Episode: 306 |
Kwame Christian:
Conflict Resolution:


Kwame Christian

Conflict Resolution

Show Notes

Kwame Christian, the Founder and Director of the American Negotiation Institute, is an expert in mediation and conflict resolution, serving a range of corporate and government clients.


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Will Bachman 00:01
Hello and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman and I am so excited to be here today with Kwame Christian, who is the director of the American negotiations Institute. Kwame, welcome to the show. Hey, well, thanks for having me. So call me, you have a whole portfolio of activities. I, you’re the author of nobody will play with me, which topped out at number three on I think the business conflict resolution on Amazon list. And, uh, you are, you know, what, let me let me defer to you tell us about your portfolio of activities. And then we can dive in?

Kwame Christian 00:48
Yeah, it’s a lot, I guess, the place I should start, I should say, I’m a husband and a father, four year old. And we just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and on the business. Oh, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Yeah. And then on the business side, with the American negotiation Institute, help conduct negotiation and conflict resolution trainings for businesses and other organizations help them to negotiate and resolve conflict effectively. And it’s just a lot of fun for me really enjoyed doing this work.

Will Bachman 01:22
And your background? Is, I understand you work, you know, you’re an attorney, you did civil rights work and business law. Right.

Kwame Christian 01:29
Exactly. Yep. And so I did that practice as a as an attorney, and then also mediator. And I think the thing that unifies all these things, and it because right now, when you kind of list through all the stuff it sounds like, it’s like, where does Where does he get this stuff? You know, how does it all connect, but I think it all comes down to my love of psychology, that was my undergrad degree, love, psychology and love, first of all, helping people to overcome their psychological and emotional barriers to success. And I think that’s one of the things that kind of differentiates my approach to negotiation, focus on helping you through the inside out. And then when it comes to the psychology as it relates to other people, figuring out what it takes to create connection, and then ultimately persuade.

Will Bachman 02:16
Okay, so let’s get into the your work and advising, let’s say, corporations, and as well as the government on negotiations and conflict resolution. So tell us a little bit about conflict resolution, what are some of the types of conflicts that you might get involved in helping out with?

Kwame Christian 02:35
Yeah, so it’s so interesting, because it varies a lot. And so for instance, that might be a workplace mediation, that’s an example of something that comes up every once in a while. When it comes to conflict, though, internally, within a company, I think that’s one of the biggest things that people often miss is that we’re having we think about negotiation in terms of like an externally focus things, but the skills that I teach are most likely going to be used with the people who are closest to you. So for example, a leader is going to have to manage conflict with their direct reports, they need to figure out what the issue is and what they can do to get them back on track and working and being productive again, also, direct reports need to manage conflict with their leaders. They might not always agree, how do I have that conversation when I don’t have that power? And then also, when you’re talking to somebody on the same level, I don’t have authority over them, so I can’t compel them to change their behavior. So how do I approach the conversation in a way that makes it likely for for them to change their perspective and potentially behavior? So it’s, it’s really diverse in terms of the the application of it, and I think that’s the thing that’s most exciting for me, because they’re just so many opportunities to help people within the corporate space.

Will Bachman 03:58
Could you give us one sanitized example of a conflict and then kind of walk us through the process that you followed? Obviously, sanitizing it of confidential details, you can change the industry, you know, change, change the names, but just kind of give us a an ERT direct sense of specific example.

Kwame Christian 04:22
Yeah. And actually, I can’t give a specific example for one of them because it’s a public organization. So ignore the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association so they are the branch of the government that negotiates contracts in negotiates The, the penalties with companies who have created environmental disasters. So think about the BP oil spill. It’s this is the part of the government that was negotiating with BP to see how big their fines were and I believe that that deal was about 17 billion or something like that. And So the numbers that they have are pretty significant. And the challenge that they have, which is really interesting is that, of course, you have the person who’s on the other side of the company on the other side. So like a BP on the other side there, it’s clear, they want to pay less, and you want them to pay more. But where it gets really interesting, and this is where the conflict resolution comes in, is internally, they have stakeholders, not just within their own organization, but they have to work with local agencies on the ground to determine what they need in order to rebuild the environment. And so they’re going to be factions within those organizations who want to approach the negotiation in one direction, and the other person wants to proceed in this direction. And this whole other organization wants to do it in this other direction. So before we even get to the point where we’re negotiating with that external party, that most people would understand that identify as the main target of disputes, you have to get everybody else on board. And that can take weeks, months, and sometimes depending on the complexity of the situation, even years for them. And so it’s really fascinating finding ways helping them to build coalitions, and reconcile those differences between people who are on the same team. Okay, so walk me through some of the

