Negotiation skills for leaders
Negotiation is a process where two or more parties discuss, propose and reach an agreement for mutual benefit. In fact, you are already a negotiator. Negotiation is a fact of life and we do it every day, many times, without realising it.
Whether you are negotiating a client contract or dealing with difficult staff behaviour, the guidelines are the same:
- Aim to reach the agreement that comes as close as possible to meeting the requirements of all parties.
- Whatever the outcome of the discussion, conduct the process in a professional, emotionally intelligent way that reflects well on you and your employer.
- Lay a good foundation for any future dealings that you may need to have with the other person or people involved in the negotiation.
Conditions of a negotiation
For a negotiation to successfully occur, the following conditions must exist:
- At least two parties are involved, but there may be more.
- There must be something to gain from the negotiation. Each negotiator will have wants or needs, but also underlying interests.
- As well as something to gain, both parties must have something to offer. An employee asking their manager for a salary increase is merely making a request; if they can offer something in return, such as improved performance, then they are in a position to negotiate.
- Each side should be prepared to compromise and overcome obstacles to reach an agreement.
- All parties must have the authority to propose terms and agree to compromise, or be in a position to confer with someone who has that authority.
- Each side must want to reach an agreement.
The six phases of negotiation
#1 Preparation phase
Most expert negotiators agree that more attention is required before and after, rather than during, the actual face-to-face negotiating action.
Activities you will undertake in the preparation phase include:
- Specifying your goals, objectives, interests and strategies.
- Learning about the other party’s goals, objectives and interests.
- Gathering the facts needed to support your case and test theirs.
#2 First position or introductory phase (pre-negotiation)
The pre-negotiation period is especially important. Not only is it essential to plan in detail at this time, but it is also a time to identify issues, specify interested parties, set the agenda and establish priorities.
Activities you will undertake in the pre-negotiation phase include:
- Establishing ground rules for the negotiating discussions (where possible).
- Presenting and clarifying your initial ideas.
#3 Exploratory/differentiation phase
- Gathering information and developing an understanding of the other party’s ideas.
- Discussion and argument focusing on the issues.
- Generating alternatives, options and possibilities.
#4 Integration phase
- Forming tentative proposals.
- Making offers and trade-offs.
- Applying agreed criteria to alternative possibilities.
#5 Settlement phase
- Agreeing, deciding, and confirming the outcome through clear and effective communication, using techniques such as active listening and assertiveness.
- Formalising and recording the settled outcome (if applicable).
#6 Follow-up phase
- Implementing the plan you agreed to in the settlement phase.
- Following through on your promises and holding others accountable to make the agreement stick and build trust and credibility.
- Continued feedback and consultation with the other parties.
Successful negotiation is an important communication skill for managers. By developing your skills in this area, you can increase your chances of achieving your desired outcomes as a leader and build rapport with others by better understanding and meeting their needs and expectations.