The Book of Agreement: 10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want

Overview

For many people, negotiating an agreement is an adversarial process. But in this book, conflict resolution expert Stewart Levine shows how to design agreements collaboratively to reflect a clear joint vision of the desired outcome and produce results.

The Book of Agreement provides ten powerful tools for creating successful agreements together. These tools help both parties clarify expectations, establish standards, and build partnership. Also included are more than 25 agreement...

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The Book of Agreement: 10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want

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Overview

For many people, negotiating an agreement is an adversarial process. But in this book, conflict resolution expert Stewart Levine shows how to design agreements collaboratively to reflect a clear joint vision of the desired outcome and produce results.

The Book of Agreement provides ten powerful tools for creating successful agreements together. These tools help both parties clarify expectations, establish standards, and build partnership. Also included are more than 25 agreement templates that cover all areas of life. Professional templates include financial planners, realtors, therapists, consultants, and engineers; personal templates include spouses and domestic partners, children, and parents.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781576751794
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart Levine's life work has centered around creating agreement and empowerment in the most challenging circumstances. He is an instructor for the American Managament Association and IBI Global and has delivered programs for Esalen Institute, HR.com, and the American Bar Association, among others.

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Read an Excerpt

The Book Of Agreement

10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want
By Stewart Levine

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 Stewart Levine
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60509-335-2


Chapter One

THE LAW OF AGREEMENT

Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. —Thomas Paine

Although it was almost fifteen years ago, it seems that it was yesterday when I articulated the Law and Principles of Agreement for the first time. I was so excited, you would think I had discovered a new planet or hit a lottery jackpot. I was ecstatic because I realized how fundamental agreements were to all aspects of life and how much suffering good agreements could alleviate. I also knew I would spend a good portion of the rest of my life teaching, facilitating, and writing about agreement and resolution.

I think of laws and principles as universal truths that are very difficult to refute or disprove. The Law of Agreement and the Principles of Agreement are the foundational truths on which this book is based. Like gravity, they are simple and obvious truisms that, although usually unspoken, are always present. The challenge is to stay mindful of them and to live by them. It is very important to remember that although the Law and Principles are simple to understand, they are not always easy to live by.

LAW OF AGREEMENT

Collaboration is established in language by making implicit (talking to yourself about what you think the agreement is) and explicit (discussing the agreement with others) agreements.

PRINCIPLES OF AGREEMENT

1. The source of productivity and fulfillment in personal and professional relationships is effective collaboration. The more seamless the collaboration, the stronger the results.

2. We work and live in a "sea" (context) of agreements.

3. We never learned the essential elements of an effective agreement.

4. Clear agreements are empowering. They express a shared vision and a road map to desired results.

5. Clear agreements improve the chances for satisfaction. They set up the conditions that produce delighted clients, customers, teammates, colleagues, vendors, and family members.

6. Practice enables you to craft masterful agreements.

7. Collaboration and agreement for results is simple, but it is not easy. It requires thoughtfulness and clear thinking on the front end, before you move into action, and a commitment to get through conflicts.

8. No matter how clear and complete the agreement, everything will not be addressed—conflicts and differences will arise that you must be prepared to resolve.

9. Breakdowns are not a cause for alarm; they are to-be-expected opportunities for creativity.

10. Resolving conflicts leads to new agreements.

Understanding the Law and Principles

THE BASIC LAW

Collaboration is established in language by making implicit (talking to yourself about what you think the agreement is) and explicit (discussing the agreement with others) agreements.

When we work with someone, take a job with a large organization, get married, buy someone's product, or go out for the evening with a friend, it involves coordination. Sometimes we craft long and detailed agreements with other people, such as professional sports contracts, business partnerships, or executive compensation agreements. People hire high-powered lawyers to conjure up all the things that might go wrong and all the contingencies the future might bring. They do their best to protect us from the "what ifs"—what if this goes wrong or what if that goes wrong. They try to make explicit all that they know. Unfortunately, in the name of protection, they are fostering an adversarial relationship. That is the opposite of what a new venture needs!

It takes some experience to realize that much more important than the clarity of the agreement is the quality of the relationship that develops out of reaching and working within the context of the agreement. As long as the relationship remains functional, people work things out, and the legal agreement stays in the bottom of your file drawer. The real key to the success of the collaboration is the development of relationship and trust. It's essential to make sure that everyone has the same picture, the same vision of the desired result, so that everyone is working toward making that vision the reality.

