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FRENCH LESSONS

The new President of France has become the toast of Europe ever since he exploded on the stage just a few months ago. The Economist shows him walking on water, next to a pair of hilariously capsized tiger-spotted ladies’ pumps. There is endless discussion of his Trumpian handshake, his stylish wife, his ability to recite long passages of Molière from memory. Is this the new Kennedy, the new de Gaulle, Napoleon, or even a male Joan of Arc?

I view all of this, of course, through the negotiator’s lense, and do indeed see three rapidly emerging negotiation lessons:

  1. Less is More. Macron has theatrical training, and it shows. The long solitary walk through the Louvre (to German music) on election night, the so far refreshingly modest and short public speeches, the tight messaging from his press speakers. All are a welcome change from the garrulous Hollande. This is a man who understands the visual side of negotiation and knows that air time is not power.

  2. Attention to the Home Front. Macron first put all his energy towards establishing a convincing mandate, and with breathtaking success. The sweep of the legislature with all-new faces, half of them female, in a party which did not exist two years ago firmly buttresses his claim to represent a new beginning for France and has put both left and right in disarray.

  3. Playing Red and Playing Blue. In my coaching and training work, we often use the metaphor of Red and Blue, the interplay between cooperation and power, knowing when to smile and when to show your teeth. Macron does this masterfully. The reception of Putin at Versailles is a prime example. While the Russian leader was given all the pomp of the imperial welcome as an expression of the respect he so desperately craves, the young President then pulled no punches with some surprisingly clear language about Syria and the Russian “fake news” media. Impressive.

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