“So much of life is a negotiation – so even if you’re not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you,” Kevin O’Leary.
More than ever in these very uncertain times I have found the need for thoughtful, effective negotiation. Building new relationships with people in our communities as we attempt to volunteer and offer support, understand key services and try and help one another. Charting these very choppy waters, I am using the skills and approaches laid out below to help us all – just as I have as a senior leader, CEO or Board member in Business. I feel my whole commercial life has been a training ground for being a better, more effective person in this new demanding reality.
To remind you of the context earlier this week in my short-form post, the are some amazingly skilled negotiators in history such as Elizabeth the First and Alexander the Great. We can learn from their wisdom and expertise to help us master our discussions in these challenging times – where even the smallest interaction is often uncharted territory and can become a full scale negotiation, it seems!
What does it take to be a brilliant negotiator?
1. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes before you start. The first step is to understand in finite detail who you are negotiating with. Clear research on the individual, their background, style and approach. What makes them tick? Where are they coming from? What will they think, feel and do in the situation? These questions are central to entering the discussion with confidence and a feeling of equality. If tapping into personal insights is more of a challenge – be prepared, do your research and have some tactics up your sleeve. It’s critical to not over or under call putting yourself in someone else’s shoes when entering a negotiation!
“The trick to negotiation is to hold all the cards going in and, even if you didn’t, to try to look as though you did,” – Eoin Colfer.
2. Know your USP in any situation. It’s also essential to know yourself! As Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School Professor claimed, “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which [one] must constantly engage.” Your unique selling point (USP) highlights the ‘wow’ benefits that you bring to the table in any situation. What do you have that’s differentiating and sets you apart from others? You must also have a simple yet effective game plan. What will you yield up first? What is the central goal? What does success look like for you? One of my favourite quotes perfectly sums this up:
“You go out there today and lead! Stick to your guns about what you know to be right and wrong and don’t let anyone drag you around by the nose. Remember who you are!” – Kim Clarke’s mum, Dean of Harvard Business School.
3. Style and Approach: For managers, the repertoire of voices, styles, engagement and approaches is key, it appears in a negotiation. All of us do better when we genuinely want to help others. Most of us don’t start each day relishing assertive conflict so the range of styles to support and empathise must be practised…but not overdone! We must also be mindful to not fall into the push over camp and the outer edges of victimville. Rarely does this work either!
We can learn to assert ourselves with kindness and edge without being too personal or in any way dehumanising the situation. Telling someone cogently and constructively how they are making you feel in the moment takes courage but is in my experience often game changing. Pauses, laughter and posing questions in your own authentic way to reinforce your point and move the discussion forward is important to both parties and to the end outcome (whatever it may be!).
Why does research say women don’t negotiate around salary and conditions for themselves?
When reaching out to my network I gained some fascinating insights: women believe they are already too much or they are not enough, they’re frustrated with encounters they’ve had in the past, fear of the unknown, they don’t feel they have the skills to rise to the occasion…the list goes on! According to a HBR article (2014), “…the answer has more to do with how women are treated when they negotiate than it has to do with their general confidence or skills.” It all seems fine when women advocate for others. But we can’t seem to handle them assertively advocating for themselves!
This recent CTV News interview shares some great negotiation strategies and techniques, to help women walk in with courage and out with confidence, having achieved a mutually beneficial outcome.
In sum, we must balance the ‘social cost’ of negotiation. Too much understanding and giving can (particularly for women) erode confidence and create an “I am too-much or too-little” circle of self-doubt. To achieve a ‘win-win’ here means to give something that the other wants in an empathetic yet impactful way!
George Eastman put it well when a woman told him she admired his hard tough negotiation style in business and he replied, “One has to be hard in this world…but one must keep one part on ones’ heart a little soft….”
This heart is so so key at this time for us all and the collective of humanity. Hope should not be ones’ core defining strategy and approach, but right now in all of our dealings with people it’s central. Hope, kindness and heart are the foundations for our interactions at this time – with the major approaches I am using as actionable practical and always positive.