When we don't discuss the specific understanding we have with the other person or group, the agreement is implicit. The potential for difficulty here is that different people will have a different implicit understanding of what the agreement is. This is usually the cause of conflict.

It is an interesting phenomenon that as lawyers get older, their agreements get longer. The reason is that as lawyers becomes more experienced, the catalogue of things they have seen go wrong expands. Let's look at the principles, one by one.

1. The source of productivity and fulfillment in personal and professional relationships is effective collaboration. The more seamless the collaboration, the stronger the results.

When you look at your life and the culture you live in, evidence abounds of this truth. You can't have an organization without the collaborative efforts of many. The arts of management and leadership are about marshaling and coordinating others' efforts. It is like conducting a great symphony. This is also true for marriages, friendships, and families. Think of the importance of effective coordination between yourself and your spouse in a highly functional marriage. Imagine that same level of collaboration in a business partnership, work team, department, or branch of an organization. When you have effective coordination, you can feel the quadratic expansion of productivity. This is called synergy. In any collaboration, effective end results flow from tight coordination that produces high levels of synergy. Synergy is dependent on the clarity of the shared vision and agreements we have with others.

The other critical aspect of agreements is their impact on both personal and professional relationships. Most of the satisfaction we derive in life depends on the quality of our interpersonal relationships, at home and at work. The clearer the agreement, the more satisfying the relationship. Everyone knows where they are going—no one is holding back. All of their energy is in the "game" of producing results, not fighting insignificant battles. Clearly, the opposite is also true. When the agreement is unclear, coordination is missing, productivity is greatly limited, and suffering and conflict pervade. The challenge is to be clear on the vision and desired results without needing to be specific about every facet of the project.

Aside from personal difficulties between people, much of my consulting work involves making sure everyone is operating under the same vision. Recently I helped take care of the conflict between a private agency and a department of state government. The only thing missing was a shared vision of what they were supposed to accomplish together! Conflict developed because this was not put in place at the beginning of the project. Instead, I had to do it after the fact. You can also think of an agreement as the vehicle that creates the container in which activity happens.

2. We work and live in a "sea" (context) of agreements.

You can view your life as a series of agreements. As you go through your day, try viewing your life through the "lens of agreement." From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep your life is governed by the set of expectations you have as a result of the explicit and implicit agreements between you and others. You have agreements with all of the following:

• The husband or wife you share your life with

• The soldiers that protect your national borders

• The utility that supplies electricity, water, gas

• The market that sells you breakfast food

• The manufacturer of your clothing

• The municipality that provides police protection and picks up your trash

• The day care center where you leave your youngest child

• The station that services your car and sells you gasoline

• The school board that educates your children

• The company that pays your salary

• The boss you work for

• The company that services your computer

• The restaurant where you eat your lunch

• The garage where you park your car all day

• The babysitter who takes care of your kids

• The pizza shop that delivers your dinner

3. We never learned the essential elements of an effective agreement.

Although it is hard to believe, because collaboration is such a fundamental life skill, our early schooling did not include a course in effective collaboration. We never learned how to construct an effective agreement. The only way most of us get better at expressing agreements is because we suffered in the past because one of our agreements was insufficient. This makes us cautious, and sometimes mistrustful, about future collaborations, so we try to get clarity around the things that caused us trouble in the past. Unfortunately, unless we shift our way of thinking as a result of our learning or experience, we just get more paranoid and protective as time goes by.

4. Clear agreements are empowering. They express a shared vision and a road map to desired results.

When an agreement incorporates the needs, desires, and vision that each of the people involved is concerned about, you have the opportunity to express a powerful shared vision for the project. What is this collaboration about? What is the detailed picture of the result that will make everyone pleased with the outcome? It's not about you or me; it's about you and me! A clear agreement provides a road map to that vision. It details what everyone promises to do to achieve the desired result. The agreement functions to manage the project as a map that empowers and enrolls everyone in producing the joint vision. Think of the joint vision as a composite of everyone's individual vision—the vision is a "them and me," not a "them or me."

5. Clear agreements improve the chances for satisfaction. They set up the conditions that produce delighted clients, customers, teammates, colleagues, vendors, and family members.