Will Bachman 06:19
specific specifics of that. So me as just kind of a naive non expert here would think, Okay, I’m going to go and interview each of the stakeholders try to understand their situation, try to understand their objectives. Try to understand, you know, their demands, but also their objectives, what they’re really trying to achieve. Yeah, and then, I don’t know, compile that. But there’s probably some things obviously, that I’m missing, not being an expert to this would tell me a little bit about the process he went through to kind of get alignment, or at least get an understanding of the different needs of all the different stakeholders.

Kwame Christian 06:56
Yeah, and we’ll let me say this, too, you’re not an expert in this. And what’s funny is, I’m not an expert in it either. I’m just good at the negotiation and conflict resolution side. So my background in laws is corporate, not environmental. And so, again, one of the coolest parts about this business is being able to, to learn so much in so many different areas, because I always say, negotiation shaped like water, it’s somewhere within your organization, we just need to find it. And you can you can achieve success in those types of fields, even without that specific knowledge, if you understand the fundamentals of negotiation. And so to your question, it’s a great question, Where do we even start? How do we approach it? And I think one of the things, we have to consider a sequencing of these negotiations. And so it’s not just enough to use appropriate negotiation tactics, we need to use them in concert with an entire negotiation strategy, so that things come together, the parts that need to come together come together. And so for example, what I would suggest doing in a lot of these situations is, first of all identifying stakeholders, we have to have a complete stakeholder analysis and figure out what it is that they need, out of the situation. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, once we figure that out, we have to understand that each of these parties, they have different wants, different needs, and then different levels of resistance. So we want to identify the people who are already on our side, or more likely to come to our side. And so what we do is we start negotiating with them, because maybe we have a kind of tumultuous, tumultuous relationship with one of the parties. But we see this other party, they don’t they have a good relationship with that third party. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to negotiate with our, the person who’s more likely to become an ally, first, talk to them, get them on board, and then have them essentially be the ambassador for that third party that might might be difficult. And so I think strategically, that was one of the things that was missing is understanding the power of sequencing these negotiations effectively, because it’s it’s kind of like dominoes, if you sequence it the right way. Sometimes it just makes it a lot easier. If you put the if you put the parties up in the right order.

Will Bachman 09:18
Okay? Do you operate with some kind of overarching conflict resolution framework or methodology of, you know, you know, the 20 different steps organized into five categories that you should always be thinking about? Or tell me sort of how you What’s your model for doing what you do?

Kwame Christian 09:39
Yeah, and I like to keep it simple because it, it can be very overwhelming, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And so the the foundational framework that I use is called the compassionate curiosity framework. And this is the the framework that I came up with for my book, and nobody will play with me which will soon be rebranded Finding confidence and conflict. And so the steps of the framework are really simple. And it’s intentionally simple because under duress, it’s difficult for people to perform at a high level. So I want people to be able to remember it. So first step is acknowledge and validate emotions. And then second step is getting, getting curious with compassion. And then the third step is engaged in joint problem solving. And so the great part about this framework is not only that it’s simple, but also that it’s flexible. And so if emotions aren’t an issue, then you can skip step one and get curious with compassion, started asking open ended questions, but then in that part of the process, you recognize that some negative emotions might be taking hold, then you know that you need to acknowledge emotions. And then you can sequence you can go through the process, kind of linearly from there. But again, you have to end in joint problem solving, which is essentially collaborative negotiation. You’re bringing them into the process, asking questions, and inviting them into the problem solving process in a way that leads to greater levels of commitment.

Will Bachman 11:07
Now, let’s let’s go through these in a little bit more detail. So acknowledge emotions. Tell me a little bit about how you go about that in practice.

