How IT Leaders Can Negotiate Better to Get What They Want

How IT Leaders Can Negotiate Better to Get What They Want

How IT Leaders Can Negotiate Better to Get What They WantThe world of business is one continuous negotiation, so if you don’t negotiate well you could damage your career, lose out on big opportunities for your organization and be thought of as weak and inept. Research shows, however, how anyone can negotiate better – and get more of what they want.

If you reach an agreement in a negotiation, you probably feel pretty terrific. That is, until you realize you didn’t get what you wanted. Not even close.

Now you’re not feeling so great.

You’re not alone if you feel defeated – instead of elated – after a negotiation. That’s because many people enter into negotiations without a plan and so they don’t emerge with what they’re really after.

Whether it’s a pay raise, a new customer contract or even a better role in a team project, there is a way to come out of a negotiation with better results for yourself, says Margaret A. Neale, author of “Getting More of What You Want” with co-author Thomas Z. Lys.

“The biggest mistake people make is that they look at negotiations as a one-size-fits-all,” Neale says. “But this is a battle, and you’ve got to have the mindset to get what you want.”

That means that just trying to wing it, or hoping the other person will be swayed by your charming personality or cave into your bullying, is a recipe for failure. Instead, Neale says that those who hope to negotiate successfully, no matter their job title or experience, need to understand that negotiations are really about influence. If you can’t influence the other person into your way of thinking, you could walk out with no raise, no new job or no new IT project.

Neale cautions that when this happens, you can hurt your career. You can be perceived as ineffective – either a pushover or an unskilled leader. You may be seen as a poor communicator, or a bad team member. The fallout can be endless, depending on how poorly you negotiate.

Those in technology may be especially vulnerable to poor negotiating outcomes, since they sometimes  haven’t yet crafted their communication or persuasion skills, she adds. “If you can’t learn to negotiate, you’re at the mercy of those around you,” she says. “If you don’t influence others, you can’t get the job done, whether it’s saving lives or finding the next big thing.”

Neale, a management professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and Lys, an accounting chair a the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, use economics, psychology and negotiating experts to craft a strategy to help anyone become a better negotiator and get more of what they want. Among their suggestions:

  • Know your goals. Do you want to get a deal done quickly with the least amount of risk? Do you want to get as much out of it for yourself as possible? Would you prefer to enhance the relationship with the other person, or is it more important that you get what you want? It’s important that you’re clear on what you want before entering into any negotiations.
  • Know when to say “no.” You’ve got to know what you’re willing to accept from the other party in a negotiation, and when you will walk away. “Too many of us get so caught up in getting to ‘yes’ we don’t realize that it may not be a good deal,” Neale says. Make sure you’ve thought about alternatives if you decide to end negotiations.
  • Think like the other person. Before entering into negotiations, think about the other party involved. What might this person or organization want? What are their goals?  How critical is each issue to them? Try to determine where you can get the information you need to get a more complete picture of your counterpart’s needs and goals.
  • Be wary of threats and promises. You may have been able to get your brother to do what you wanted with threats of “I’m going to tell Mom!” when you were young, but such a strategy has its downside now that you’re an adult. It’s the same story with promises. If you’re the one making the threat or promise, then you have to consider whether there will be any future interactions. Following through on a threat could damage that relationship, and reneging on a promise could do the same thing. On the other hand, you have to judge how credible a threat or promise is coming from someone else and whether it could truly hurt you – or is just a bluff.
  • Consider emotions.  Once you’ve thought about what you want and what your counterpart is likely to set as goals, then you should also consider what emotions are likely to be expressed. Will they be real – or just a way of negotiating? Emotions from your counterpart can give you important information, so be ready to consider what they might mean should they be expressed. Remember that positive behavior from you can be catching – the other person may just become more agreeable to your proposals and become more cooperative. At the same time, “use your anger judiciously and strategically, as individuals who are angry are typically… seen as more powerful than those who express sadness, guilt or frustration,” the authors say.
  • Get a powerful mindset.  Studies show that you’re likely to get more in a negotiation if you’ve got a “powerful mindset” even if you’re on the same professional level as the other person. To get into that strong mindset, think of a time you felt physically attractive or had power over another person. Then remember to stand and sit with confidence – shoulders back and head up.

Finally, don’t think that you’re so savvy that you don’t need to follow these lessons. Too often, “smart people act as if negotiation is simply improvisational theatre rather than an interdependent process that requires planning and preparation,” the authors say. “There is no one best way to negotiate – but there are numerous bad ways to negotiate if you do not stay focused and disciplined.”

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