As a career coach, I frequently coach clients (men and women) on salary negotiation. But negotiation is a far bigger topic than salary; we encounter it in every aspect of our lives. Men, it seems, negotiate so much more effortlessly than women. The data show us that women negotiate far less frequently than men and that is true whether negotiating compensation, a promotion, work responsibilities or in our personal lives. For whatever reason, women have a harder time recognizing opportunities for negotiation and even when they do, frequently don’t take advantage of them. My goal is to change that!
This week I was invited to present to a group of professional women working for a local organization. I had just an hour to convey key negotiation concepts that would enable participants to walk away with meaningful ah ha’s.
Taking about negotiation is easy; negotiating is a bit more challenging.
I devised a real-life work scenario to engage participants and push them into the negotiating fray. Participants had to sort out the real issues from the red herrings and come to an agreement under a very tight deadline. And to keep the pressure on, I regularly called out the remaining time.
Experience is often the best teacher, and this was certainly true in this case. Participants had to negotiate without all the facts, just like in real life. There were opportunities to improvise, add to and narrow the scope, and the ever-present possibility of getting sidetracked. Happily, every participant embraced the chance to wade into the conversation and contribute their two cents.
After each team wrapped up their negotiation session, we discussed the elements of effective negotiation they used. The teams considered the pressures each party faced and suggested the creative ideas that resulted in their successful agreement. We also discussed the surprises they uncovered about the other party, during and after negotiation.
What were some of the ah ha’s? Everyone agreed on the value of asking more questions! No one thought to ask the other party, “Why is this so important to you? Is there anything else that would work?” Asking questions and gathering additional information are two underutilized negotiation strategies. Knowledge is power and gathering information is essential because it improves your ability to devise a solution that meets or exceeds your needs while helping the other party get what they want out of the agreement.
Although both teams used all the planning time allotted (often groups don’t), in hindsight they agreed they could have used it more effectively to review what they knew about the situation and better plan their strategy. Time spent planning is never wasted and leads to improved outcomes.
It was interesting that neither team ask for more time or to delay the negotiation. The unconscious assumption was, “that’s not negotiable.” Not true, but they had to ask. Which brings up my next point, if you don’t ask, you won’t get! Finally, when you aim high in a negotiation, you adjust the other party’s perception of you!
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