I prepare to facilitate a workshop on project management, I thought sharing with you one of the reasons why some smart project managers ask us to conduct this workshop for their teams.

Here is how it works. We customize each workshop for our clients. We ask some questions to specifically tailor the workshop for that particular client. One of the tailoring questions we ask is: “Why you wanted to arrange this workshop?”

Each client has its own specific reasons. “Because I want my team members to understand how project management works” is one of the reasons many of our clients share in common.

These are seasoned project managers. They fully understand how project management works. They know the ins and outs of successful project management.

But, these project managers understand that no project succeeds without a successful team. And, successful team needs constant empowerment.

If you haven’t invested to empower your project management team yet, here are some of the benefits that may prompt you to consider arranging a workshop for your project management team. When they participate in this workshop, your team members:

1.    Capture the big picture and clearly see where they fit in.

2.    Understand their critical roles for the success of the project.

3.    Know the WHY of what they do.

4.    Participate actively (proactively) throughout the lifecycle of the project.

5.    Learn the best way to set their goals, plan to carryout their tasks, efficiently manage resources, effectively communicate with stakeholders, prepare and distribute well written reports, initiate and implement change, handle conflicts wisely, and many more.

If you are interested to arrange a one or two day workshop on project management for your team, let me know…


Assegid Habtewold (AZ) facilitates workshops on project management at Success Pathways. Here is the link to check out the learning objectives of our project management workshop: https://successpws.com/?page_id=1553

AZ has Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, Master’s in Computer Science, and Doctor of Strategic Leadership. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from Project Management Institute (PMI). Before he began facilitating Project Management workshops, he had managed Science and Research, IT, and Media projects. He is also certified by SkillPath/National Seminars to facilitate their popular seminar: “Fundamentals of Successful Project Management”

Mastering providing tough feedback

To succeed in getting along with and leading others, we need to master providing tough feedback. Unfortunately, giving tough feedback is easier said than done. Nonetheless, though it’s a very tough challenge, it’s possible to master this soft skill. It’s within your reach to remain nice while at the same time giving honest and tough feedback to the people you love and care about. The best approach to provide tough feedback that I suggest to my audience when I facilitate ‘Delivering Constructive Feedback’ is to customize every feedback to the individual.

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Let me quickly share with you a process that I shared in my upcoming book, which will be published soon. To provide tough feedback:

  1. Find the right place and time to give the feedback for that particular person. Where and when you offer your feedback determines its outcome. Choose the right atmosphere and timing if your desire is to succeed in giving tough feedback.
  2. Create a positive environment. Always begin with a positive tone. Everyone has some strengths and things that are going very well. Acknowledge the strengths of the person and what have been working well before you talk about what went wrong, weaknesses and limitations of the person.
  3. State the issue very clearly. Clearly indicate what isn’t working, what must change.
  4. Be specific. Don’t just use generic terms. Stop beating around the bush. Be specific and give some examples and instances.
  5. Provide some options. If the feedback requires making changes, give the person the opportunity to suggest some ways to improve the situation. If the person doesn’t have anything to suggest or if you have better options, provide some options.
  6. Offer support. Once you reach agreement on how to resolve the issue or improve it, ask the person any help he/she needs from you. If the issue requires monitoring and arranging subsequent meetings, work out the details with the person.

Of course, you don’t need to strictly adopt this process as it is. You may customize it and use it as it fits your objective condition on the ground.

Assegid Habtewold (AZ) is an author, consultant, coach, speaker, and trainer at Success Pathways, LLC (https://successpws.com). He facilitates soft skill workshops (including Delivering Constructive Feedback https://successpws.com/?page_id=1486) for some government agencies, technology and research companies, and non-profits. If you’re interested to empower your people with our soft skills to experience harmony, synergy, low turn over and conflicts, and so on, you may contact us via email: Assegid@successpws.com (and/or assegidh@gmail.com) and we’ll be happy to work with you to create customized workshops right for your team.

