This past week, we held a remarkable and thought-provoking roundtable discussion titled Women in Negotiation: #ChooseToChallenge Norms at the Negotiating Table. One of the recurring themes was “having a village” to turn to in times of need. It’s those individuals who will be there to help give you perspective, build your confidence, pick you up, and support you when it matters most. As you can imagine, it’s absolutely critical to have that village at the negotiating table.
No one negotiates alone. Even when you’re by yourself at the negotiating table, you’re not alone. You’re there representing yourself, your team, your stakeholders, your organization, and myriad other people who have enabled you to be there. Unfortunately, negotiators often mistake being by themselves at the table as being alone at the table. Thinking that way can lead to crucial mistakes during a negotiation.
When you feel that you’re beholden to no one else but yourself or that no one else matters in the deal, then it’s just you — with your logic patterns and preconceived notions. That can lead to everything from poor decision-making due to your cognitive biases to a lack of confidence in your positions or abilities. All of which makes you susceptible to creating bad deals. While you might be by yourself at the table, it’s important to have your village with you.
Building your negotiating village begins with preparation. Identify all of the stakeholders in your negotiation. It might be helpful to use a responsibility assignment matrix, like a RACI. This will force you to consider who’s responsible (R) for leading the negotiation. If you’re leading the preparation, this is very likely you, but it could also be someone else. Consider who you’re accountable (A) to for the negotiation’s outcomes. This could be a stakeholder, a team lead, or your boss. Then think about who you need to consult (C) with during the negotiation. These are usually subject matter experts (Legal, Finance, etc.) or others who might be impacted by your deal’s outcome. Finally, think about those whom you need to keep informed (I). These are the people who need to be kept in the loop but don’t need to know all of the details. That’s the start of your village; they will help you prepare, acting as a sounding board throughout your negotiation.
The next part of your village is your negotiating team. Even though you could negotiate alone, why would you? Having other people with you at the table can help you be smarter, more strategic, and less emotional. Bring someone to the table who can take notes and summarize the conversation as you go. This ensures that the salient points are captured and details are not lost. As an added bonus, they can give you a break as they summarize the conversation from time to time, providing you with a moment to think and refocus. Also, bring someone else who’s there just to observe. While you're talking and someone is busy taking notes and summarizing, this person can be in the balcony, watching. Have them focus on the other side, trying to figure out what’s important to them and paying careful attention to their reactions and responses. This team will support you in the moment at the table.
The third part of your negotiating village is your mentors. These are the people whom you seek out to review your deals and help you to understand what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve the next time. Your mentors are not always your superiors. They should be people whom you respect, who can help guide you through your journey. Your mentors are the ones who will help you develop over time. They’re your truthsayers. They’re going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Regardless of their specific message, they should be all about helping you to be the best version of yourself at the negotiating table.
Build your village. In that village, have your stakeholders, your negotiating team, and your mentors. If you have a complete village, you’ll never be alone at the negotiating table — even if you’re by yourself.
We Can Help You Build Your Village at the Negotiating Table.
Has thinking that you’re alone at the negotiating table — that you’re beholden to no one else but yourself or that no one else matters in the negotiation — made you susceptible to creating bad deals? We can help! Drawing on 45 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.