10 Powerful Tips to Negotiate Effectively as a Leader

Jun 12, 2017Leadership

Leadership Negotiation Skills:

An Art or a Science?


It seems like a very long time ago now and to an extent we take peace in Ireland for granted.  But just before Christmas 1997, after a tough 18 months of negotiations, US Senator George Mitchell, appointed by President Clinton to broker Peace in Northern Ireland said that the Political leaders hadn’t even come to agreement on a two page document outlining what their differences were.


Exasperated by the slow progress, he once he went so far as to call these leaders ‘geniuses, great innovators’, in terms of finding disagreements. “’In finding ways to resolve your differences you are like blocks of granite.’” Yet he persevered and in 1998 on April 10th the Good Friday agreement was signed and was subsequently approved by voters across the island of Ireland, establishing, for the first time in decades, a commitment to peace and stability.


Senator Mitchell with years of experience, successes and honed negotiation skills describes it as more of an art than a science, and says that it requires knowledge, skill, judgement, lots of humility, patience, learning to listen and definitely self control.

Negotiation Skills for Leaders

in Business


One could only imagine there being a vast difference between brokering Peace deals and Negotiating as a leader. But perhaps the same principles and skills apply? Let’s begin by looking at negotiation in a Business context and asking why it’s important to a Leader?


According to Ron Price, TCL Founder, Business Negotiation is really the art of bringing two or more people together that have different interests, exploring those interests and understanding each other at a deep level. It’s a conversation that constructively facilitates a solution that neither or none of the parties could have developed on their own but by working together they find something new. Picture the scenario where everybody walks away saying ‘wow this was better than what I was thinking’. That’s great business negotiating.


Negotiation a really important leadership skill because we need to optimise our relationships inside our organisation, with our customers or vendors. We do this by developing the ability to explore and to identify what everybody wants and by creating new solutions that satisfy everybody’s interests so it’s not compromise, it’s really what we call synergism- where the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.


In a changing world where people are more connected than ever, and many projects involve global teams, each person with their own set of wants, needs and cultural differences, leaders will be expected to negotiate ever more creative solutions to keep teams aligned and on target.


For Nelson Mandela,  described as the greatest negotiator of the 20th Century by Harvard Law Professor Robert H. Mnookin and Senator George Mitchell, negotiation comes naturally and practice makes perfect. However the truth is this skill doesn’t come naturally to many. It involves factors that Business leaders who are from an Operations or an Administration, task focused background, will find more difficult.


According to Prof Elfenbein at the Harvard Law-Program on Negotiation, it is not necessary to change your personality, but you can train yourself to draw on certain techniques for negotiation when needs be.


In her Program on Negotiation article the Professor and her colleagues outline their findings that negotiation success is associated with certain personal factors that are among the easiest to change.


Changing your mindset to a positive one by developing confidence, understanding that it’s necessary to begin negotiations or that you’re advocating on behalf of others’ interests, and believing that you can master negotiating skills, improve with the practice you get at a hands-on workshop (such as The Complete Leader)


What does a skilled Negotiator do?


A successful negotiator starts by recognising when issues and conflicts arise or even before, when they are stirring. They are proactive in their approach.


They always chose to operate from a Win-Win perspective. They consider themselves and the other parties as a part of a whole. Anything that harms the others, harms yourself.


According to Ron Price of the Complete Leader, good negotiators get people concerns out of the way. In other words don’t go into a negotiation with an attitude. You’re looking for a solution that transcends whatever might be going on in our relationship so set that aside.


Secondly it’s important to identify the key issues that will help us find a resolution.


Thirdly you brainstorm and creatively think about new ideas and you can’t get stuck on one way that you’re going to resolve this negotiation. Brainstorming a big list of possibilities prepares all parties in a negotiation to listen and consider ideas, no matter who the author is.


Finally you develop a set of metrics that we’ll be able to use to evaluate the quality of the solution that we negotiate together.


What gets in the way of

successful negotiation?


The biggest obstacle to successful negotiation is a lack of trust  It’s where I’m afraid that I can’t really work with you in a collaborative way and I have to protect myself or you feel that toward me. Until we can get over that, we’re not going to find a satisfying solution for both of us. You really have to begin negotiation by making sure you have built a strong foundation of trust. In the words of John F. Kennedy


“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”


10 Powerful tips to negotiate effectively as a Leader

#1 Understand the basics of Negotiation


Build a firm foundation by reading. There are many books available about negotiation, two classics include Gerard Nierenberg’s The Art of Negotiating and Roger Fisher’s and William Ury’s Getting to Yes.

#2 Be Prepared


You need to be clear in saying what you want.  Take time to collect all facts and data relevant to negotiations including clear definitions of what acceptable outcomes look like.