Kwame Christian 11:16
Yeah, so very simple. What we want to do is when we see an emotion, we want to label it. And so you’re using terms like it sounds like or it seems like, and so we might say, well, it’s it sounds like you’re a little bit frustrated with that situation. And then what what ends up happening is when if you label the person effectively, then they feel the need to explain a little bit beyond Yes, yeah, I’m frustrated, because blank, okay, now they’re sharing that information. And in the, in the moment when they’re frustrated, or emotional, for whatever reason, the limbic system is running awry. And they’re not thinking very clearly. But as you encourage them to express themselves, they start to calm down. And so what’s really interesting about labeling that I like is even if you miss label somebody, it still works, because people hate to be mislabeled. And they’ll correct you, which leads them to label them labeled themselves. And that’s happened to me a few times before. And of course, it leads to a momentary spike in, in negative emotions, but again, it starts to eventually slow down and calm down. And then that’s what allows us to transition into higher level reasoning and more productive discussions.

Will Bachman 12:29
Okay, now, let’s dig into curious with compassion. Let’s unpack that for me.

Kwame Christian 12:37
Yeah. So the knowledge and information, those things are the lifeblood of negotiation. So we want as much information as we possibly can, in the in these negotiations. That’s our goal. And so the thing is, a lot of times when we do is, even though we’re asking questions, and the questions might be great, our tone is off. And so that’s why I’m really intentional about making sure that we remember to do it with a compassionate tone. You think about a prosecutor, during cross examination, a prosecutor is very curious, but not very compassionate. And the reason we want to do this is because we just worked hard to get them out of that emotional state with step one, we don’t want to throw them back into that defensive position, because now they’re going to withheld withhold emotion, sorry, withhold information there, it’s going to decrease the amount of trust. And it’s going to make it a lot more difficult for us to get what we want to ultimately. So we want to ask open ended questions, gather that information. And then as we start to learn more about the other side, and we are able to understand and empathize with their position, then we can start to ask questions that are a little bit more persuasive in nature. And so instead of kind of making our point aggressively with sentence, sentences that might end in a period or an exclamation point, we’re going to ask questions, and have those statements be the things that lead people in our direction more so than making those affirmative statements?

Will Bachman 14:04
And when we find three or four examples of

Kwame Christian 14:07
Yeah, questions. Okay. So for example, I in this doesn’t necessarily qualify precisely as a question, but it’s a request for information, I like to say, help me understand a little bit about what you’re dealing with. Right? So that’s on the top end of the funnel. This is how we’re introducing the Curiosity portion, because we want to get broad amounts of information here, for me as a mediator. And one of my favorite questions to start off with is, how did we get here? And remember, well, at this point, I’ve read the case file. I know they’ve been in litigation for, you know, over a year or so at this point, but before they get to me a lot of times, and so I know, but I want to hear what they’re saying because sometimes the real gold is outside of that case file. And I don’t know so I want I don’t want to Assume as though I know what it is that brought us here. And so that’s how I like to begin it. So another one is telling me more about blank, whatever the situation might be. And then as I start to transition, what do you think we can do to solve this problem is a good one. And so this is where it starts to get more persuasive in nature, as we start to pull toward toward the bottom end of the funnel, where we’re trying to transition into something that is a little bit more concrete, some kind of commitment, what are we doing next? I would allow them to give a suggestion. And then I’d say, Okay, that makes sense. Because blah, blah, blah, just summarize what they said. But then I’d say, Now, that is something that I’ve considered to but the problem that I’ve run into is this, considering that, what do you think we can do to work around that? And so what I’m saying to them, in reality is your idea doesn’t work. Let’s try and do better, but it doesn’t register that way. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s accepted in a collaborative type of way that helps them to see the situation a little bit differently. Because I think about it in terms of the one of Newton’s laws of physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And sometimes in these difficult conversations, people are so triggered that if you make a statement that is directly challenging what they say, they feel the need to just reflexively fight back on that point. And using this. I Oh, go ahead. Yeah, I

Will Bachman 16:32
always think it’s, every action has an equal and opposite overreaction.

