- It ranks just below public speaking on the list of fears.
- Often perceived as a combative sport.
- Miss viewed as the province of a set of mystically trained uber professionals.
The funny thing is that we do it all the time. Some without doubt more than others, but we all dive into the realm of bargaining. For those who have excelled at making a living undertaking overt negotiations – buyers, contract specialist, sales types – this isn’t written for you, but we would like to learn from your experiences.
If you’re someone like the VP of Finance, Head of Strategy, or the one cranking out your organization’s newest business development initiative give me a minute. It’ll be worth your time.
For you, great news… sort of
Negotiating, bargaining, reaching consensus… in of its self isn’t hard. Which is good because effective negotiation skills are essential in today’s business environment. Despite knowing this, however, many of us aren’t always good at it. This cost both us, and our companies, because:
- money is left on the table
- cost that could be controlled aren’t
- risks that could be mitigated go uncontrolled
The reason many of us fall short is driven by all of the extra baggage we bring, which turns the experience torturous and ultimately undermines our best intentions. Here are two biggies:
- Ego is a Mug. Here’s the deal, and please bear with me for it’s a two step conundrum. First, we all have a basket of experiences and previously successful pathways that we heavily rely on to deal with current situations. This emboldens us to think that we’re never wrong… or in our case most right. Secondly, by nature we are all emotional creatures, thus something within us triggers when another questions our judgment. The culmination of the two often results in one instinctively taking a protective ‘been them done that’ stance; a virtual blinder. And, if this happens on both ends of a negotiation kiss the kids goodnight and turn off the lights, the negotiation is dead in the water.
- Holding the negotiating chain too tight. To often negotiations are framed negatively by focusing heavily on potential losses versus possible gains. This negative framing paradoxically leads to risk-seeking behavior instead of the risk-avoiding behavior needed to finding cooperative agreements. This more often than not results in the acceptance of a ‘good enough’ resolution versus following a process targeted toward achieving an optimal solution, which has a set of criteria that allows all alternatives to be considered.
This doesn’t have to be
Here are the three pillars you should consider embracing anytime you need to workout a compromise.
- Separate the people from the problem.
- Focus on interests not positions. Be open and honest about facts, opinions, and feelings, the goal is to achieve a solution that is acceptable to both.
- Focus on controlling the process so it helps all concerned – and not control the content. Make sure that you use objective assessment criteria to evaluate opposing interests. And most importantly, think freely about all the options for mutual gain before deciding anything.
Habit changing is a skill
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Don’t make unreasonable expectations for your ability without having significant practice and instruction. To get you started on the right path here are some bits of advice.
- Leverage what you do already, learned from experience.
- Hit several practice balls. Make a conscious effort to use the lessons in low consequence situations.
- Purposely seek out more knowledge. Find a role model, incorporate this it into your professional development program, and seek out knowledge on your own.
What about you? What has helped you become a better negotiator?
Please leave a comment below and let us know…