Your People Skills, Your competitive advantages

Someone from my LinkedIn network posted the quote of Robert Kuok- the richest man in Malaysia: “When I hire people, I look for great attitude. I don’t look for MBA or PHD.”

I liked the quote. Normally, I’d have just liked it and moved on. But, the quote is a perfect fit to the theme of my upcoming book. Thus, I wrote the following comment: “It’s a great strategy. I forgot where I read but John C Maxwell, a renowned leadership expert, suggested that employers should first look for affinity- whether the person has the right mindset, and attitude to fit within the corporate culture- followed by character, and then skills necessary to do the job. This shows that soft skills (intangible) skills are more important that hard (technical) skills. The temptation, however, for many leaders is to look for skills, and qualifications first.”

Following the above comment, in the comment section, someone posted a very good question: “Well, why then waste all the energy in going school trying distinguish yourself. I would have a better attitude if I don’t owe all that money on student loan.”

This is a legitimate question. If we don’t put Robert’s quote in context, it looks like he undermined the importance of skills. He is not. You cannot just hire a very impressive bystander to do heart surgeries in your hospital. You are not crazy enough to give your BMW car for a guy who isn’t a mechanic but full of positive attitude and people skills. You got my point…

Here is my response: “Good question. Why wasting our time, energy, and finance to go to school if hard skills like accounting, engineering, IT, surgery, and hundreds of other technical skills we need to perform our primary job description aren’t important compared to attitude and character? Going school and acquiring these skills is mandatory. They are the bare minimum. We need them to get into the door. But, they cannot help us succeed without the right soft skills like positive attitude, and other people skills, which many schools neglect to offer to their students. Employers would like to make sure that the new hires fit into the corporate culture. Therefore, if they have hundreds of candidates all of whom have PhD in physics and they need one person, most employers go for the one who has the right attitude and character who would be the right fit to the existing team than the one who has the highest GPA. The most important thing to professionals is to master our craft (technical skills) plus invest on our soft skills to become skillful in our communication, EI, problem solving, decision making, teamwork, etc. These intangible skills, which we may not get from formal education, are our competitive advantages to succeed in any career/environment….”

Well, I thought you might be interested to read this interesting conversation.

By the way, how do you rate your people skills (1 to 10, 1 being very poor, 10 excellent)? If you gauged your soft skill competency below 8, you need help. Whatever time, resource, and energy you may dedicate to improve your soft skills, it’s worth your investment. It compliments your technical abilities. It also empowers you not only to survive in this very competitive era, but also to excel and thrive.

Whether you are a professional, business owner, politician, activist, community organizer, what have you, you need to work on your people skills. Your technical abilities cannot take you far; they cannot separate you from the crowd in your field/industry.

Just so you know, your zeal to serve isn’t enough!

Assegid Habtewold (AZ) is an author, consultant, coach, speaker, and trainer at Success Pathways, LLC (https://successpws.com). He facilitates soft skill workshops for some government agencies, technology and research companies, and non-profits. If you’re interested to empower your people with key soft skills to experience harmony, synergy, low turn over and conflicts, and so on, you may contact us via email: Assegid@successpws.com (and/or assegidh@gmail.com) and we’ll be happy to work with you to create customized workshops right for your team.

By the way, Assegid’s upcoming book, which will be published soon, addresses the very theme touched in this blog. We’ll announce on our website when the book becomes available. Stay tuned!

Becoming an impactful leader by increasing your self-awareness

Self-aware leaders are authentic. They had first influenced themselves- walked the talk, before they had attempted to influence and lead others. Steven Covey, the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, proposed to have private victories before seeking public victories. He called the first three habits private victory. And, the next three habits public victory. Covey rightful argued that achieving the private victories make it easy to achieve public victories. Plutarch is also said it very well, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

By the way, leadership is illusive for many because they think that the places where they become better leaders are public arenas as they lead others. Unfortunately, the foundation of impactful leadership is self-leadership. That is why one of the greatest philosophers, Plato said: ‘The first and best victory is to conquer self.’