Kwame Christian 16:37
Yeah. Yes. I love that. I love that. You’re exactly right. Yeah. And so what we’re doing is we’re avoiding that unnecessary resistance in the conversation. And it makes persuasion a lot easier for both parties.

Will Bachman 16:50
Yeah, I mean, some of mine and more consulting context. So my favorites are the old chestnut of, you know, what would we need? What would we need to believe to be true for the following XYZ for the following thing to happen? Like sort of imagining, or let’s assume that we came to a solution? You know? Why like that, let’s assume that we came to a solution two years from now or six months from now, or 10 minutes from now. Explain to me how we got there, or explain to me where we landed? Yeah. Yeah, that’s like, it’s sort of the opposite of a post mortem. Sort of assuming that you got to success. So okay, so with that step, no. So curiosity, and then how do you then transition into the step three, I think that was the joint problem solving.

Kwame Christian 17:40
Exactly. And so now we’re focusing on the collaborative approach to solving the problem, inviting them into the process. And so something a question like, what are our next steps? Where do we go from here, those type of things. Now, we’re transitioning into concrete actions that will come about as a result of this conversation. And so really, if you do this, well, this could turn out sounding more like a brainstorming session than anything else. And think about it. So my definition of negotiation is anytime you’re in a conversation with somebody, and somebody in the conversation wants something. And so it’s a very broad definition. And it shows us that we’re negotiating all the time. And so this compassionate curiosity framework is something that we can use at work and at home to work through these conversations. And so the the people with whom we negotiate the most are the people who are closest to us. And that if that’s the case, then we’re not really approaching this in an adversarial type of way. We really are, in most of these cases, on a team, with my children, my spouse, my colleagues at work, we actually are working for the test the same team. And so if we are able to overcome the problems of the emotional barriers of step one, and the lack of information that comes with step two, then we have enough information to work together to find a solution. And both parties should feel involved in the process in order to gain maximum commitment.

Will Bachman 19:10
Now, you have experience as a civil rights attorney, you know, and you’re an expert in conflict resolution. So I got to ask you, about the current state here in the United States where we’re seeing, you know, protests across the country, about the way black Americans have been treated by the police. In more broad Lee systematic racism. You know, if you were brought in by a city, or an elected official, or a police department to help on resolving a conflict in a given metro area, what are some of the things that you’d be thinking about? Like how, how can we Um, what are some things that this country can do to resolve these conflicts that we’re seeing across the whole country?

Kwame Christian 20:09
Yeah, I think the first thing that we have to do is recognize that the approach would need to be a blend of facilitation and mediation. And so when I’m saying facilitation, what I’m talking about is getting various groups of people together, and facilitating dialogue, helping them to express themselves, what are you feeling right now? What are your needs, what’s the path forward, and so you would have those factions do that in a place that feels safe. So if I’m talking to the police, I’d just be talking to the police. If I’m talking to the black community leaders, I would just be talking to them, if I’m talking to the politicians, I would just be talking to them too, right. And so I want them to feel safe enough to share their information with me. Because from that facilitation, then I’m going to turn it into a multi party mediation, that’s the goal. And so they need to trust me.

Will Bachman 21:02
So that first step is not like, you know, sort of an open public forum where the other parties are listening in, that’s more of a of a one on one where they feel they can express themselves really openly with you, without not being public.

Kwame Christian 21:18
Exactly. And well, that’s so important, because there’s still that, that emotional side, people need to emote, they need to feel heard, and they need to express themselves. And sometimes the way that they express themselves would have a detrimental impact during the mediation. So I want them to do that with me, not during the the mediation process where it’s a little bit more regimented. And then once I get a clear idea of the the challenges every party is feeling and what potential solutions there are, that I’m going to go back with my team and think through what potential agreements could be made, is there a zone of potential agreement, that’s important. And when I mediate, I really like using shuttle diplomacy, where I go to one party, alone, have that conversation, and then go to another party alone and have that conversation and take ideas back and forth. Because a lot of times when not a lot of times, essentially, every time when I’m brought in as a mediator, I’m brought in because negotiations have failed, I don’t need that I don’t need it to fail in front of me. And so I usually don’t bring parties together until we get down to the point where we’re a deal has been outlined. And now we’re kind of working through the details. Because usually, at that point, we’ve overcome those really, really serious emotional barriers, and people can speak at a in a way that’s respectful and more level headed, so we can be a lot more effective during that portion of the conversation. Yeah.

