How To

CFL president Michael Copeland’s three rules for negotiating with a union

Getting to yes with minimum drama

One CFL football player tackling another

Aston Whiteside sacks Mike Reilly late in the 4th quarter on October 4, 2014. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star/Getty)

Lockouts hurt business owners and employees, but they’re particularly deadly to sports leagues. This summer, the Canadian Football League and the CFL Players’ Association managed to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement without ceasing operations or even generating many headlines. Michael Copeland, president and COO of the Canadian Football League, has three basic rules rules of negotiation. Here they are:

1. Talk to shareholders

“Your own internal stakeholders—whether it be the board, your operators, key employees—need to be kept informed of how the negotiations are proceeding, how issues are being presented, options that are being considered. Ultimately, they’ll have to support whatever you agree to, and you don’t want any surprises.”

2. Park your emotions

“It’s important to understand that, for the people on the other side of the table, this is their livelihood. It directly impacts them and their families. Everybody has a lot at stake in these negotiations and emotions can run high. But if you can put that aside, it reduces a lot of the friction and doesn’t introduce other barriers to getting things done.”

3. Shake hands every day

“I was very happy that, no matter how engaged we were during discussions—and we had very frank, very open, very passionate discussions—there were always handshakes and smiles for the other side when the meetings were over. We respected them, they respected us; I think that gives you the confidence to realize that no matter what, you’ll end up in a good place.”