INSIGHT: Valuable Takeaways from Japanese Premier Abe’s Negotiation Tactics

Advantages and Disadvantages of Leadership Styles – Negotiation Strategies from Japanese Shunto; The Opposite of Autocratic Leadership Styles

NAJMA HUSSAIN — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intervened in a dispute between business leaders and workers in ways that are of interest to anyone who hopes to manage disputes between parties without causing more trouble than good.

He revived traditional negotiating styles and negotiation tactics in Japan called Shunto — despite concerns that his intervention would be seen as an autocratic leadership tactic. Abe succeeded in getting major corporations to commit to increased wages. Within months, his choice to join the Shunto did prove to bear fruit.

“Human dimension plays the kickoff role in almost every dispute/disagreement resolution, and being able to detect and match expectations of both parties supplement the former,” says business consultant Irshad Salim.

Of the many valuable takeaways from Abe’s revival of the Shunto negotiations, a handful are important for any leader hoping to expand value in a challenging deal.

1. You don’t have to reinvent the wheelShunto may have lost some vigor over the years, but it has long-standing cultural value for workers and businesses alike. Rather than inventing a new process, it can be beneficial to rely on existing ones and the pre-existing understandings they create.

2. Identify your audience – Abe wants businesses to thrive, but also needs the support of all citizens. Picking the right forum to back workers shapes the negotiation and signals an awareness of shared valued to a larger constituency.

3. Set reasonable expectations – Abe saw the need to join this Shunto, but will lose the support of businesses if he does it every year. Instead, the Prime Minister’s representatives took pains to emphasize the fact that they won’t be showing up to Shunto in the years to come, and likely got more value out of the negotiation by doing so.

4. Get concessions that lead to concessions – The largest stakeholder to commit to raising wages is Toyota. Outside observers credit the car giant’s concession as a watershed moment that led many other companies to follow suit. In a complex negotiation with many stakeholders, getting a leader on one side to make a concession can enhance the chances of a deal by strengthening coalitions and lessening fear.

5. Let the parties define their own concessions – Abe would have fulfilled accusations of autocratic leadership if he had demanded compliance with specific wages. Instead, he encouraged concessions, but avoided too many specifics, allowing individual companies the opportunity to negotiate a range of issues with workers.

6. Keep your celebrations to yourself – A hard-fought win in a negotiation can seem like just cause for a victory lap, but Abe avoided rhetoric that might embarrass business leaders. In any business, the chances are high that you will find yourself negotiating with a former adversary some time down the road. So is the likelihood that you’ll need a counterpart’s support away from the table. A win should feel good, but don’t delight publicly in your counterpart’s loss.

The original article appeared in Harvard Law School Blog