Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Russian Bear and Dealing with the Chronically Insecure

You might ask yourself why adults, active and seemingly successful, deploy schoolyard bullying, threatening, yelling and screaming in their management style and their negotiating techniques. The obvious answer is because, mostly, it works. At least in the day-to-day business world. When such bullies have the financial resources to file lawsuits, knowing that the other side lacks the financial resources to defend, that only makes bullying that much more effective. But there is one reality I have learned in my capacity of being a professional negotiator in the mean-spirited/egocentric world of Hollywood. Those folks are the most insecure people you are likely ever to meet.
Every single negotiating yeller and screamer I have ever faced is deeply insecure. They deflect in the hopes that no one notices what they feel inside are their clear deficiencies. They are emperors-without-clothes, but the more they get away with it, the more they use overt belligerence as their most basic negotiating tool. They interrupt. Talk over you. Threaten. But they play poker with their cards facing out. So once you are aware of that insecurity, you instantly have the edge. You can deploy flattery, conflicting body language or, if you have greater and obvious strength than your screaming opponent, you can loom back with a smile.
Many mistake this tough and belligerent approach as “self-confidence.” In reality, these individuals are almost never that self-assured. How can you be thin-skinned and self-confident? That’s an obvious internal inconsistency. When someone criticizes you, with or without justification, the nature of your response will usually reflect how self-assured you really are. Donald Trump is a textbook “emperor without clothes.” He has street smarts, however, and knows how to pander to the insecurities of others as much as he knows himself. And since he has deep self-doubts, he is driven to dig out hidden weakness in his opponents to allow his attacks to be even more effective. He believes that they have no clothes either. He’s raised his sons with that approach.
It’s classic Trump, but those that you are able to manipulate through bully-tactics are seldom the folks that run the world and have real power. That you think all people are susceptible to such bullying is usually a desperate need to hide that insecurity. When that approach does not work – evident at the G-20 summit – you have very few choices.
Get real, know the issues and negotiate from that knowledgeable strength. But Donald Trump admittedly does not like to read and tells us that he gets all he really needs to know from conservative social media and television news. He is distrustful of his intelligence experts and very resistant to reading their detailed reports (even their summaries). So that’s not Trump-style.
You can describe a failure to communicate, an inability to force the other side to cave to your demands, as a “success” to your constituency. Lacking the sophistication to understand the actual results, they go with your flow. The G-20 wound up literally being a 19-to-1 against summit in which the U.S. got little more than a unified pledge from every other nation at that convocation that they will accept virtually nothing the U.S. is trying to force them to do. But Donald told his base that his European foray had been a “triumph,” attended rallies with only his adoring supporters present, as he screamed at those who won’t do what he wants and covers their efforts with pejorative labels. Alternative fact approach.
The international press had a field day with Donald Trump’s time in Europe, but the coverage (“covfefe”?) was overwhelmingly negative. Strangely, the story that went viral the most was written by an Australian journalist, who summed up what the international journalists said most consistently: “"In an Australian news broadcast that seems to have resonated with Americans, a political journalist delivered a scathing evaluation of President Trump’s performance last week at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
"The journalist, Chris Uhlmann, said in a segment originally broadcast on the program 'Insiders,' that Mr. Trump was an 'uneasy, lonely, awkward figure' at the meeting and that the president 'has no desire and no capacity to lead the world.'
"The video immediately took hold on social media, and by Sunday [7/10] morning had been viewed more than a million times on Twitter and Facebook — further emphasizing how viral videos, once reserved for cute kitties and humorous mishaps, have become increasingly political, and that interest in these gatherings of world leaders is no longer just for policy wonks."  New York Times, July 10th.
In Trump’s two hour and twenty minute G-20 side bar with Vladimir Putin (foreign ministers in attendance), Donald met with a man with real bargaining power, a world-player with extensive experience in manipulation and hard negotiation. An emperor with clothes. Apparently, in a statement from Putin himself that was not contradicted by anyone present (including Trump or Rex Tillerson), Trump accepted at face value Putin’s statement that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election. Virtually no senior GOP leaders believe that is remotely true.
Further, Trump agreed to a joint cyber task force with Russia to combat global hacking at all levels, but a strong negative reaction from senior members of his own party caused the Donald to walk-back that pledge. The international press pretty uniformly reported that Trump was well-played by Putin. The Russian bear had a good meal.
That Donald Trump, Jr. failed to report a contact with a “connected” Russian lawyer during the campaign to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton is almost non-news as too many Americans are simply worn out on this Russia thang. They want Congress and the President to address the bigger issues on the table (healthcare, tax reform, etc.), but these issues just won’t go away. If the Dems were smart (and so far they’re not), they’d quit harping on the Russia connection with a simple: there are special investigations going on here, so let’s just let them take their course. What we really need to focus on is healthcare, jobs and the economy. But Donald Trump’s severe and narcissistic personality defects are serious problems for all Americans. His alternative reality does not carry well across international boundaries.
