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Say no, then negotiate

Donald Trump seems to have nations, leaders and corporations on tenterhooks with some of his bolder statements that bring a number of international trade deals, alliances and treaties into question.

He’s a hero to some, and villain to others, but what are the obvious behavioural clusters that may help us to better understand him and his actions?

Will a ‘no’ definitely mean ‘no’, or will he settle down and actually negotiate once the shock waves have abated? Are some of the blunt statements just a hallmark of his beahvioural style and the strategy typically used by someone with his preferred styles? Simply understanding some of the major traits at play here may help to mitigate some fears.

Like all people, Trump has a lifetime’s worth of unique experiences that will fuel the repertoire of behavioural strengths and weaknesses that he displays. These are on display to the world given his recent election and will impact not just US domestic and foreign policy, but the stability of world politics.

One of the most effective methods of better understanding human behaviour and its impact is the Belbin Model.

It identifies and then helps to measure and understand nine major clusters of human behavior that impact leadership, teamwork and relationships in general. People have a unique repertoire of natural, manageable and least preferred role styles.

In the Belbin model Trump is quite clearly an example of a Shaper and a Resource Investigator. It is not uncommon to find these two styles in the top four preferred styles of entrepreneurs.

The nickname of these two styles when conjoined in a Belbin profile is “Dynamo”. If you suspect, as we do, that he also has the Team Role of Plant in his top Roles (a creative style, unorthodox, big ideas but not all of which are practical) the nickname of that combination is "Maverick".

This seems to fit Trump’s style perfectly. A bold risk taker, prepared to ruffle feathers and take risks in pursuit of new opportunities. He is also someone willing to take a stand, say no, then negotiate as required to achieve what he wants. With these traits comes volatility and a degree of unpredictability.

A phrase one might expect to hear from a classic example of this pairing of Shaper and Resource Investigator is actually “say no, and then negotiate”.

Each behavioural cluster brings strengths and contributions to a person’s interactions, problem solving strategies and relationships, as well as natural allowable weaknesses (when the weakness is a natural flip-side of the strength and outweighed by the benefits) and non-allowable weaknesses. These will manifest to varying and unique degrees based upon a person’s intellect, discipline, maturity and also myriad external factors.

The major characteristics of both of these Belbin roles of Shaper and Resource Investigator are as follows.

Shaper (SH):

As a ‘Strength’ The Shaper cluster of behavior typifies an energetic driven, competitive and challenging “action-oriented” person. The behaviours keep a team on task and focused on getting the job done, especially when things bog down or a team slips too much into party mode and the whip just needs to be cracked (the symbol used is a whip).

They help maintain a sense of urgency when under pressure, and they tend to knuckle down and bust through the obstacles to make sure that actions are taken by the team. They can thrive on pressure and competition.

Shapers are usually pretty easy to spot in a team, especially if there are more than one of them or if they are locking horns with other types over who should be in charge.

Their ‘Allowable Weakness’ comes from the fact that it’s not too hard to press the hot buttons on a strong Shaper and they will have no problems with engaging in an argument or raising the anxiety levels to make a point. They can be volatile, easily provoked and sometimes hold a grudge.

If not careful they can certainly tread on toes and isolate those of a more sensitive profile.

The ‘Non Allowable Weakness’ is becoming overly assertive, even aggressive and failing to realise that mending some relationships may be required if they have been on the warpath, and to not completely let anxiety and drive make them lose their sense of humour under pressure.

Shaper is an Action oriented role.

Resource Investigator (RI):

The ‘Strength’ of the generally extroverted Resource Investigator comes with an infectious enthusiasm for new opportunities.

They can keep a team and organization connected with what’s going on outside, especially if a team becomes inward looking and too task focused. They are also natural communicators (the symbol being a phone).

RI’s love the cut and thrust of inter-personal brainstorms and interacting with others to generate ideas and pursuing opportunities that interest them personally. They can also be quite influential, persuasive and able to sell themselves and the course of action they wish to take.

A good RI will also be suited to negotiation, the flavor of which will be influenced by what other Belbin styles sit atop of their behavioural repertoire.

Their ‘Allowable Weakness’ comes from their love of the new “shiny thing” and that once the initial shine of the new venture has worn off, they may lose interest and move off to chase the next shiny thing without properly following through or consolidating the last one.

They can also be overly optimistic about a new exciting opportunity to the point of ignoring the risks or some of the less enjoyable realities.

Their ‘Non Allowable Weakness’ is failing to follow up at all on what they may have agreed to do and letting down team members or clients external to the team.

RI is a Socially oriented role.

Some people project their strengths and manage their associated weaknesses better than others.

How he manages to successfully project his strengths, and either manage his associated weaknesses himself, or surround himself with people who can - will be a matter for history after his Presidency is over.

There will of course also be other behavioural clusters in Trump’s toolbox, and serve to subtly flavor the two role types discussed here, but arguably, these are the two that are most evident in his negotiating style.

The Shaper and Resource Investigator combination can produce an ability to start harshly, then progressively wheel, deal and sugar coat messages akin to having an in-built capacity for good cop and bad cop.

His negotiating style certainly smacks of this, and reflects not only his background as a deal making real estate tycoon, but the behavioural roles he exhibits that clearly fuel both his successes and his failures.

So for those waiting to see if their vital nation building deals or commercial contracts will live or die during a Trump Presidency, certainly expect the Shaper’s ‘no’ at first, but don’t lose all hope, just wait for the highly probable Resource Investigator’s ‘negotiate’ that may well follow soon after.

To see more about the Belbin Model visit

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