Did you ever walk into a conference room in a law firm before any of the other participants arrive? Maybe it’s because I’m from an absolutely lawyer-free background (scientist family for generations, me being the aberration) but I simply love observing the “rules of engagement”. Take for example everybody’s favorite consultants- I keep calling them The Talkers, or just The Blahs in my mind. Now if you have them entering your domain, beware! oh brave traveler through the uncharted courses of business law! For you will meet with lions, and hungry they shall be, and coffee and cookies their target!
What that means? Well… I usually just hang back and enjoy people in nicely tailored suits (they’re almost exclusively male, those Blahs) jostling and elbowing through the doors. Not happening, you say? Look closer! The Blahs have perfected looking innocent while stabbing their own packmates in the back. Once they’ve established the pecking order, the one who has won First Through The Door will inevitably scout the conference table: Where is the closest access to cookies and coffees? How well stocked is that access? How does the supply line look? And try to take the most advantageous position at the table.
The alpha-Blah might enter a little more sedately, among his peers grudgingly giving way to his superior powers of verbosity and deception… err… persuasion. Should the position that First Through The Door-Blah has occupied please him most of all at the table, he will destroy that poor Blah’s new-found happiness with a well-placed “HMM!”, making him give up his hard-earned position. The Blah-pack will then jostle and fight with posturing and glares for the next best places, ending up in annoying little Blah clusters all around the table. The spectacle is made so much better by offering at least two “watering holes” for the Blahs to fight over, however, the sheer fact that you, the legal consultants, would have to split your team to accommodate the scattered Blahs will send you into a tiny little snit- unless you use this nifty trick:
You draw the Blahs into one cluster at one end of the (normally horseshoe-shaped) table by moving- and this is important- both the cookies and the coffee. The Blahs, unwilling to give up their easy access to the watering hole will move with the bait, not noticing their proximity to the other Blahs that have been kept unaware by strategically distracting them with important sounding mumbo-jumbo chatter with a (hopefully) recently appeared colleague. Once the Blahs are all concentrated in one spot you should quickly gather a squadron of your own forces and move in to claim the newly vacated spots, thereby ensuring a coherent assembling of your group.
The Blahs, thus forced into their own company, will once again attempt to prove their own superiority not only to your team but also to their packmates. In the ensuing confusion you should strike with well-placed suggestions and take advantage of their disharmony to ensure the best outcome for yourself and your client.
WARNING: Do not try using this strategy on the Lone Stranger Blah. The Lone Stranger Blah is most likely very competent and sent as a troubleshooter to correct the mistakes of the Blah pack! He is not easily fooled and very, very dangerous if met alone in conference. He is a workaholic and well-versed in all matters of the business! Ensure a definite superior force of both talent and numbers and you should have the means to contain him. The best result you can hope for when meeting a Lone Stranger Blah is a Mutually Pleasing Agreement.
Note: the Lone Stranger Blah sometimes travels with a symbiotic hanger-on called an “aide”. That one can safely be ignored in conference but must be watched at all other times since its eyes and ears are sharper than one is led to believe, and the Lone Stranger Blah will not hesitate to take advantage of gossip being fed to him by the Aide.
Well, I had fun at work today. Still, I’m ready to call it a day now. Wrestling with a pack of Blahs is not really my idea of a good time- talk about obstinate pig-headedness!
Listening to: Hayley Westenra – Ave Maria (Schubert)