Posts Tagged ‘negotiation’

I am lucky to have created a lucrative career for myself working for myself.  And when I made the decision to pursue that path, it was for this reason specifically–I want to control my destiny.

Now, I believe that no matter what I do, I’m in control of my own destiny, but by being the sole resource and talent to bring in income for myself and my little family, it was important to not ever become a slave to a paycheck again.

So I’ve calculated my risks, and I’ve challenged myself to plan and prepare.  But I’ve been waiting for the moment I’d be approached with work that either I didn’t agree with or that I shouldn’t do in order to know for sure whether I have what it takes to work for myself.

That moment came on Day Six.  Now, I’d like to say that it was a clear-cut case of “good versus evil,” or “black versus white.”  But it was more like an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach that the request was not a good use of my time or energy balanced by a pricking feeling in the back of my mind that there were potentially major consequences for turning down the work.

I gave myself the time and space to feel through the initial insult of the request, the anger at the injustice and stupidity of it, and the doubting of abilities that naturally comes with such an insult.  Gradually logic began calming me down.  My natural propensity to question “why” took over and I began to think through the scenarios that would instigate such a request.  All scenarios were satisfactorily non-personal, and I could soon laugh at myself for ever thinking they might have been.

So 10 minutes later, when a discussion was required, I was ready to be calm and negotiate for my best interest.  As I walked to the conference room, I reviewed the rules of negotiation and made sure my answers were core.  The door shut, and I settled into my seat, purposefully pushing my shoulders down, evening out my breathing, and setting my smile gently on my lips.

Thirty minutes later, my shoulders still down, my breathing still even, and a smile still on my lips, I emerged with the agreement I had called “best option.”  A strengthened relationship with my client, and a solution that met both our needs.  True it meant I had turned down work, but as I walked back to my desk, I couldn’t help feeling excited about the chance to fill that time with something that would not destroy nor enslave me.

I had proven–to myself–that I was ready for the life of an independent contractor.  All in a day’s work on Day Six.

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“What do you want for Christmas?”  Kids spout out a million things quickly and directly.  Adults, hem and hedge.  So when I ask “What do you want from life?” I shouldn’t be amazed that kids also spout out a million things quickly and directly.  Adults, hem and hedge.

I was like that myself.  As a child I could tell you immediately.  At the beginning of 2009, I could only hedge.

That’s how 2009 became the year of Change.  Thankfully, it’s almost over.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints about 2009—I changed a lot thanks to that question…

“What do you want from life?”

A: “Something else.”

I made several notable changes—like my job, my religion and my relationship status.  After much consideration, I did not change my address as I promised many of you that I would.  But I did change the name of our house (now d’Anconia Four), the décor, and my furniture arrangement in just about every room (twice).  I also did not change my own oil in my car; instead I changed my mind about the intelligence of paying someone else to, as well as my tires.  I did change the headlights myself.  I also changed my dress size (not for the better), the scents around me, my dominant color, my sleeping habits and my financial status and acumen.   All good changes, but still leaving me wanting when asked…

“What do you want from life?”

A: “A levee to support and direct me and my natural flow without restricting, distracting or destroying.”

So I changed the rules of the house.  Yes, I changed the rules of the house.  Don’t worry, the rules of negotiation are still wildly popular here, but they are no longer center stage.  Etiquette is.  And, consequently, our house has become our very own Finishing School with regular courses in home arts, personal presence, behaviorism and official etiquette.  With extra lessons in Voluntary Simplicity, Music, and Fairy Tales, and tagalongs such as dream analysis, conflict resolution, the scientific method and palm reading.  It has become my devotion and my revolution.  And it begins in my living room with the two people I care about most—Kate and Meg.

Now, I hear some of you pitying Kate and Meg, but let me assure you, they were actively involved in this transformation of rules and expectations.  Likewise, they were key players in the creation of our new pledge—To live honestly, fully, simply and well.  We spent literally days talking through individual and collective goals, scouring dictionaries and quotations and even creating scenarios to see how it would work.  But this is what we agreed to, and we have all taken the pledge, spit-in-hand handshakes, pinky swears, and all.   Still, do I know…

“What do you want from life?”

A: “Ability to face uncertainty with grace.”

My meditation, on the other hand, was a solitary change.  And it was one of the most painful changes I’ve ever made.  When you cannot find peace in even your most peaceful moments, when you find yourself fearing even that which you hold sacred, when you are conscious of your decline with no desire to stop it, it’s time to realize that perhaps a meditation you made years ago in a different point in time must be released.  Sfumato.  “Let go.”

Then I knew….

“What do you want from life?”

A:  “To BE in any situation or circumstance.”

In the book Connected, authors Christakis and Fowler point out that if we are six degrees removed from everyone else in the world, and we have three degrees of influence, then it’s not impossible to assume that we could influence half the world.

I’m going to find out.  Because what I want from life is to become a diplomat.  That is the woman I’ve been working to become since childhood.  Civility, connecting ideas and people, mitigation and negotiation, persuasion and influence, public administration, complexity into simplicity, travel, culture, individualism…  And charm.

