I recently returned from teaching a weeklong negotiation course to a multicultural group of executives in Singapore and it reminded me of some core personal attributes that apply in negotiations across all cultures.
1. Credibility and Integrity Matter
On the first day of class I have the executives negotiate an international agreement where there are significant financial and other incentives to agree to one thing and then do the opposite. Invariably some executives breach their deals within minutes of making them.
Later on, these same executives are given the opportunity to negotiate another deal with each other that is extremely beneficial to both sides. Many refuse to even meet.
There are two critical lessons here. One, our reputation impacts our results in all future negotiations. In short, credibility and integrity matter in all cultures and have a bottom-line impact.
And two, parties generally do what they consider to be in their self-interest – and this might involve breaking their commitments. This means you should negotiate incentives into deals making it in everyone’s self-interest to fulfill their commitments. This might include penalties if someone breaches and/or positive incentives when parties follow through.
2. Systematically Prepare and Do Your Homework
I require all the executives to prepare strategic negotiation plans in advance of their negotiations – and the more they planned the better their results. In fact, we did a study several years ago measuring this difference in a similarly intercultural environment and found that those who developed strategic negotiation plans based on the experts’ research achieved up to 17.5% better results. That’s a big difference.
3. Individuals Negotiate – Not Cultures
The executives in my class hailed from Singapore, Norway, China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Uganda, Pakistan and Vietnam. Some worked for multinational banks and oil companies while others ran small family and local businesses.
Yet while there was great variation in cultures and businesses, the attendees would have negotiated poorly had they simply perceived their counterparts as stereotypical individuals from those backgrounds.
This consequently puts a great premium on researching your individual counterpart’s reputation and finding out strategies they have used in the past. Use your personal and professional social and other networks to find this out. Of course, this is easy to say but difficult to do. But it’s critical.
4. Patience and Perseverance
A study several years ago by Marquette Law Professor Andrea Schneider found that the most effective negotiators tended to be assertive, empathetic, and enjoyable and exhibited ethical, personable, rational and trustworthy traits.
I would add to this list patience and perseverance. Many negotiations take a significant amount of time – sometimes years – and proceed along unexpected paths that may test both these qualities. But the most brilliant and successful negotiators know this and have the patience and perseverance to stick with it until they achieve their goals.
Published August 3, 2012 The Arizona Republic