Think of a person in a leadership role and you’ll probably envisage a person used to getting their way. So, why would a CEO, manager, or team leader need negotiation skills?
While it’s true that leaders need to make quick, and sometimes unpopular, decisions. In reality, the most effective way to implement a decision is with the majority of stakeholders on board. That means you need to negotiate:
Launching a new product? You’ll need your team to agree to the rollout schedule against competing priorities.
Facing major restructuring? You’ll need to persuade team members to be open to new responsibilities.
Experiencing conflict between team members? You’ll need to mediate and find an acceptable compromise.
Gone are the days of directive leadership, where we bark orders at our employees and expect them to comply.
Here we explore the role of leadership in negotiation, and conversely, the role of negotiation in leadership.
Leading a diverse group is a delicate balance of motivating individuals to collaborate alongside a mix of egos and personalities. The most successful managers draw upon strong interpersonal skills to influence their colleagues to pull together and negotiate issues to find mutually-acceptable solutions.
Negotiating from a managerial position has a lot of overlap with contract or sales negotiations. Empathy with the other party, active listening, and adaptability are fundamental.
Communication is a core attribute of a good leader. Getting your message across clearly and succinctly demonstrates competence, but effective communication goes beyond talking.
Strong managers actively listen to their employees. Not only does this show respect for your team and their opinions, but only through listening can you understand their perspective and respond appropriately.
Sure, you may not always be in a position to please everyone, but by making the effort to listen objectively, your team will be more accepting of an outcome.
The ability to weed out pertinent information, consider all relevant options and quickly decide upon the most acceptable way forward is a critical leadership skill. It’s also vitally important in negotiation, where participants are often under time pressure.
Whether you’re negotiating a merger or realigning job roles, well-considered research is a must. When you’re in a position of authority, your final word may not always be popular, but people will be more inclined to accept your decision if you’ve convinced them that you’re being fair.
Business isn’t always a bed of roses. A good leader responds promptly and reasonably to conflicts. A great leader anticipates conflict before it arises.
If you’re a skilled negotiator, then chances are you’re already sold on the value of preparation before you sit at the negotiation table. You understand your co-negotiator’s perspective, their business, and what they’re looking to get out of the discussion.
The same should go for any bargaining between you and your subordinates. As problems arise, offer empathy and seek creative solutions from your colleagues. As tempting as it may be to bulldoze a solution, you should come to the table with alternatives and be prepared to listen, as you would any negotiation.
You may not always be able to satisfy everyone, but being ready to give and take can help you resolve an impasse.
Today’s leaders tend to be more collaborative, recognizing that drawing together individuals with different expertise and experience is the most constructive way of working together. Rather than issuing orders, respected supervisors apply negotiation skills to encourage their team to pull together in the same direction. It’s an essential part of a leader’s repertoire.
Leadership and negotiation go hand-in-hand.
Company values often underpin the way an organization operates, incorporating concepts like honesty, integrity, and trust. Senior executives and team managers who take the time to consult with staff demonstrate that they hold themselves to the same company values as the rest of the team. For an employee, it can be compelling evidence that they’re respected and valued, fostering teamwork.
Incorporating negotiating skills in your leadership approach puts you in good stead for your next negotiation. Armed with a thorough understanding of your counterpart’s needs, your needs, and your concessions, you’ll be more ready to hear what they have to say and have the confidence to assert your must-haves. Rather than expecting to argue with an adversary, you’re heading in to inspire them to your way of thinking. It’s a subtle, but important change in mindset that can vastly improve the outcome of your negotiations.
In short, developing your negotiation skills can improve your leadership style, which in turn can make you a force to be reckoned with whether you’re dealing with direct reports, other departments, or clients.