Sharing the Orange
A few years ago, when my father was still alive, I took him to see our family cardiologist, Dr. Pradeep Nayak. I’ve always respected Pradeep; he is not just an excellent doctor, he also has a tremendous bedside manner. We started talking about this and that, and during our discussion, I asked Pradeep about his professional challenges. He told me that he dreaded midnight calls because they ruined his work-life balance. “I realize that everyone in our practice shares the responsibility of being on call on weekends and at night, but I dearly wish I had to do it less often.”
As I was driving back, I kept thinking of my doctor’s dilemma. Surely there must be some way to overcome this challenge. And then I remembered something I had read in ‘Getting to Yes’ by Fisher & Ury. The authors ask, ‘If two people need to share just one orange, how do they go about doing this?’ Most would say: ‘give each person half the orange.’ But if we had more information, there might be a better way. Perhaps one person is thirsty and wants the juice, while the other person is baking a cake and wants the zest from the peel.
As I mentioned earlier, one of Dr. Nayak’s key strengths is his amiable bedside manner and his ability to build trusting relationships with his patients. Midnight calls, however, don’t require face-to-face chats. They are typically about urgent medical emergencies. Suppose we apply the orange analogy to my doctor’s problem. His office could consider hiring one or more specialists who prefer attending to emergencies but may not enjoy the typical day-to-day patient interactions. Dr. Nayak, and other doctors in the practice like him, could spend their days with patients while the specialist colleague handles the midnight calls. This scenario would allow each to play to their strengths and enjoy their preferred work settings.
I am always looking for opportunities that allow TEOCO and its clients and partners to pursue a shared win. Some years ago, I was in Atlanta to finalize an office space deal. At first, it looked like it would be a tough negotiation. I was determined to minimize our total rental cost, just as the leasing agent was keen to get me to agree to the highest possible rate.
He initially showed me a space of about 4,500 rentable square feet (RSF) at $18.50 per RSF. The space was beautiful, but not as efficient due to the semi-circular layout that enveloped one end of the space. I quickly realized that I couldn’t drive the monthly rental price down to a level I was comfortable with. But, when I looked at the floor plan drawings, I realized that we did not need 4,500 RSF of space, and that our team could fit into the right 3,000 RSF suite.
So, I shifted my focus to finding the best possible option closer to our needs. To my great joy, we found a rectangular 3,050 RSF office suite in the same building that fit our requirements perfectly, so we quickly signed on the dotted line. I was happy that we were able to save 33% of the rental cost, and the leasing agent was delighted that I agreed to his $18.50 RSF rate. We ended up with a solution in which one party did not have to lose for the other to win!
How do we create more shared successes? My recommended approach requires two steps. The first is to share your drivers openly, and the second is to make an equally concerted effort to learn the drivers of the other party. By being open and honest, and trusting each other to listen and respond with fairness and empathy, we create an environment where win-win outcomes happen more frequently. And of course, this also applies to personal and family relationships. Whatever the challenge may be, always remember to search for a better way to share the orange.
With special thanks to Srinivas Bhogle for his support and contribution to this project.