The New Year tends to provide us with an excuse to make promises to ourselves, or start something new.  Every day actually provides us with this opportunity, but somehow, the New Year seems to be a point where a new start seems more important or portentous.  While small, measurable goals are easier to accomplish, this past year, setting a “theme” worked well for me, so I am doing the same for 2008.

The Theme for 2007- Let Go of Fear 

Last year, my resolution and promise to myself was based on getting rid of fear as an obstacle in my life.  I had found that for a long time, I would choose to avoid doing things or take chances based on fear of failure or fear of success, and what might happen as a result.  By making an active choice to remove fear from the equation, and start making choices based on strengths and opportunity, truly amazing things have happened.  It’s been a year of wonderful changes and opportunities, many of which I can chalk up to this decision.  Once you stop being afraid, you can really start living.

What does giving up fear sound like or look like? Mostly, when someone says “You can’t do that!” – you respond with looking at their concerns, and often responding, “Well, I can- watch me!”  If there’s an obstacle in your path, you can give up, or the non-fear way is to look for any other way around this obstacle.  Som people let obstacles or difficulties stop their forward progress.  Successful people use these obstacles and learning opportunities and places to push off, change direction slightly, but never stopping the forward progress towards their goal.

The Theme for 2008-Mutual Success / Interconnectedness

This coming year, my theme or big idea in to find the win/win in as many situations as possible.

I spoke with a close friend the other day, who does significant business in China. He spoke about how the Chinese respond to American negotiation tactics.  While capitalism, for some people, is based on a win/lose paradigm- I can only win if you lose.  This often means people treating the other side of a deal as less worthy, or simply trying to take advantage of them- neither position does much to build long term, positive working relationships.   And in China, the relationship and respect is a cornerstone to how they see the world- a “deal” is not a one time thing, but a start of a long term process, that means much more than any one transaction.

In a world that is ever more connected, working on long-term business relationships is not a luxury- it is a necessity.  This means having respect for the other side of any negotiation or transaction.  It means trying to structure deals in a way that results in a win-win.  The “beating the other side into submission” Machiavellian tactics aren’t going to work for very much longer.  If you are too difficult to do business with, there are plenty of other players in a global marketplace who don’t see blood on the walls as success.  Trust and respect are becoming fundamental in this new era of globalization- there will be little long-term success for those who see humiliation as a goal in negotiations.

This is ultimately what transparency is about.  Both sides of any issue understand the other side as well as their own.  They know what a reasonable profit is, and what arrangement would suit both parties.  (With the internet and Google, there are far fewer secrets that we want to acknowledge, anyway).  Sometimes, you will need to take your business elsewhere, but respectful negotiations with the other side won’t foreclose future opportunities, where blood-lust based ones will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of both sides, making future business unlikely.

We have to change our attitude away from “I win, you lose” to “How can we work together?  How can we both get what we want?”  This makes all the difference in dealing with people, and building up long term trust, long term equity in relationships.

What do you think?  Isn’t all (successful) business really based on friendship and liking the other side, not feeling subjugated to someone else?  How can we make this happen in every day interactions?

What are your themes for 2008?