Most people recognize the value of becoming a great negotiator, yet few feel like they are one. For HR professionals – who are often involved in resolving employee disputes, negotiating compensation and benefits, and training employees in key areas to support their success – becoming a great negotiator is pivotal.
The challenge is that too many of the negotiation training resources focus on techniques, tactics, and counter-tactics – some of which are manipulative and others of which are okay but don’t get to the core of what it takes to have true negotiating success. Now that companies are focused on building great cultures, operating according to their core values, and becoming more mission-driven, the old negotiating approaches (which were of limited value to start with) are out of alignment with the times.
So, what is the key to true negotiating success? What approach to negotiating is highly effective and in alignment with today’s focus on culture, core values, and mission? It is “authentic negotiating,” an approach that calls for moving beyond the surface, engaging in deeper internal work, and – in the case of HR professionals – training others to do the same.
The core framework for authentic negotiating is CDE: clarity, detachment, and equilibrium.
Most people go into negotiations without doing the work they need to do to become crystal clear on the outcomes they want to achieve, what the true bottom line is on every significant term, and the circumstances under which they will agree or not agree to a deal or to resolve a dispute. Connecting to the objectives you are looking to achieve based on the company culture, values, and mission and doing not only the external research but also the deep internal preparation to fully own the outcomes you are committed to achieving is the first crucial step to becoming a great negotiator.
The next key body of work regards detachment – as in, detaching yourself from the outcome. When you enter a negotiation, your preference should be that you obtain the objectives you set. However, in the end, you need to be detached from the outcome. If you can achieve the objectives on which you have clarity, then you do the deal or resolve the dispute on those terms. If not, you don’t. It’s that simple.
Great negotiators are always willing to walk away – not out of anger or ego, but from a place of detachment which stems from their clarity. For employees in procurement, sales, or partner relations whom you are training, that means encouraging them to make calm and cleared-eyed choices not to do deals that do not meet the objectives and to recognize when deals do meet the objectives. For HR professionals, it means being clear on alternative employment actions they may need to take if they cannot resolve a dispute in a manner the meets the objectives upon which they got clarity – and being okay with either outcome, despite having a preference for a negotiated resolution.
The third key to negotiating success is being able to maintain your equilibrium during the entire negotiation. Staying centered, calm, and clear – without getting thrown off by the tactics, techniques, or emotions of the other side or by your own emotions – is the final, crucial element. While there are many tools to help you do this, here are a few suggestions:
- Encourage employees to notice when they are getting emotional, triggered, or thrown off. Have them use this as a signal to take a break, breathe, and get reconnected to their clarity and detachment.
- Ask employees during training to think of what they do personally when they want to clear their heads and relax. It might be exercise, meditation, prayer, contemplation, deep breathing, taking a walk, listening to music, reading, getting a pep talk from a trusted colleague, or any number of other personal techniques. Encourage employees to use their techniques before starting a negotiation and between sessions of a negotiation. Let them know it is okay for them to even call a break in a session to engage in their preferred grounding practice, if necessary.
- Encourage them to ask the following two key questions prior to reacting or taking any action during a negotiation when they feel emotionally triggered: Will the next thing I am about to say or do move me closer or further away from my objectives? Do I want to be right, or do I want to be effective?
Asking these questions helps prevent reactiveness, reconnects employees to their clarity and detachment practices, and provides an opportunity to refocus on objectives as opposed to the triggering event or their feelings about it.
While authentic negotiating takes more work and challenges people to do the internal exploration we often avoid, your ability as an HR professional to model this approach and train others in it will have a significant impact on those you support and on the success of your organization.
Corey Kupfer is the founder and president of Authentic Enterprises, LLC, and the Authentic Business Academy. His book, Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Keys to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them, is out now.