Will Bachman 22:48
Do you think that all conflicts can be resolved in this way? You know, it seems that, you know, in some cases, you know, what we’re seeing across the country, there may be such such different, you know, such different objectives, that there almost seems like no common ground, and that, you know, some of the changes that might need to happen. You know, that, you know, the, the police may just, you know, wouldn’t, wouldn’t almost never agree to it, right? I mean, changing their pensions, changing union rules, changing their accountability, and so forth. It’s hard to imagine that they would, you know, in some cases that the parties would actually agree to those things. So, have you found cases where just conflict resolution just just actually doesn’t work? And that some other method of moving forward happens?

Kwame Christian 23:48
Absolutely. And here’s the thing, I’m a, I’m a diplomacy, first kind of guy, I want to try all and exhaust all methods of peaceful resolution that are available, direct negotiation, if that doesn’t work, then we can move to mediation. And then if that doesn’t work, both parties, depending of course, on whether or not they have the legal designation of standing, if they can sue, then they can’t they have legal remedies, as well. And a lot of times when you see these large social movements across the world, and in America, in particular, you’re going to see a blend of both things happening. And so for instance, think about the civil rights movement. Of course, there were protests, the protests, helped to facilitate dialogue and negotiation between the civil rights leaders and leaders and communities and politicians. But then also, it couldn’t be all done. Through that, that process. They had to have Brown versus Board of Education to desegregate the schools and believe it was 54. And so you try to get as much as you can through the negotiation process. And then if you feel like you need more, there are other mechanisms in place.

Will Bachman 24:57
Yeah, it sounds like an You know, it just it feels like, and I’m not sure if this is true that, you know, in some cases, we’re seeing just the parties are so far apart, it’s hard to imagine people calming down enough to be willing to actually kind of discuss, you know, rationally their point their points of view or you know, or not rationally, but just I mean, to be able to even listen to the other side, right? In these cases. And when, when you’re, when you face situations like that, what are the things that you found that you can actually bring people to the table and get them to, you know, open up? Is it? Is it? Does that result out of that, that that first step, we talked about it, you know, if you acknowledge people’s emotions, enough that you can get to that second stage?

Kwame Christian 25:50
It depends. I know, that’s a very lawyerly answer. It depends on the situation, the framework can help. But sometimes the damage is so great, that the emotions are still going to linger, and you still need to, but you still need to find a way forward, still need to find a way to be productive during those conversations. It’s very, very difficult. But I think the A lot of times the the voices that are heard the most are the ones who are most extreme, and the ones who are the loudest, and I would go into these conversations with the assumption that something could be done. There. And I really do believe that. And I, I feel like we need to earn the right to say something’s impossible. That’s the way I look at it. And in a lot of these situations, we haven’t earned it, we have to really go through a regimented and strategic process in order to make this happen. And the thing is, we can’t just let it go and hope that things happen organically. This is the way that America has developed organically with the structure issues with structural racism and inequity in every major, meaningful category. And this is where we are. And so we can’t just say, Alright, well, let’s let people talk it out. Let’s see how the protest just eventually, you know, died down or something like that. Because that doesn’t address the underlying product problem that we’re having within our communities, there needs to be some dialogue, there needs to be some change. And I think it needs to be up to each community to figure out what it is that they can do to to start to address these structures and create more equitable outcomes.

Will Bachman 27:31
Thank you. Could you talk a little bit about how about how your career evolved from, you know, doing civil rights law and then business law, to now being a consultant working with, you know, major government agencies and corporations? How did that whole process take place?