Ask yourself crucial questions beforehand. Do I know all the issues the other parties are likely to raise? What concessions might I be able to offer? What data/arguments am I going to use to support my case? What are the weakest points of my case? How shall I counter if the other party point out this weakness?


#3 Create a Bond


Your approach will depend on the type of negotiation you are engaged in as a leader- according to George Kohlrieser Prof of Leadership and Org.B– if it’s an emotional negotiation you need to build rapport and often times a good heart to heart will eliminate the need for hard negotiation.


When it comes to a harder factual type of Negotiation you need to use dialogue as a foundation.  Remember that only 7% of our communication is verbal so be conscious and in control of your body language and tone of voice. Lean in, nod your head, be calm and poised.  


#4 Learning to Listen


Ron Price believes that Active listening is the cornerstone to effective Negotiation. We mean listening not with the intent to reply, not the autobiographical listening where we listen to compare, but true listening with openness and trust, to genuinely seek the welfare of the individuals and situation. I challenge you to start now- practice this at home. It’s a powerful skill.


Synergy starts when I go to a person I differ with and say, “You see things differently. I need to listen to you.”  Stephen Covey, The Third Alternative.   


#5 Work on your Emotional Intelligence


Becoming a skilled negotiator requires you to become skilled at identifying your own emotions and the emotions of others, understanding how those emotions affect other’s thinking and using that knowledge to achieve better outcomes. Taking a TTI EQ assessment can help you understand where your strengths lie and what you need to focus on developing.


#6 Know your hot buttons


Negotiations spark emotions. Some people get explosive during the process if it doesn’t go their way. Other people are negotiation averse, they would do anything to avoid it and may compromise.


Know your own reactions, mine for the de-railers beforehand and practice some deep breathing before and during the process. If you feel yourself get angry or overwhelmed, take a break or ask a question to refocus the meeting.


#7 Choose shared interest over self-interest


Understanding the difference between position and interest and how to move from one to the other is essential. A position is a statement of what someone wants, there is not much wiggle room when you keep a negotiation to the level of positions.


However what can be explored is the ‘why?’  behind your position. This is giving up your position to explore your interests ie what you are each interested in getting or doing that led to your position.


In this way you create space for shared-interest and mutually beneficial outcomes. It’s a key mindset to successful negotiations.


Remember if a Win-Lose pattern repeats itself often enough in a relationship it becomes lose-lose, the relationship will end as the person on the losing end will decide they’ve had enough.


#8 Make yourself understood


Make an effective presentation, communicate your ideas clearly and logically, use some emotion to persuade, bearing in mind who your audience are and what they will want to hear from you.


#9 Do a values check


Negotiations can become intense, it’s a good idea to check in with your values before you enter the room.


Write out your operating principles and have them to hand. In the heat of the moment, we can end up leading with our ego and trample over our values- only realising what we have done after the victory endorphins have left our body.  


#10 Keep ‘no deal’ as an option


In reality not all negotiations will reach a mutual agreement. It’s a measure of integrity to know when to walk away.


Dr Stephen Covey’s advice is think win-win or no deal. Covey believes it’s better to walk away from an agreement that isn’t right for you and to salvage the relationship than to make a lose-win deal. You never know you may be able to broker a better deal in the future.


Final Thoughts…


Negotiating skills are vital to being an effective Business leader as conflict is inevitable in the workplace.


As Justin Foster <a TCL Faculty Member says, when we negotiate it’s one person’s value of something versus another person’s value of it so  ‘true negotiation skill is being able to establish a bridge around a mutual value’


A Leader’s job is to have certainty around the value and be able to articulate that clearly.


If Negotiation skills are something you would like to improve on, start by learning the basics from a good book.


Also look to a good negotiator- Senator George Mitchell’s advice is absolutely transferrable to Negotiating as a Leader.


Then use each negotiation you have as a trial, examine what happened afterwards and make notes on how you could improve the next time. Be satisfied with whatever you accomplished and look ahead to your next negotiation.


Remember the fundamentals: be prepared, build trust, and actively listen to what the other person has to say.


To keep your composure, know your EI strengths, manage your hot buttons and remember synergism-which is results oriented and positive.


If communication is the piece that you need to develop, practice your presentation skills beforehand and get feedback from someone you trust.


Finally be your authentic self, revisit your values and keep your ego in check. Know when it’s best to walk away and do it. It’s takes a long time to build good working relationships and only moments to tear them apart.


Which of these 10 Powerful tips would make a difference to your negotiating? Begin with 1 today!


Would you like to join a leadership community to help you on your journey? We are the founders of the Complete Leadership Ireland LinkedIn group, which is full of great resources and discussion to help you become a more effective leader. We would love to have you with us.

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