Winning for the future
Negotiation has had a bad press, particularly since Donald Trump said he was good at it. And on the other side of the Atlantic the Brexit negotiations have proven to be a hugely expensive political complexity finding a deal almost impossible to reach. Perhaps the time has come to reinvent ‘negotiation skills’.
We all know negotiation should not be a fight but a win-win.
So how do we achieve this?
Thinking long term is one strategy to ensure partnership instead of conflict.
I would volunteer a new definition of negotiation, which I feel is better than ‘Win Win’. It is ‘Win for yourself, but make sure it is long term’.
The concept of the ‘deal’ has mis-lead many people during their negotiation. I have been involved in several large-scale negotiations in my time, from the largest ever outsource bid in Europe worth over 4 billion UKP, to the pricing negotiations conducted by one of the UK’s electricity providers with the U.K. government. What strikes me about both deals is that the side I was with got exactly what they wanted. Not for the short term, but for the long term.
It is not in many people’s interest in the long term to ‘screw’ the other side. So, focusing on the long term tends to focus us on pushing towards relationship building. It also encourages giving ground in the short term I order to gain a longer-term benefit.
A study in the US army uncovered some fascinating data about time horizons. The extent to which a soldier saw the future was directly related to rank. New recruits however, only saw as far ahead as Friday night. A 5-star general thought ahead by 15 years. I personally feel a great sign of executive potential is how far ahead people think when dealing with problems at work. And by the way, if you want to improve your impact at work and impress senior staff, simply talk longer timescales than your colleagues.
Mark Miller is MD of Goodfoot, and author of 'Hamsters Can't Dance", a tongue in cheek look at management challenges.
So: better negotiators think selfishly but think longer term. The selfish thinking makes them more ambitious, the longer-term thinking makes them more conciliatory. Try this for yourself. Think of the next negotiation you are going to have, at work or even in private life. And instead of thinking of immediate outcome, try and think a couple of years further ahead, and see if it makes any difference to what you want, what you introduce into the negotiation, and also how you negotiate.
For further tips download our free eBrief, and feel free to share and discuss with your team as you prepare for your next negotiation.