Kwame Christian 27:51
Yeah, so it’s really interesting evolution. And like I said, psychology is the uniting factor. Because for me, when I was in undergrad, I wanted to be a therapist, because I wanted to help people. But then I said, Well, if I become a politician, I can help more people that’s more efficient, instead of just one person at a time. And so that’s why I did the law degree with a Master’s in Public Policy. But then as I learned more about politics, I realized that’s no kind of lifestyle that I want for myself, I don’t want to be part of that at all. And so what turned you off about it? I don’t like the the impact it would have on my family as it relates to privacy. That’s just unacceptable. Also, the, the issues with us only having a two party system, I don’t think there’s really anybody who fits squarely in either party, but we’re presented as if it’s a binary choice. And I think we need more options. And the only and also, the only way that we can compete in politics, unless you are independently wealthy, is to really sell your soul in order to get donations, those donations aren’t just saying, hey, call me I think you’re a nice guy, here’s some money, you know, they want a little bit of reciprocity. And so you’re you if you get into those positions, you’re going to be you’re not going to be your own person. And I don’t like that i i like as you can tell about my career. I like the freedom and flexibility to adjust as as I see fit. And that’s why I love the business world. There’s, there’s the invasive level of scrutiny that will come with politics isn’t there and you can still have a massive impact on a large scale, while having ultimate freedom in the business world. So that’s, that’s really what drew me to business and away from politics, just more options and a better lifestyle. Yeah, and so here with uh, with what I’m doing here with the American negotiation Institute, again, based on psychology, how Can people overcome those barriers helping us to use psychology to connect and persuade things? That’s huge. And really what it comes down to is my interest. At the time I, I asked most of my friends this question at some point, because it’s the question that helps me to understand which direction I should go. And it’s if everything in the world was free, what would you do? For in order to satisfy your deep needs? So of course, everybody’s going to say, I’m one, I’ll travel, I’ll buy a bunch of stuff, right? That’s everybody’s first response. Okay. Now, in order to live a life with meaning, what would you do? And if I answer that question, with anything other than what I’m currently doing, I know I’m on the wrong track. And sometimes that requires sacrificing a little bit of comfort, sometimes it requires sacrificing a little bit of money. But I always want to make sure that I’m moving in the right direction for me. And ultimately, that served me well over the years.

Will Bachman 31:03
And then, so how did you start into the consulting world and move, you know, moving from practicing law to the consulting practice? How did that get started?

Kwame Christian 31:15
It was the podcast. Really, that was it. So I started the podcast in 2016. And so it’s the negotiate anything podcast. And it’s, it’s been really remarkable to see it grow. Because I did that first, because I thought it was, it would just be a lot of fun. I thought it would be so much fun to do a podcast. And then I started started to see the increase in credibility, and the increase in business exposure. So I go, Okay, now I’m becoming a more recognized expert in this because people can tune in and hear me talk about it. And that’s really the thing that helped to be the catalyst for the rest of the career as it relates to negotiation and conflict resolution. That led to the TED Talk, which did well in the book, which did well, and that is what I use to get myself the credibility necessary to be considered a thought leader in this. Wow, that

Will Bachman 32:10
is a golden example. I’m always talking about telling people to start a podcast to build a credibility. So just tell us a bit more about that. So you started a podcast and talk to us about the format of the podcast, you know, is it just you talking to the guests that you have on the show? And and how did you manage to grow the audience? And how did that lead to a TED talk?