A huge amount of the suffering in this world takes place because of unclear, unarticulated, implicit agreements. In unclear situations, people don't know what to do because they don't know the results expected of them and what they can expect of others. This causes fear and anxiety. If we took the time at the beginning to express exactly where we were headed and the route of travel, everyone could rest confident, knowing the value they were expected to deliver and that the value others would deliver would take care of their needs. Everyone would know exactly what to do to fulfill their responsibilities for producing the desired end result.

Can you recall the Quaker State motor oil commercial: "You can pay me now and have your oil changed, or you can pay me much more later for costly engine repairs!" It's the same way with agreements—you can take the time at the beginning and prevent the potential of a costly hassle later on. It is that simple! Nevertheless, it is hard work to change lifelong thinking and behavioral habits.

6. Practice enables you to craft masterful agreements.

Working with any new model is challenging. Most of us want instant success. We want to take up skiing and head right for the expert slopes. We want to master that new software program quickly. We need some patience. Within a short time the agreement template becomes internalized, and you have a framework for life. After a while you will be making sure that you have effective agreements in place for all of the important aspects of your life. You will be getting good at it, and it will become easy! Be patient; allow yourself to step into "beginner's mind." Let time and experience be your teacher. You will become artful with the use of the template. Obviously, not every situation requires an explicit agreement, and not every situation requires the "religion" of a ten-element agreement. But you must start by making the basics an internalized habit.

7. Collaboration and agreement for results is simple, but it is not easy. It requires thoughtfullness and clear thinking on the front end, before you move into action, and a commitment to get through conflicts. Periodically a state legislator will propose a law requiring more than a pulse and a blood test as requirements for a marriage license. Principle 7 makes a similar suggestion. It is a reminder that doing something effectively with another person is not easy and can become especially difficult if you don't pay attention to the details on the front end. Just as important, don't be surprised when conflicts come up that you either did not anticipate or thought were resolved.

8. No matter how clear and complete the agreement, everything will not be addressed—conflicts and differences will arise that you must be prepared to resolve.

No matter how much time you spend, no matter how perfect the attempt, you will revisit things you did not think about and circumstances you did not foresee. We can reduce conflict; we cannot eliminate it! It is important to remember that being "in the process of moving toward clear agreement" is where we spend most of our time (not at that place of perfect agreement). The goal is to normalize conflict.

The following metaphor illustrates the importance of being reconciled to the constantly evolving process of moving toward resolution and agreement. I was recently told that when you fly from New York to San Francisco, the plane is "dead on course" about 5 percent of the time. The remainder of the time, the pilot is making constant course corrections. That's the way it is. Learn to enjoy being in process. That's where we spend most of life. This is why an essential element of every agreement is a process for resolving inevitable conflicts.

The critical thing that gets you through the rough spot in any relationship is getting to the place where you have not only a meeting of the minds but also the trust that embodies a meeting of the hearts. The quality of the dialogue about the Ten Essential Elements of any agreement is designed to forge that meeting of the hearts.

