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Deborah Kolb

Deborah Kolb

Deborah M. Kolb is Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership at the Simmons School of Management and author, most recently, of Her Place at the Table: A Woman's Guide to Negotiating the Five Challenges to Leadership Success.

Creativity, Not Threats

For a person like me who teaches and studies negotiation, the question itself causes me to cringe. I wonder whom you think wins at make-or-break negotiations--certainly not the newspaper nor its unions, nor, I might add, its readers?

Winning is not the name of this game. Make-or-break negotiations are not the sort that foster the collaboration or partnerships needed to deal with the serious underlying issues that the newspaper industry is currently facing.

What we would hope is that the leaders on all sides would be able to find ways to craft agreements that can make the paper viable in the short term but that positions it to succeed in the longer term. It is certainly true that the NYTimes' threat to file to close down the Boston Globe raises the stakes for the union. It makes their walk-away alternative--concede or lose jobs--extremely unattractive. But threats of this sort (which seems to have been the mode all the way through) does not lead to the creativity that may be required to help newspapers like the Globe survive.

Part of the problem is that these newspaper negotiations seem to be confined to the owners and the unions--yet there are other interested parties who are not at the table and who might help reframe the negotiations. For example, when a paper like the Boston Globe closes down, where do former readers look to find the kinds of "Spotlight" stories that expose corruption, unseemly practices, and other evidence of malfeasance? Are there public interest groups that might have interests in these negotiations who should be at the table? Are there other financial resources that also might be represented? I think the problem with these negotiations reflects the way the question is posed.

We don't want such critical negotiations treated as an opportunity for one side to think they can win over the other.

By Deborah Kolb

 |  May 4, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
Category:  Managing Crises Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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