Kwame Christian 32:33
Oh, yeah, this is gonna be fun. Well, this is gonna be fun. So what I did it, you know, when you’re starting a podcast, you’re there talking to yourself, nobody’s listening to you. And then slowly, it starts to grow. And I’ve benefited from the fact that there were no other active negotiation podcasts, when I started, everybody else stopped, eventually moved on to something else. And so I think grit is one of those things. The there’s a concept called pod fade. And it’s the the amount of time it takes the average podcaster to quit. And it’s between six and seven episodes, depending on the study that you see. And so if you’re somebody that’s just tough enough to stick to it long enough, you’re going to be significantly more successful for the rest than the rest, because they don’t have the grid. And you do. And the best way to grow your audience is to have to get on other people’s shows, to share your expertise for free on other people’s podcasts. Because every time you go on somebody’s show, you leave with a little bit of their audience. And so I’ve been on, I can’t tell I mean, somewhere between 6070 and 100, in that in that range of shows. And that’s really, really helped. And then having guests on the show and listening to the audience and adjusting when when I get some feedback has been huge. I changed the name of the podcast by democratic process. It used to be negotiation for entrepreneurs. And then I surveyed the audience found out that only 30% of them were entrepreneurs. And I said, well, that name is inappropriate. What name should we choose? negotiate anything one, I didn’t like it. But I went with it anyway, and the podcast blew up after that. So it’s really interesting, adjusting and growing with the audience, and taking their advice and doing new and exciting and fun things that sometimes seem scary, but work out really well. And I think the best example for that in the show is the is the sparring session. So this is an episode where after a guest comes on the show and shows us a set of skills. In the very next episode, we have them back on to show them how those skills look under duress. And so I tried to become the embodiment of of your worst fear and act ridiculous and over the topic really difficult. And this is unscripted. And the guest needs to show the audience how they would handle the situation if they were in this in that under those circumstances. Then we do a kind of ESPN stuff. I’ll break down to talk about what worked, what didn’t work, what approaches we were trying to use and what the listeners should take away from it. So it’s been really fun growing it.

Will Bachman 35:08
And beyond just publishing the episodes, what have you done to, you know, surrounding that to help raise visibility? Do you tweet about it? Do you post on Instagram? on YouTube? Like, how have you spread the word?

Kwame Christian 35:22
Yeah, I’ve done a bad job, honestly, that I’ve been the the social media that I use the most is LinkedIn. And the publication or promotion of the podcast has been inconsistent with as it relates to me. So I just social media isn’t my thing. And so I’ve been, I think the problem is that I’ve been trying to make it my thing. And here’s the thing, as you grow, you need your, your company and your team needs to grow with you, even if it’s just a virtual assistant. And COVID really showed me that I have a really great team, because my wife’s a doctor. So her job is more important than mine. So she had to see patients virtually. So when daycare was closed, I was the person who was who had the primary responsibility of taking care of our son, Kai. And so I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do in the business. So I had to rely on the team. And I realized, oh, my goodness, things are operating a lot more efficiently. Without me in some of these areas, this is crazy. And so it made me a better business person, really. And so the the posting is going to get a lot more consistent. And the, and we’re going to start mobilizing YouTube, but more consistently, as well, because we’re recording the video, and audio at the same time. And we’re going to put clips and full episodes on YouTube, too. And so now that it’s off my plates, and other people are going to be posting consistently starting in the next couple of weeks. I’m really excited to see what the growth is what it look like.

Will Bachman 36:52
That is amazing. Yeah, I definitely encourage folks to think about get off your plate, the stuff that you’re inconsistent or not the best at and tell us about your team? Is it one person, multiple people? Where are they? And how did you grow it? I’m always interested in how professionals have built out to other teams.

Kwame Christian 37:16
Yeah, it’s been really interesting and a lot of trial and error, for sure. But I think you have to take those start taking those risks. And I remember when I was starting when I was when I knew I was going to transition into my entrepreneurial activities. That’s when I started vetting my, my freelancers, my virtual assistant. And so I found a virtual assistant in Jamaica. And she’s been with me since about 2015. Since 2015, before I even started the American negotiation Institute. And so we, we, she’s been working with me incredibly well, she knows me really well. And so you want to find somebody that you trust enough because now I trust her enough with the passwords to all everything that’s important to me. So she goes in and then handles these, these updates and whatnot on social media, and sends emails and all this stuff is incredibly helpful. But you want to build your team slowly in terms of hiring on people slowly. But if you recognize that something’s not going to work, you need to cut ties really quickly, and move on to something that does, because you’re preventing that person from finding the right opportunity for for them and preventing yourself from finding the right opportunity for you.

