Negotiation; skill or just a matter of willingness?

Leadership Blog  |  2 minute read

Daniel Elvery

Written by Daniel Elvery

Negotiation; skill or just a matter of willingness?

A mind-set of willingness

You could say that successful negotiation is nothing to do with what each side is requesting; however reasonable or otherwise. Instead; despite all the experts, theorists and game plans available, it simply comes down to the level of willingness to collaborate shown by the individuals in a room. As in all business, the cause of success or failure is so much determined by the mind-set of the leaders, not just by the services or products they sell. What then can be learned by business leaders about willingness as an enabler of negotiation? A mind-set of willingness to collaborate, empathise and co-operate.

The long road

There are two ways a negotiation can go; the long way or the short way. The long way is a result of a win:lose mind-set, where both parties are looking purely to defend their position and avoid conceding wherever possible. The win:lose mind-set drives a kind of competitiveness where one side rejoices when the other side appears to lose ground or show weakness.

The nature of this conversation can lead to stale mate very quickly as the primary instinct is to defend and avoid (albeit amicably) giving the other side any sense of winning or getting what they want. It exists inside the thinking that only one side can really win and be happy with the outcome. In reality, no one wins because the atmosphere of willingness is absent and therefore new and unexplored possibilities don’t have space to breathe and be created. It’s just not safe to be creative or collaborative when you’re busy defending your patch. We would hope that as professionals in business this kind of stale mate is avoided and that we are able to drive productive, collaborative discussions. Sometimes though we can find ourselves feeling uncompromisingly binary; wedded to our expertise, our viewpoint or our experience.

In wanting to be knowledgeable, commanding or just plain right, we fail to show a genuine willingness to collaborate and be vulnerable to challenge. When working with your direct reports, colleagues, suppliers, do you show willingness to really give them what they want whilst getting what you want at the same time? Do you entertain the possibility of AND?

The short road

The short and considerably more productive (and enjoyable) way is the AND scenario. The non-negotiables on both sides are made clear and then begins the creation of a world where everyone gets what they want. Everyone is jointly committed to everyone winning, authentically. Rather than trying to out maneuverer one another, there is upfront acceptance of the ‘shopping list’ that each side has, and together they work tirelessly to design a scenario in which everyone gets what they want.

Ask yourself, in your organisation; do you start with ‘Yes’? If a supplier raises a challenge they need to overcome and makes a request of you, do you start with yes and work backwards from there to get what you both need? If a member of staff makes a request for flexible working, do you start with yes and then find a way to both get what you want out of the role? The level of willingness to collaborate, empathise and co-operate determines whether your ‘negotiation’ is then about creating a win:win solution together or whether you find yourself fighting it out until someone, or both of you, loses.

It’s all about collaboration

A mind-set of willingness and collaboration unlocks new possibilities and scenarios to thrive in which everyone’s needs are considered. In business, new partnerships can be created, new opportunities explored and new ways of working established through this willingness to be open and create a higher possibility, that neither side envisaged on their own. The starting point for these conversations is a genuine willingness to want the other supplier / stakeholder / competitor to succeed in their agenda and for you to succeed in tandem versus in competition.

Once everyone has their cards on the table then everyone’s efforts can then be put tirelessly into collaboration; creating an outcome that fits all. Rather than maximum effort going into fighting one’s corner, maximum effort can be spent on getting everyone winning.

In the end, the outcome of a negotiation all comes down to how willing we are to collaborate. If as leaders, we start with a mind-set of willingness to support and champion our suppliers, realise our people’s potential and empower our colleagues, our negotiations would transform to become collaborations. And from there, anything is possible.


Published 12/12/2018