A Bird in a Tree Will Do

By: Brian Webb, CPC | Accounting & Finance Recruiter

I accidentally stumbled across the blog of Will Burns recently, where he re-tells the story known as the “Picasso Principle”

The famous Pablo Picasso was at a party. A woman recognized him and approached the Master. She asked, “Will you create a sketch for me?”

Picasso agreed, and, as he pulled out his sketchpad, asked her for a subject.

“A bird in a tree will do,” she responded.

So Picasso spent about a five minutes doing what Picasso does on the sketchpad. Finished, he ripped the sketch off the pad, handed it to the woman and said, “That will be $10,000.”

The woman was floored. “Ten thousand dollars! Why, it only took you five minutes to draw that sketch!”

To which, Picasso replied, “No, madam. That sketch took me thirty years.”

That story should resonate with just about every recruiter, or anyone else who has negotiated with a party who may not understand the time and the expertise that goes into delivering their finished product.

In my experience as a negotiator I have encountered three types of responses: 1) The “Where do I sign” group, 2) The “that’s too expensive for me right now” group and the 3)@#$%! You’re not going to charge me that! You don’t deserve it!” group.

The “Where do I sign” group should be praised, protected, and cherished as a species most rare.

The “That’s too expensive for me right now” group can be reasoned with.

Its that third group, who I will from now on refer to as the Bird in a Tree group, that can be the most challenging and unnerving.

Brian and the Bird in the Tree

If you ask those that know me, I’m typically not the most mercurial personality. I’m pretty consistent to the point where I imagine that some of the Type AAA personalities that I work with have wanted to check my wrist for a pulse. But to those who have heard me reacting to a Bird in a Tree customer – and its happened maybe 4 times in a total of 6 years – they’ve seen a different side. They’ve seen me detail my years of experience, recount the dozens of phone calls spent on screening and clearing candidates, lament the time spent fixing resumes and preparing candidates for interviews, and account for the hundreds of thousands of dollars my employer spends on job boards and databases and marketing efforts. They’ve seen the emails containing vitriolic diatribe, where I offer my own attempt at psychoanalysis. I have expended a lot of emotional energy wondering in these instances, but I’m not going to any more.

Nope, never again. Next time I’ll just calmly tell the story.

A Bird in a tree will do.

(Our bird is fake, did we fool you? No real birds were used in the making of this blog post!)


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