Self-leadership is a prerequisite for lasting and impactful leadership. If one fails to lead herself for whom she has control, how can she leads others on whom she doesn’t have any control? As the classic painter Leonardo da Vinci said, You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.”

However, as much as self-leadership is a prerequisite for lasting and impactful leadership, it’s not easy to lead self more than most of us would like to admit. In one of his leadership conferences, when the leadership guru John C. Maxwell was asked what has been his greatest challenge as a leader, he surprised the audience by saying, “Leading me! That’s always been my greatest challenge as a leader”. In his book Leadership Gold, he further argued, “I think that’s true for all leaders regardless of who they lead and what they accomplish. We sometimes think about accomplished leaders from history and assume that they had it all together.”

What have been your challenges as a leader? Have you succeeded in leading self? How much time and energy are you investing to increase your self-awareness? What are you and your people doing on a consistent basis to increase your self-awareness to become impactful leaders? Let’s know if you need our help to increase the self-awareness of your people.


Assegid (AZ) Habtewold is the owner and lead trainer at Success Pathways, LLC. He wrote a book entitled ‘The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For continued success in leadership’, and Self-awareness is the very first building block. He facilitates Increasing Self-awareness workshops. Here is the link to learn the learning objectives of our self-awareness workshop: https://successpws.com/?page_id=1496

Becoming an Inclusive Leader

In the 21st C, where competition is fierce and going to be fiercer, inclusive leaders are the only ones that are capable enough to lead their organizations to the next height. Inclusive leaders don’t feed their ego and seek to be right all the time. They are graceful when their ideas and positions are questioned. They don’t demand compliance from their people without merit. They’re confident enough that they are not threatened when diverse views and ideas are expressed within their organizations.

They, on purpose, promote diversity of viewpoints internally. They are inclusive who entertain ‘organized disagreements’ knowing that such an organization enjoys a great deal of benefit from the collision of diverse ideas. They understand that when ideas collide, the best idea prevails. Rather than being entrapped by ordinary and common ideas and preventing their organization from becoming the best in what it does, inclusive leaders liberate their organization from such imprisonment of mediocracy by creating a safe environment that encourages well-organized disagreements.

For their organizations (whether they are for profit, non-profits, charitable organizations, political parties, NGOs, etc.) to innovate and continuously improve and grow- they pay the necessary price. Some of the prices include but not limited to being vulnerable to be challenged, willing to listen even those ideas they don’t like and understand, and open to be corrected when they are wrong, and when their ideas and proposals are inferior.

Your country, community, and the world at large needs confident and inclusive leaders in the New Year who are willing to design within their organizations organized disagreements, entertain diverse views, and who are willing to tolerate outliers within their organizations.

Inclusive leaders, rather than attempting to build cult around their personality and surrounding themselves with a monotonous team filled with ‘yes’ men and women, they are committed to the higher purpose of the organization and the Greater Good by allowing people to speak their minds freely and without being ostracized!

What kind of leader do you want to be? What will be your legacy? Do you want to be remembered as a control freak? Or, are you willing to become inclusive? It is your choice. Here, in front of you, is a New Year to become a more inclusive leader. If you’re not in a leadership position right now, what kind of leaders are you supporting? What role (s) should you play in the New Year to make your team and leaders more inclusive?

If you would like to become an inclusive leader in this New Year and beyond, first, be bold and decide to break away from the tradition of intimidating dissenters. Purposefully invite people that may not agree with you all the time. Recognize and incentivize those in your team who are willing to risk and express differing views.

Create a culture that promotes diverse viewpoints and a corporate culture that embraces inclusiveness if your desire is to tap into the talent, uniqueness, experience, and full potential of all of your people! It’s a different era, demands to have a different attitude and approach as a leader in this awesome century.

Wish you in the New Year success as you attempt to become a more inclusive leader!

Assegid (AZ) Habtewold is the owner and lead trainer at Success Pathways, LLC. He facilitates Diversity and Inclusiveness workshops. Here is the link to learn the learning objectives of our Diversity in the Workplace workshop: https://successpws.com/?page_id=1990