9. Breakdowns are not a cause for alarm; they are tobe-expected opportunities for creativity.

Conflict and resolution are part of the same cycle. Like administrations of Republicans then Democrats, or the Dow going up then down, breakdowns (a stop in the action moving toward desired outcomes) are a blessing. They provide the opportunity to look at the situation with fresh eyes. From the current perspective, you have the luxury of more up-to-date information from which to act. It is critical to hold the context as one of ongoing learning as you work with an individual or a group. When things go wrong, it's not time to blame, find fault, prove yourself right, or prove them wrong. It's time to learn about what happened so you can fix the difficulty and improve the entire process for the next time you begin.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Book Of Agreement by Stewart Levine Copyright © 2002 by Stewart Levine. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
Introduction: Welcome to the World of Agreement and Resolution 1
Pt. I The Foundation: Laws, Principles, Elements, and Templates 13
Ch. 1 The Law of Agreement 15
Ch. 2 The Ten Essential Elements of Effective Agreements 26
Ch. 3 Three Facets of Agreement 39
Ch. 4 The New Mindset: Agreements for Results 44
Ch. 5 Are They Legally Binding Contracts? 55
Ch. 6 When Conflict Surfaces: The Resolutionary Model 60
Pt. II Organizational Applications 67
Ch. 7 Employment Relationships 69
Ch. 8 Senior Executive Teams 74
Ch. 9 Agreements with Suppliers 78
Ch. 10 Sales Agreements 82
Ch. 11 Team Agreements 90
Ch. 12 Diversity Agreements 94
Ch. 13 Learning Agreements 98
Ch. 14 Joint Venture Agreements 103
Ch. 15 Agreements Between Departments 108
Ch. 16 Performance Appraisal Agreements 113
Ch. 17 Feedback Agreements 117
Ch. 18 Delegation Agreements 121
Ch. 19 Board of Directors Agreements 125
Ch. 20 Stockholders Agreements 129
Ch. 21 Stakeholders Agreements 133
Ch. 22 Community Agreements 137
Pt. III Professional and Business Relationships 141
Ch. 23 Consultants 143
Ch. 24 Personal Coaches 148
Ch. 25 Therapists 152
Ch. 26 Physicians, Dentists, and Healthcare Practitioners 156
Ch. 27 Realtors 162
Ch. 28 Building Contractors 166
Ch. 29 Financial Planners 170
Ch. 30 Lawyers 173
Pt. IV Personal Applications 177
Ch. 31 Agreements with Yourself 179
Ch. 32 Agreements with Spouses or Domestic Partners 182
Ch. 33 Agreement Ending a Marriage 188
Ch. 34 A Nuclear Family Agreement 193
Ch. 35 Agreement with Extended Families 197
Ch. 36 Agreement with Parents 202
Ch. 37 Agreement Between Parents 205
Pt. V Creating a Culture of Agreement and Resolution 211
Ch. 38 The Benefits of a Culture of Agreement 213
Ch. 39 Creating a Culture of Agreement: Managing by Agreement, the New MBA 220
Ch. 40 Designing an Implementation Plan 233
Endnotes 237
Selected Bibliography 239
Index 241
About the Author 247
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003

    Creating harmony in your life

    Step back, take a deep breath, and smile because Stewart Levine¿s The Book of Agreement will give you the tools to get what you want without causing conflict. Not only does he provide insights into new ways to think about relationships, but he also provides templates that you can use to create them. After reading Stewart¿s book you will be able to: 1.Negotiate with the people already in your life; 2.Set limits, boundaries and expectations with those people you meet or hire; 3.Bring to the fore hidden concerns that could undermine your relationships and contracts. I immediately applied it to my relationship with our housekeeper to create a cleaning schedule without stress. I used it to clarify trading relationships in my business.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2003

    Great Resource

    The book of agreement is an easy-to-use workbook that gives countless examples for making healthy agreements that work for all stakeholders. I especially like his questions around "what are you worst fears/biggest concerns" since those are so often what people choose to avoid--and then suffer the consequences later. Eryn Kalish, President Workplace Connections, LLC

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2003

    A New Paradigm

    If you have ever wanted to communicate with others by saying what you mean and meaning what you say, read this book! Levine has discovered a formula for communicating the implicit in an explicit context. As a lawyer and business owner I have already begun to use Mr. Levine's techniques with great results. Yes, you can use these ideas to build better contracts and other agreements. But the truly great thing is you can use the principles to make conversations, e-mails and any other form of communication more harmonious and straight-forward. This should be mandatory reading for all law and business students!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2003

    The Book of Agreement: A True Gift!

    The Book of Agreement is profoundly simple yet extremely useful in its application to many varieties of situations/relationships requiring dependable and reliable solutions toward fullfilling significant goals. Stewart Levine's capacity to provide a means by which conflicts can be resolved, not only allows the reader the ability to do so for him/herself, but it also provides great insight into understanding (which is a wonderful gift).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2003

    Get's right to the issues

    Mr. Levine has developed an expertise in dispute resolution that he amply exhibits in this simple to follow guide to achieving agreement. I enjoy his easy style and would recommend it for any business person who needs to deal with resolving personal or business disputes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2003

    Conflict resolution is taken to a new level

    Stewart Levine¿s Book of Agreement takes the ¿legaleeze¿ out of conflict resolution and places the tools of resolution where they belong¿in the laps and hearts of the people who are involved. The added ingredients of compassion, communication and completion, takes conflict resolution to a new level. This book provides many useful templates and can be used in a variety of instances. It should be kept handy on the bookshelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2003

    Bady needed, pragmatic and easy to use

    I am already finding many uses for the agreement templates in this very user-friendly book. The 10 essential elements contained in the basic agreement translate beautifully to many forms and applications. I use them for my business and for mediating some of the thorny personal issues that have crossed my path. I highly recommend this book!

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