21 Apr April 21, 2020 – Raika Tech Cynthia Del’Aria and Negotiation Expert Mori Taheripour
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Cynthia Del’Aria – CEO and Co-Founder Raika Technologies
Cynthia Del’Aria is the CEO and Co-Founder of Raika Techologies, an incubator supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs with a technology element to their business, and specializing in IoT and SaaS-based business ideas. She started her first company at 15 and sold it to a major competitor 4 years later, and then sold another one a few years after that as part of a strategic acquisition. Her current company, Raika Tech offers an affordable, custom program designed for potential app and software entrepreneurs, the Apptrepreneur Brand Startup Program. Cynthia believes too many app makers are derailed by “get rich quick” dreams, whereas a better and more predictable model for success is building an app that augments a company’s existing products or services. She helps new app and tech entrepreneurs spend as little time and money as possible evaluating their idea, helping them get to a go-no-go decision quickly and efficiently.
Mori Taheripour is a globally-recognized executive and award-winning educator with over 15 years of experience leading initiatives at the intersection of sports and social change in both the public and private sectors. She serves on the faculty of the Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, teaching Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at the undergraduate, graduate, and executive levels. Ms. Taheripour leverages her expertise in negotiation, diversity and inclusion, social impact and athlete education for a diverse client base that includes major sports leagues, Fortune 100 companies, universities, and professional associations. In addition to teaching at the Wharton School, Ms. Taheripour also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Advisory Board of Skateistan, and is a founding Advisory Board Member of the Sports Leadership & Administration Undergraduate Degree Program at UMass, Boston. She is also the author of Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly which, filled with eye-opening and empowering stories throughout, helps readers gain the confidence they need to achieve their goals in work and in life.
Highlights from Mori’s Interview
Actually, there’s more of win-lose than there is the win-win side of things. I think that we’ve been conditioned, whether it’s through hearsay and movies and newspapers or our own worst experiences, to have seen negotiations from this perspective of win-lose, that one person walks away with everything and the other person naturally loses, and its sort of like Battle Royale. If that was what I thought negotiations were, I probably would not be doing this for a living. Contrary to what most people think negotiation is, I see negotiation as something that we do every day. It’s life, it’s conversations, it’s the ability for two people to come together and strengthen our relationship, its decision making; it’s all those things. So I think that we need to shift our paradigm and think about negotiations differently.
Let me give you some examples from our daily life to show how negotiation does all of those things. I think that one of the negotiations that I do the most of and color my life the most with are the negotiations that I do with myself. I think that big decisions that you make, pros and cons lists, those are actually negotiations; should I do this, should I not, what are the upsides, what are the downsides? So critical decision making is negotiation. Then you can think about what we usually consider negotiations to be, to be transactions; with a vendor, with a client, buying/selling a car. So those are the other extreme of it where most people associate those conversations as being negotiations. But there’s so much in the middle. Negotiating with your daughter is always a hard one, they’re too cute. Kids always win, no matter how good of a negotiator you think you are. The dog that doesn’t want to come inside when you’re ready to go back in because it’s raining outside, too. Husbands and wives negotiating over parenting. Best friends making a decision over whether they’re going to go on a trip. All these conversations are negotiations, and we just don’t normally think of them as such. Because again, we have this notion in our head that it must be that conversation when somebody loses, that it’s transactional, there’s no humanity to it. That’s just not true.
On the contrary, the heart of negotiations is really sort of what the title of the book is, are these human connections. That connectivity lends itself to whoever’s showing up: you and one more person, or you and four other people, or even when you’re making these decisions on your own, you play a critical role in that conversation. What I mean by bringing yourself is that you spend a good amount of time ahead of those conversations thinking about who you are, what are your values, what are the things that you hold true, no matter what the outcome of the negotiation is, what are the things that are most important to you that you don’t want to concede, the lines that you draw on the sand that if you go past those that you no longer feel whole, no matter how good the deal that you get is? I think that’s all about who we are, how we treat people, and how people see us. I think, at the heart of every negotiation is, finding your voice, bringing your true authentic self to the table; not who you think you should be or what makes you a good negotiator, but really, who you are and how you want to show up. I think that that’s the heart and the foundation of every negotiation.
So the majority of my students are entrepreneurs. I teach for the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business program. It’s been a decade of working with amazing entrepreneurs around the world. What I always tell them is, you’ve worked way too hard to not value yourself first. So really understanding what your value proposition is, and again, what’s important to you, that creates the foundation and that’s the heart of the negotiation. You don’t act or negotiate differently with people necessarily, in so far as what the foundation of the negotiations is. For example, if you value relationships, that’s how you should come into this conversation, regardless of who’s sitting across the table from you, because that’s part of your value system. If you are somebody that likes to listen to people, you’re more accommodating, so how you show up is as that person.