It turns out I’m already well on my way.  I just need a little poise and to poise myself.

What is it that YOU want from life?

I hope you’ll tell me this year.

–With warmth and undying wonder, I am,


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Now that we know our value, our needs and wants, everyone elses’ needs and wants, and we have evaluated all the possibilities, we can negotiate. With respect.

Respect is defined as worthy of regard. That means I’ve put some effort in knowing about and understanding you and your motives.

When I talk about negotiation I’m sure many of you still are thinking that it’s a game with a winner and a loser. Stop it. There are no losers in good negotiation. In fact, if done properly, negotiation will end in win-win situations that continue to increase the level and chance of positive outcomes for future interactions.

It’s called building a relationship.

I can hear some of you scoffing, groaning, even rolling your eyes. Many of you see that emotionally-charged word and think “I don’t want to be in a relationship with this person/these people!” Relax. By relationship I only mean that you are building some level of understanding and consistency of behavior that helps you best determine your future interactions.

The flip side of not using respect is what many of you might refer to as manipulation. That is, “I’m doing something I figure will not benefit or help you, even may do you harm, because I can get something out of it.”

My youngest daughter, whom I mentioned earlier, knows all about manipulation. She knows what she wants and needs and goes after it intensely. Sometimes there are tears, yelling and mean words involved. So let me stop you here with another definition. When someone is willing to go to any lengths to harm themselves or another to get what they want, it’s called terrorism.

And we do NOT negotiate with terrorists.

Should you face a terrorist situation, one in which you find your needs and wants completely disregarded, one in which you are not being treated with respect, one in which your personal value continues to be threatened, you must stop the discussion in it’s entirety and walk away. Leave the negotiation completely because not only will you not win, you will lose—face, grace, respect, trust, honor, confidence, and many other valuable values.

This is another reason why rule number one is so important. When you know your value you are less likely to face terrorism.

Therefore, my best negotiation-practice advice to you is to continue working to reinforce rule number 1: know your value. The more you can stay connected to your value and why you have high value, the better your chances that you will have successful negotiations, relationships and growth throughout your life.

Next week we’ll start exploring where and how these negotiation rules can be used.  I think you’ll find the possibilities limitless, and, hopefully, you’ll find the stories amusing.

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Once we know our value (and truly believe in it…if you don’t, go back and reread before continuing), know what we need and determine what everyone else needs, we must talk about sacrifice before we negotiate.

Don’t do it. That’s my advice to you.

Sacrifice is a loaded word. People equate it with saints and martyrs and heroes. However, sacrifice is the stuff of losers. People do it when they don’t value who they are.

My good friend Merriam Webster defines sacrifice as “loss.” Sacrifice is giving up something of value for something of lesser value. But I’m not talking money.

In The Power of One by Bryce Courtney, seven-year-old Peekay arrives in Barbertown, South Africa, with an aptitude to learn, but no structure. Doc, an aging German botanist discovers Peekay’s quick intelligence and curiosity and takes him under his wing to teach him. Peekay’s mother initially objects because she cannot afford to pay for the lessons and won’t take charity. But Doc suggests that Peekay accompany him on day trips into the South African hills to gather rare cacti. Exchanging education for digging in the dirt might seem like a sacrifice. But to an aging botanist, value is someone who can operate a spade with the strength and precision necessary to move rare plant specimens and who can document his findings meticulously. Doc is no saint. He has needs. And by understanding the needs of Peekay and Peekay’s mother, he gets what he wants.

Later in the book Peekay jumps in front of a prison sargeant’s kick, which was meant for Doc’s ribs. While recovering in the hospital, Peekay is confused to find himself lauded as a hero. “Doc was the most important person in my life, and the thought of him [being hit] was unbearable.”

To Peekay, Doc’s health and well being is of utmost value. Not because he doesn’t value his health and well being, but because he has evaluated (quickly) all possibilities of that exchange. To the aging and fragile Doc, that physical injury would potentially have been lethal. Whereas for the young and healthy Peekay, it just meant some temporary pain and discomfort.

Evaluating the possibilities works best using two simple words: “if” and “then.” “If this happens, then that will result.” It’s not difficult; it’s basic science and human nature.

What is difficult is making sure you take into account all the possibilities, including time. That’s because not everything of value is instantaneous. Sometimes results take awhile, but end up being more valuable. And negotiation is all about value. Evaluating the possibilities is simply a way to find out how to generate the most value for you and for the person with whom you are negotiating.

For example, I was asked to work on a project that needed some extra time at work. I value my job, but I also value my personal time. After careful evaluation, I chose to work the extra time in exchange for a bonus personal day. So in return for giving three extra hours to work on a cold, dark December evening, I received eight hours of time that I used to go hiking in the spring. My company got their work done in a more condensed timeframe, and I got more than double my personal time. Definitely doesn’t make me a martyr, wouldn’t you agree?

