In My Shoes

Published: Sep 14 , 2012
Author: David Bannister

"Put yourself in my shoes!" said trade union official who was role-playing to help some course participants practise their skills. I was reminded of this when, recently on holiday, I was reading a very enjoyable book called "The Bank of Dave".

The book tells the story of a Lancastrian entrepreneur and millionaire called David Fishwick who decided that banks had all got rather too big for their boots and so he chose to open a bank of his own to service deposits and loans in his home town of Burnley (if you haven't read it, it's really good!). One of the many challenges that the would-be banker had to face was to put a safe for cash into his newly acquired bank premises. The book tells how he spoke to the local supplier of security systems and safes. He identified a safe which would meet his requirements. The safe, however, cost over £7000. As the whole idea of the new bank was that it would spend little money on premises, fixtures and fittings, £7000 was a big obstacle.

Not daunted by this, David Fishwick identified, in his discussion with the safe supplier, that the supplier's own premises were not big enough to display this large safe - the biggest in the range which he sold. Fishwick came up with a creative solution: the supplier provides  the safe at a relatively nominal monthly rental and potential customers can make an appointment with Fishwick's bank and view the safe to assess if it is suitable for their requirements. Win-win! Fishwick gets his safe and the supplier gets the display model just down the road from his own small showroom.

The story of the Bank of Dave reminded me of the situation on a course a few months before. To help them to practise wage negotiations, the participants had arranged with a former trade union official to role-play the situation with them. They prepared very carefully and had all their arguments marshalled intricately. They were very persuasive, their reasoning was faultless. But, as the trade union official pointed out to them they had not endeavoured to see the situation from his point of view: he had to reach an agreement which he would feel  able to recommend to his members. That's why, when we stopped and reviewed the role-play so far, he said to them: "Put yourself in my shoes!" He was trying to teach them to understand that a negotiation must address the interests of both parties if a suitable agreement is to be reached. David Fishwick understood this really well: he needed a safe, the supplier needed display space so both could help each other out.

The simple lesson is: it's important to know what you want but it's every bit as important to understand what the other party wants. By establishing a meaningful and open dialogue and by listening it should be possible to move towards a deal where the needs of both parties can be satisfied. Don't forget what's in the other guys shoes!

David Bannister, Scotwork


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