We’ve all seen the pictures of negotiators sitting at the table — one team facing off against the other.
Importantly, each team almost always includes at least several individuals. Often, in fact, each team includes multiple players, each of whom may play a critical role.
The question is thus raised — how should corporate and other leaders assemble their most effective negotiation teams and what criteria should they use?
In many ways, the answer to this question is not that different than how leaders should assemble and run their most effective management teams.
After all, the ability of any manager to negotiate — internally with his/her colleagues and externally with others — forms a fundamental element of their success. It’s thus instructive to look to sound management principles for the answer to this question.
Jim Collins’ bestseller “Good to Great — Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t” offers sage advice that can help managers determine how to select their best negotiation team.
In his heavily researched work, Collins found the following traits common to all the companies that went from good to great. Each should also be applied when selecting your top negotiation teams.
1. Level 5 leadership: Collins found that good-to-great corporate leaders exhibited: personal humility, professional will, compelling modesty and understated egos, a fanatical drive to produce sustained results, and a workmanlike diligence (“more plow horse than show horse”). Great negotiators and negotiation team leaders exhibit many of these same traits.
Marquette University law professor Andrea Kupfer Schneider found in a 2002 study that the most effective negotiators were not overtly adversarial and were “both assertive (experienced, realistic, fair, astute, careful, wise) and empathetic (perceptive, communicative, accommodating, agreeable, adaptable).”
So don’t go for the ego-driven high profile, “I’m a great negotiator and we’ll beat the pants off our opponents” negotiation team leader. Instead, select the equally bright “plow horse.”
2. First who, then what: Collins found that transforming a good to a great company involved “getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figur(ing) out where to drive it.”
The key point, he noted, is that the “‘who’ questions come before ‘what’ decisions — before vision, before strategy, before organizational structure, before tactics.”
In putting your negotiation team together, then, gather the absolute best people for your team first. Afterwards, brainstorm the “what” decisions — the vision, goals, their roles, strategy and tactics.
With the right team, you will be able to make the most effective decisions. Without it, the most brilliant strategy may not get you success. When in doubt about a possible team member, keep looking — internally or externally.
3. Confront the brutal facts: Yet never lose faith. Collins concluded that the good-to-great companies “confronted the brutal facts of their current reality” and exhibited a “culture wherein people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, for the truth to be heard.” But they also retained “absolute faith that (they) can and will prevail in the end, regardless of their difficulties.”
Effective negotiation teams do not sugar-coat their leverage, but analyze every element in a brutally honest way. If not, deals will be lost that should have closed and expectations will be generated that could not possibly be satisfied.
Of course, negotiation team members’ laser-like faith that they can and will prevail is critical. Persistence and perseverance often lead to success where it once looked bleak.
4. The hedgehog concept: Collins found that good-to-great companies had a “simple crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding” about:
What you can be the best in the world at.
What drives your economic engine.
What you are deeply passionate about.
Likewise, successful team members must fully understand how their negotiation effort fits within their and their companies’ core expertise and strength. They also must be passionate about the process and what they are using it to achieve.
5. Culture of discipline: Finally, Collins found that good-to-great companies included a “culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action. … It is about getting disciplined people who in engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.”
To be most effective, negotiation teams must — after making the crucial strategic decisions — maintain a united front and be on the same strategic page. This requires enormous discipline.
The fundamental element of effective negotiation is to be strategic, not instinctive. There is a right way and a wrong way to negotiate in most situations. And there’s a lot of research on what works and what doesn’t.
The challenge is to exercise sufficient discipline to implement strategies that work. Winging it won’t consistently bring you maximum success.
Use this disciplined approach next time you put together a negotiation team. Your team will then go from good to great.
Marty Latz is the founder of the Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company and the author of “Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want.” He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published November 4, 2005 The Business Journal