Now, what you learn to do throughout this process and with every negotiation, you learn more of it through lessons or classes is, you learn how to prepare better so that when you show up, you’re going in with all the information that you need, maybe understanding what somebody in that position makes for salary in your industry so that you’re coming in at a price that is reasonable for that person. But you aren’t changing, you’re not trying to be somebody else. What changes are the circumstances, but at the heart of it is you being who you are in your integrity, showing up fully prepared for this conversation, but not remaking yourself for it. It’s valuing yourself and really tipping your hat to yourself.
It’s interesting how you can pretend all you want, and how people think, let me go in and act. People say, “I’m too nice, so I’m going to be super aggressive going into the conversation today.” But the truth is that when conversations get difficult or you feel like you’ve been cornered, what happens is that you’re going to revert back to your true self anyway; it’s going to come out. So why not go in as the best person that you are, as your best self, and prepare as you are? We often try to mold ourselves or change ourselves or whether it’s societal expectations of who people think we should be, but understanding who you are is the most important thing. Because staying true to that and not wearing from that during a conversation, no matter how difficult it is, is really the true test. I think that is what makes you build a reputation, it’s what builds relationships. In all honesty, people like who they do business with. I tell this to entrepreneurs all the time, people don’t choose businesses based on the kind of business that they are, they choose businesses because of the people who run them. That makes for the negotiation, that makes for the relationship.
Let’s take an example here. Maybe when you’re negotiating with your wife about something, she leaves it to you to decide and she’s overly accommodating. Part of this could be that she just doesn’t think it’s all that important. For her, maybe the thing that she values is that you’re happy and that it’s just not something that’s worth fighting for, for her. So, just because she doesn’t want to weigh in doesn’t mean that she’s doing that to just not have an opinion, it might be that what she values more is your happiness, and maybe it’s just that experience is what’s most important to her.
I think what is most important, no matter how long you’ve been married, no longer matter how long you know somebody, is to still be very curious about them and know why they make the kind of decisions that they make, why they behave the way that they do, what drives them, what are their interests? So maybe that’s the conversation. The conversation is, “Why is it that you never want to weigh in on this? Is it just me or what is it, I just want to better understand?” Then, what you’re getting is her reasoning for it. You’re maybe assuming that all she cares about is you being happy, it could just be that she has too many other things to be worried about and she’s like, “I have to make decisions all day long. I don’t want to make decisions.” So knowing that will help you better understand why she does what she does, instead of assuming what her reasoning is for it. I think we take that for granted. The longer we’re with somebody, the less curious we are about them. So start there, have that conversation. Because I’m sort of the same person and I’m like, “I have to make decisions every single day. What seat do I want to sit in on an airplane? Where do I want to travel next for work? Is it easier for me to go through this airport?” By the time it gets to dinner, I don’t want to make any decisions. That’s so not even worth my time. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just I want a break. So I think ask questions before you assume.
Now, in a scenario where you’re negotiating with your 50-50 co-founding partner, I would say the 50-50 thing is hard in a lot of ways. Because that means both of your perceptions and the things that you hold true are equally important, and that’s what makes these conversations ones that you have to devote even more patience and curiosity too. We skip a lot of that. Much like what I said in the wife example, the longer we know people, we start doing what I call ‘filling in the blanks’ for them. We stop listening, and we fill those blanks in with our own assumptions. Think about how lazy we get about our listening. There’s nothing more important to this discussion with your business partner than that ability to step back, press reset, and really understand one another. Because as conflicts go, they escalate automatically, you have to intentionally de-escalate a conflict. Part of that is really through listening and curiosity. You don’t have to agree with somebody, you just have to better understand them. I think that we just don’t do enough of that. The longer we know somebody, we do, in fact, even less of it.
Think about that. We grow, we change, we have the right to change our opinion, we have the right to grow smarter with our experiences. But when you hear people in an argument say, “It’s as though you don’t even know me”, in that moment you’ve acted like you don’t. Because you’re not trying to know who they are, you’re just going with what you assumed as who they are. That can be really divisive. It’s hard, nothing I’m saying to you is easy. ‘Those who can’t do, teach’, that’s why I teach for a living. So be patient, ask questions, listen more, I think it’s really important.
You can find out more on my website ‘moritaheirpour.com’. But also, I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram, I’m on LinkedIn, almost every social media outlet. The book is available on basically every online retailer. So I can definitely be found.