Will Bachman 38:32
Tell us about your TED talk and what led up

Kwame Christian 38:34
to it. Yeah, so I developed this, this mentality that when it comes to thought leadership, at least what I wanted to do was have a three legged stool approach. So first one is going to be a method of distribution that I am in complete control of that’s the podcast, distribution of my content. And then the next one is highly publicized speech on a platform that’s well respected. That’s the TED Talk. And then the next one is the book. So each year 2016 2017 2018, I wanted to hit those three, those three things. So I looked at the calendar, I was like, well, it’s 2017. And I said, this is the TED Talk. Yeah, let’s do it. And so with TEDx, you can with a lot of them, you just apply. And so I said, Well, I’m going to go to the TED website, and apply and apply until I got accepted. And I did that and wanted to create a speech that was, you know, that would solidify myself as an expert. But what was really helpful is that if I would have done the speech that I wanted to do, it would have been awful. It would have been terrible. The Dayton TEDx people, a fantastic, fantastic team. And they really pushed me because they said when they first heard the hurted, they said, Yeah, sounds like a workshop and I was like, exactly. That’s it. We weren’t going for a day like we don’t do that. It needs to be good. It needs to be more personal, needs to be a little bit more relaxed. You seem like a nice fun guy who likes to joke but there’s nothing fun or interesting in the way that you’re approaching it. And so now Have you listened to the TED talk? It sounds like no other negotiation experts who would ever be there, it’s incredibly vulnerable. It’s really funny. And it took a lot of work to get there. But I had to start to become comfortable with who I am. And just being comfortable sharing that with the world. If you like it, you like it? If you don’t, there are a lot of other people that you can listen to. It’s not a not a problem for me.

Will Bachman 40:40
And so how did you get from A to B on that talk? Was it? You know? Did you kind of just writing multiple versions of it and testing it with them getting their feedback? Was there one person in particular who was coaching you on it? Like, how did you get to that final version?

Kwame Christian 40:58
Yeah, and I think one of the most important things here to mention is that not all Ted programs are created equally. These are independent nonprofits. So each community can start their own with their own rules. They’re just the format needs to be the same way. And I say that because the Dayton, Ohio TED talk that I did there to Dayton is a military town. And they ran this thing with military precision. We had applications, paper applications, they had hundreds of people apply. They whittled it down from there to 30 people. And then they had us to do auditions. And then from the auditions, they pick the people who are going to do it. They paired us with a mentor in about July. And then every week or two weeks, we’re meeting up with our mentor and the committee, honing our content and our message. And then we had a dress rehearsal, the a few weeks leading up to it in September, and then an actual another big dress rehearsal, but like the day before, and then eventually I think it was October 20, that we did it. Now with other people that I’ve talked to, they’ve had a vastly different type of experience, because they said, Oh, yeah, I got the position a month beforehand. There were no mentors or anything. They just said, Yep, you got it. I’ll see you on the 10 day. What you did, they just let you off, just do it by yourself. And yeah, that’s how they did it. I have another friend who’s did one, and audio didn’t record. So they just had video, no audio, so they had to dub her her sound afterwards. So if you’re planning on doing one, I suggest you do some research and see the quality of content they’ve produced. If you see if you look at the ones that they put on, and you’re not impressed with the quality, then you want to find one that is consistently producing higher quality, because that’s probably an issue with the organization more so than the individual speakers.

Will Bachman 42:55
That’s that’s a good lesson learned. I was not aware of like how much variability and it’s a good tip. Call me for folks that wanted to find you online. What what links or sites Would you like to share here and also include these in the show notes?

Kwame Christian 43:12
Yeah, so thank you for that, I appreciate it. Well, I should do this too, I should give your audience a bit of a gift. So if you go to American negotiation Institute comm slash guide, you can get access to all of our free negotiation guides that will help you to prepare for your negotiations, conflict resolution, salary negotiation guide, how to negotiate for a car, how to negotiate as an introvert, we have all sorts of negotiation guide there for free. And so if you go to that website, you can get access there and then connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s the best way to do it. Everybody who connects with me gets a personalized message from me. That’s a promise that I’ve made and kept since 2016. And I fully intend on continuing to do that. The only thing is, I don’t know when you will receive that. That message because I’m getting more and more connections now which is great. But I really want to make sure that I show that appreciation with response every single time.

Will Bachman 44:11
Well, we will include both at link as well as commies LinkedIn URL in the show notes. Kwame, it’s been really fun talking to you. Thank you so much for being on the show. Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

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