Notes from the coaching room
Negotiating for success - or how to know what you need and make sure you get it
There are a number of ‘moments of truth’ in a leadership career. Occasions when strategic visioning and analysis, technical legal and financial appreciation and core personal skills all come together in a single event. Smoothly navigating these moments can provide breakthroughs to higher personal and organisational performance and growth, encountering turbulence at these times can be personally draining, bringing damage and loss to the organisation and its plans. Entering into a negotiation is certainly one of these moments and our work gives us particular insight into the opportunities and risks for leaders at these times.
All leadership activity is enhanced by planning, indeed there is a wealth of evidence that deficient or non-existent planning lies behind many a sub-standard performance. That makes it a good place to start.
Planning for a negotiation requires marshalling the data required to support the discussions, that much is plain. Let’s call that the of the negotiation for the moment. It also requires some investment into the process will work.
- What is your aim? It’s rarely to crush someone or satisfy an ego. It’s also not often about ‘compromise’ or ‘win-win’ as some text books would have it. It’s more properly an exercise in achieving something sustainable for everyone. Ask yourself what that sustainable outcome may be well before you get into a discussion.
- What do you want / what do they want? What you want can be thought of as your ‘interest’. What you say you want may be called your ‘position’. What are they? Why are they different? What position is going to be adopted by others? What is their real interest?
- What happens if you don’t agree? What is your alternative to a successful agreement? Being clear about your alternative is enormously empowering and puts real heft behind whatever ‘red lines’ are necessary for you to draw.
- Where does power lay in the negotiation? Who isn’t in the discussion but is an interested party, potentially a more powerful one? What can you do about those interested parties? What are their interests and positions? How can you engage them?
- How will the process work? Where will it take place, over what time period? What will happen before you meet? How many times will you meet? Who is writing the agenda? Will there be minutes? Who will write them? What happens between meetings if more than one is required? Taking control of the process can be an enormously powerful way to support success.
Managing the discussions
- Smart leaders structure each discussion by consciously creating a beginning, middle and end. Investing in some rapport building early and indulging negotiation partners with a little congratulation and flattery at the end builds the relationships that support the aim of sustainability. Consciously treating everyone in the discussion as part of the same team with a shared aim is a great way to avoid conflict.
- Listen. Hard. Listen for generalisations, assumptions, ‘rules’ or fixed beliefs. Listen for comparators. What nouns are begin used? Which verbs? Really hearing these things will show you the interests that lay behind the positions you hear. Don’t challenge them, however much ‘red mist’ they may engender. Note them for use later.
- Watch. Closely. Skin tone changes, lower lip movement, eye movement, breathing rate. The body doesn’t lie and observing how others interact and how their body language reveals their emotions is really useful insight.
- Ask questions. Only make statements when you absolutely have to. Sum up when it sounds like there’s a consensus or park an issue and move on if it feels like one will be hard to achieve.
- Be positive. It’s infectious. Treat everything as an opportunity and remain resolutely ‘glass half full’.
- Manage your body language. Remember you are all on the same team and the issue is the challenge you are trying to resolve together. Make sure your body language says the same thing.
Many books have been written about negotiation and only a few of them are actually worth reading. These brief notes are the briefest of extracts from a much deeper-dive delivered on our courses on the topic and we’re aiming here for to be a helpful primer for any leader about to embark on a critical negotiation.
Things for modern leaders to consider:
- How good are you at this? What are your strengths and weaknesses in this arena? How will you build on your strengths in the discussions? How good are you at controlling your emotions? What feedback do you have about that? How do you feel about the other people in the discussions? Can you re-frame any of your fixed views before you begin?
- How do you feel about rejection? What will you do if the discussions don’t feel like they’re going where you thought they would? What might those moments be? How can you plan for them?
Xytal is the leading British consultancy developing leadership in the health sector. ‘Notes from the coaching room’ is drawn from our real experience of the issues faced by many leaders in improving their leadership practice. Get in contact with us to learn more. If you found this article beneficial, you might also consider checking out our Leadership Development programme.