The Skilled Negotiator
The Skilled Negotiator
Defining the Art
Negotiations are as varied as roller coasters. Some are gentle, others, frighteningly fast and treacherous, with surprising twists and erratic turns. The person who consciously and carefully selects the type of roller coaster and the seat location suited to his or her level of experience and then remains seated and belted in, leaning confidently into sharp turns, is likely to survive the ride unscathed and enjoy it as well.
Negotiation success and enjoyment are achieved in a similar way. The more complex forms change direction unexpectedly. Accomplished negotiators recognize this and so are not derailed by it. They also know that although negotiation occurs often in daily life, it is rarely a simple process. Ups and downs - gains and losses - must be expected. Managing these requires several skills, all harmoniously coming together to ensure progress toward the desired outcomes.
Reaching those outcomes also requires forging alliances, often between people with diverse interests, each determined to walk away with the lion's share of resources. In the best negotiations, there is a meeting of the minds, an allying, at least on what matters most, who gets what, and how these allocations will be achieved. In fact, business in general cannot profitably operate in the absence of alliances.
When Charles Handy, author and business expert, was asked what skills will be needed in organizations of the future, he emphasized the ability to ally with others: "Key skills will be the ability to win friends and influence people at a personal level, the ability to structure partnerships, and the ability to negotiate and to find compromises. Business will be much more about finding the right people in the right places and negotiating the right deals." 1
Businesses in the future will be more shapeless, Handy adds. Unlike companies of the past, in which people with roughly the same purpose were bound together, businesses now and in the foreseeable future are more like "a collection of globules - partnerships and alliances." 2 When people form partnerships and alliances, they also negotiate the terms of those relationships. Little can be taken for granted in organizations whose people may not be housed together and, even if they are, often do not think alike. One's personal and professional success in organizations therefore requires skillful management of one's surroundings - not in the old top-down way, but from all directions. This is only accomplished through skillful negotiation. Warren Bennis, a professor at the University of Southern California and a renowned business author, considers even leadership largely a function of alliance formations - and thus of negotiation. 3
Just as business leaders must sell a shared vision to their various stakeholders, world leaders must forge alliances to solve global problems. When leaders fail to form alliances, their legitimacy is questioned. Even when their cause is just, they may be perceived as rogues. And however they are perceived, their work is made harder by the absence of allies willing to share the burden of the enterprise, including its costs.
The importance of alliances in business organizations, be they for profit or nonprofit, applies as well to the governing of people by heads of state and their associates. John Donne's declaration that "no man is an island" may have never been more true than it is today. Alliances are as essential to the daily life of the entrepreneur as they are to large organizations and governments, and alliances do not exist or succeed without negotiation.
The Skilled Negotiator focuses on how successful negotiation alliances are formed. The more skilled among us in this domain are people who have trained themsel