Bottom line, Donald Trump and his baby boyz just don’t know any other way. NBC News (July 11th) noted that the Trump family business practices – digging up dirt to trash their opponents – seemed to backfire with this Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who summarized the Trump, Jr. meeting with this: “I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that… It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”
Donald’s own track record (personal and corporate) – 3500 lawsuits over his lifetime (2000 since the year 2000), his failed Trump University debacle and some very serious economic losses (a wag at Goldman Sachs suggested that with the money Trump inherited, he would have been vastly wealthier if he has simply invested in overall stock market growth) – is not pretty when you dig into his reality. On January 27, 2016, in BloombergView, Tim O’Brien wrote: “Fueled by a slew of bank loans in the late 1980s, Trump absorbed an airline, a football team, a landmark hotel, a bunch of casinos, a yacht, and other nifty stuff -- almost all of which he eventually lost because he couldn’t juggle the debt payments.
“He overcame those setbacks, but the man who emerged from that mess wasn’t really a dealmaker anymore. Kept afloat by his wealthy father’s funds and his own gifts for self-promotion, Trump became a reality TV star, golf course developer and human shingle who licensed his name on everything from real estate and vodka to mattresses and underwear.
“Through Trump’s rise, fall and rebirth, there was one major real estate project that he tried to keep. The tale of what happened to that property should be of interest to anyone looking for insight into how Trump might perform as president. It was a deal of genuine magnitude and would have put him atop the New York real estate market. And he screwed it up. 
“The deal involved Manhattan’s West Side Yards, a sprawling, 77-acre tract abutting the Hudson River between 59th and 72nd Streets and at the time the largest privately owned undeveloped stretch of land in New York City. The Yards were a vestige of the Penn Central Transportation Company, a failed railroad enterprise that, in 1970, filed what was then the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history. In the wake of that collapse, Trump leveraged his father’s ties to New York’s Democratic machine and local bankers to acquire pieces of Penn Central’s holdings, including the Yards, in the mid-1970s.
“Unable to reach agreements with the city and community groups on how to develop the site, Trump let his option lapse in 1979. His Yards saga began in earnest in 1985, when he bought back the property from another developer for $115 million.
“Trump’s plans for the property included office and residential space; a new broadcasting headquarters for NBC; a rocket-ship-shaped skyscraper that would have been the world’s tallest building and cast shadows across the Hudson River into New Jersey; and a $700 million property tax abatement from the city as an incentive to build it. The $4.5 billion project -- which Trump called Television City -- would have been New York’s biggest development since Rockefeller Center…
“In 1994, with the Yards bleeding about $23.5 million in annual carrying costs, and long after Koch had departed City Hall, Trump’s bankers forced him to give up control of the site. The property went to a group of Hong Kong investors, including New World Development, for $82 million and the assumption of about $250 million in debt Trump had amassed.
“The Hong Kong investors later broke ground on the site with a series of high-end condominiums known as Riverside South, and the group used Trump’s name on some of the buildings there (they also paid him management and construction fees). The Hong Kong group sold the entire project for about $1.8 billion in 2005 -- the largest residential real estate transaction in New York City’s history at the time.
“Under the terms of Trump’s involvement with the project, he was entitled to a portion of the profits on the site. He sued the Hong Kong investors over the sale, claiming the group could have gotten more money. They went ahead and sold, and Trump eventually ended up with minority stakes in a pair of office buildings now worth about $640 million, according to Bloomberg data. (The $550 million Trump could have gotten for the Yards in 1989 would be worth over $1 billion in 2016 dollars, and that figure excludes any more money he might have made by subsequently investing those funds 27 years ago.)
“Losing the Yards also deprived Trump of bragging rights. When the reality TV show “The Apprentice” debuted in 2004, it featured Trump telling viewers that he was the ‘largest real estate developer in New York.’ By any real estate measure -- square footage or value -- this simply wasn’t true (and it’s still not true today). Trump had become a major personality, but he wasn’t New York’s top developer.” Those Hong Kong emperors with clothes ate Donald’s liver! I’m sorry, Donald, your business practices and negotiating style just plain doesn’t work with international leaders with real power… and it never will.
As disturbing as the Russian connection may be to many, the real problem is how easily manipulated Donald Trump is when confronted by global leaders not remotely susceptible to his negotiating techniques; the real losers are the American people who are stuck with his ineffective efforts.

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