Knowing when to let go

Do you believe that the measure of a successful negotiation is when one party walks away with all their demands met and their opponent lies defeated and bleeding? Surprisingly a winning strategy may involve giving in. 

Next time you see two kids fighting over a toy, pay attention. This is negotiation at its most basic. Both children want the toy, and both are prepared to pull, push or cry to achieve their objective. There is usually a lot of noise, waves of emotion and inevitably one of them will dissolve into tears while the other runs away gleefully with the toy. Or the toy ends up in tatters, and the crying is broadcast in stereo.

Children rarely have the ability to consider the bigger picture – the imperative of keeping the toy intact and the possibility of sharing “toy time” with each other. All too frequently inexperienced corporate negotiators fall into the same trap. They enter the fray believing that an outright victory is the only successful outcome. However, often the most important aspect of the negotiation may be to preserve the relationship, even if that means surrendering one or more points.

Negotiation experts will tell you that preparation is the most important aspect of any negotiation situation. Beyond the seating arrangments, the displays of power, the tactics of interaction and verbal sparring it is the team which prepares best that usually achieves its objectives. And part of the preparation is understanding the priorities of the outcomes – which minor points are worth conceding,  what is the relative value of the deal to all involved, what mandate both parties have to engage and most importantly how important the long-term relationship is. In many instances, the relationship survives the negotiation process, and while certain concessions may seem like a short-term loss, but it is sometimes better to lose the battle in order to win the war. Remember that this negotiation may not be your last interaction with this opponent and your behaviour now may influence the treatment you get next time. Behave responsibly now, and your chances of a fair fight in future are far better.

Take a deep breath

Another reason the children end up in tears is their lack of self-control. The negotiator’s ability for self-management is as important as their ability to manage the negotiation process. Reining in those emotions, controlling tone of voice, avoiding knee-jerk reactions and rigorously maintaining an understanding for the bigger picture are all essential aspects of win-win negotiations. When tempers flare the balance of power shifts, and a clear perspective is compromised.

To outsiders, a negotiation session may seem to be shrouded in mystery. The two sides seem to be employing hidden tactics, poker faces and brilliant acting techniques. But there is more science than art involved in the process. There are at least five clear strategies that can be employed and five equally predictable outcomes. There are even tools to help one select the best strategy to use depending on the expected outcomes. Professor David Tweed, an experienced negotiator and company director, shares his insight into the negotiation process as well as examples which illustrate each strategy in this webinar.

David is currently a member of faculty in the School of Management at Massey University having previously served in two Director roles and as an Associate Dean (APVC).  He worked with The Treasury for three years in the design and delivery of an advanced governance programme for the directors of boards of New Zealand’s SOEs.  David has management experience in turnarounds, executive education, and delivery of large research contracts. He is a graduate of the Senior Executive Programme at the London Business School and a member of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute.  Adding value to organisations and their people in collaboration with managers, councils, boards, and trusts, is what he most enjoys.