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Angela Merkel and Theresa May: Critical Mistakes

Jul 11, 2018

German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May have come under intense pressure and scrutiny recently as they both find themselves in an uncomfortable “justifying” and “defending” position.
For heads of government, these are the most difficult of all positions. For Merkel and May, the situation means they are placed in a corner, having to “defend” and “justify” in reaction to a different, stronger position.

At the beginning of every negotiation, there is a “big idea”,a desired goal that needs to be achieved. The master plan for a negotiation then builds on this idea. Strategy and tactics are defined, and all managers involved know exactly what they must do and the plan of action. 

So what is Mrs. Merkel’s “big idea” for the coming years?

Previous leaders have established their legacy through their “big ideas”.
Chancellor Kohl, at the time, had presented the “10-Point Plan to Solve the German Question”.
Gerhard Schröder presented his “Agenda 2010” to reform the social security system.

These initiatives had a clear goal, a defined master plan, and the most important element: surprise.
The element of surprise and the ability to present a master plan allows you to take over the reins of the negotiation immediately and push political adversaries into their own justifying and defending positions.

Possible “big ideas”:
Angela Merkel’s “10-Point Plan on Migration”.
Theresa May’s “Agenda 2019 for a Soft Brexit”.


Negotiation Tips for Success:

  • At the beginning, define a clear goal. It should be optimistic and lofty.
  • Formulate a step-by-step master plan.
  • Present a clear, comprehensible plan in simple language.
  • Make sure there is some element of surprise.
  • Keep going, even when things get tough.


The theme of the 2018 N-Conference in Zurich is “How to Define a Master Plan”. featuring guest speakers Santiago Calatrava and Joschka Fischer, among others. Read more here.