Basic Management Skills in Negotiations

Any situation involving two or more people is a management opportunity. Those who take the initiative will typically prevail whether it is a physical confrontation or simply deciding which movie to see. Negotiations are only slightly more complicated management opportunities. Unlike a fight where blows are thrown, the combatants must feign civility and control. Initiative and leadership, however, are the most reliable tactics to be used to prevail.

Those involved in a dispute make up a small group and are subject to traditional group dynamics. Groups intrinsically need to be managed. This is what makes mediators effective in settling disputes. They are adept at taking control and managing the mediation process. Negotiators can benefit from learning mediating techniques. Parents, too, benefit from approaching family disputes as a group dynamic situation in which each family member has a role and voice. Using the mediation technique of inclusion to integrate everyone's needs into the solution can provide a mutually agreeable group decision.

How does one take control of an informal group?

By exerting influence and demonstrating leadership traits. In a negotiation, there are some ways to take the initiative:

- Initiate the call to arrange for the meeting.
- Host the meeting where you will have the ability to perform administrative tasks through your staff for the group.
- Prepare and present (or have on the table) an agenda for the meeting.
- Acting as the host, introduce everyone to each other and make sure they have coffee, water or anything else they may need.
- Position your pad and pen at the head of the table before the others arrive.
- Before someone else suggests it, call the meeting to order.

These seem like small things but they demonstrate your confidence, your can-do attitude, and your control of the environment. All that is left is for you to control the discussion. That is not as easy. But you will have made a good start.

Managing implies taking responsibility for the actions of others. A negotiation leader or a mediator delegates responsibilities not only to his co-negotiators, if any, but to the other side. This delegation of assignments serves not only to get the job done but also to give everyone a vested interest in the outcome. A mediator advances the process by directing and delegating the participants in a mediation. This process serves to make both parties valuable to the process, more equal in their respective statures, and, ultimately, more likely to be able to come to reach an agreement.

In a negotiation, group participation can have a similar impact. By getting both sides involved in working together, the resulting 'attitude' should be more supportive of reaching a mutually viable accord.

Two ways to get two people openly at odds to work together include:
Start with simple tasks that are unrelated to the primary issue.

1. Suggest the other person come with you to the coffee room to help get the coffee, cream and sugar.

2. Suggest methods of sharing information. "If I can explain to you how I have valued the property will you demonstrate to me your cost basis?" This is a tactic to get the parties involved in valuing a piece of real estate by working together. It calls upon each to be an expert in their own right. It also allows you to gather essential information.

Disorganized groups without leadership quickly collapse into chaos. Chaos rewards the stronger of the parties; it does not yield a negotiated settlement. Chaotic situations offer opportunities for someone to intervene and bring some order to the situation. Effective negotiators seek to control the environment and manage the process. It is better to be deciding what is going to happen next than to be told what to do.

Don't relinquish your role to another unless doing so tactically serves your ends. There are times to defer to another person to advance your cause.