But then again, I don’t ever want to be one.

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Relationships don’t work too well when one person does all the giving or all the taking, so it’s vital that you understand the other people when negotiating. Specifically, you must understand their needs and wants.

Since we established last week that knowing what we want is difficult, you can imagine that knowing what others need or want is even more so.

So how do you find out? You can ask, and that’s not a bad way to start. But the best tools are simple ones. Observation and careful listening. Notice I didn’t say they were easy. That’s because simple doesn’t always mean easy.

For example, I often negotiate with my youngest daughter. She is a darling little girl who, when asked what she wants doesn’t EVER hesitate to tell you in detailed language. She prefers to pick out her own clothes, to determine her own lunch (and dinner) menu, to manage her speed and to set her own schedule. She doesn’t take too well to someone encroaching on any of these decisions, physically or verbally. While she might want to wear gym shorts with cowboy boots, eat baked beans and black olives, speed through homework but poke around in the garden and wake up at 4:30 a.m. on the weekends, I think it’s safe to say that one of her driving needs is independence (and maybe control too).

It’s part of her charm. And I respect that in my negotiations with her. This isn’t to say she has the upper hand. It means, that knowing she prefers to be independent, I might frame my language to show her how my needs can be met without infringing on her independence.

I hear you. No. It’s not manipulation. I truly care about her independence. I truly want her to feel fulfilled at the end of our negotiation. But not at the detriment of my need to keep her safe, healthy, educated, etc. That would be a sacrifice, and like Abbe Faria said in my favorite pirate story, The Count of Monte Cristo, “I’m not a saint.”

But we’ll talk about that next week when we learn how to Evaluate All The Posibilities.

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Once you know your value, you need to know what you need and want. Sound easy? It isn’t.

Let’s think Pirates of the Caribbean.

Elizabeth Swann has been captured by the pirates and negotiates for them to cease fire on Port Royal. The pirate captain asks “what is it that you want?” She replies “for you to leave and never come back.”

The captain agrees and the first mate orders cannons stopped and stowed and flags unfurled for sail. Elizabeth realizing they are about to set sail with her still aboard demands the captain put her ashore. The captain replies “your return to shore was not part of our negotiation nor agreement.”

Knowing what you need and want means being clear to yourself and others about what your expectation is. Your needs and wants will only be met as far as you can identify them.

My team at work is currently understaffed by two people, so our primary need is time. It is tempting to gain some time by pushing the work back to requesters, asking them to do it themselves for now. However, doing so often means a lot more time on the back end mitigating issues. The requesters are not experts at what we do. We are. That’s why they ask us to do it.

What is our expectation then?

Our team looked at where we spend the majority of our time and found that most of it is spent trying to uncover the information necessary to make decisions, and then ensuring the entire organization is on the same page. Therefore, our need would be that requesters give us all the information necessary to make decisions up front. Our expectation is also that they have the buy-in from all affected functions in the organization. This allows us to be experts at what we should be, push back work appropriately and save time.

To figure out your needs and wants, it’s best to take a few minutes and envision the best outcome. Think it through, and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I really expect to have happen? What does it look like? Feel like? Sound like?
  • What do I NOT want to have happen? Think the worst. What would make the worst happen? (And make sure you account for that!)
  • What assumptions have I made? What am I taking for granted…because you may be the only one who is taking it for granted!

Elizabether Swann learned this the hard way…several times in Pirates of the Caribbean. But she soon caught on. Knowing your needs and wants is the difference between being set free on a deserted isle in the Caribbean with no food or water and being set free safely back in your home harbor.

Tune in next week when we explore rule 3 of negotiations–how to find out what others need and want. Hint: Observation!

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Those of you who know me know I have a “no self deprecation” rule that I enforce strictly. It stems from rule one of negotiation.

Every person has value. High value. Marianne Williamson explained it best when she said “we ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world.”

But there is only one person in your life that MUST think you’re valuable. YOU! And there is only one person who can control what is said about you — a major component of how others see you. YOU! So don’t self deprecate.

Valuing yourself means knowing and accepting who you are. There are a million self-help books that talk about this topic. But you don’t have to buy any of them. If you can answer the following questions, you’re good. If you can’t answer them, well, find the answers:
1. What do I like to do?
2. What do I do well?
3. Do I make sure I actively do those things I like and do well? (if your answer is no, change the question to “How can I make sure I actively do those things…”)
4. Who do I want to be?
5. Do I believe I can be who I want to be? (if your answer is no, change the question to “How can I take steps to ensure I will be who I want to be?”)

Seriously, if you can’t answer those questions, stop right now and answer them.

Yes, it’s that important. If you don’t master this rule, you will never negotiate well. All success in negotiation is determined by how well you know your value. Why? If you don’t think you’re important enough to deserve what you want, you won’t get it. That’s because if you don’t think you’re important enough, you aren’t likely are you put forth the effort necessary TO get it.

Of course, that means you must also know what you want. We’ll talk about that next week, so stay tuned…

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