Business Management Skills in Negotiations

In any dispute those involved make up a small group and are subject to traditional group dynamics. Groups need to be lead or managed. Filling this role is what makes mediators effective at resolving disputes.

Similarly, negotiators who take the initiative to become informal group leaders are most likely to have the best track record of achieving their goals.

Negotiations essentially are dysfunctional small groups. All small groups need to be lead to achieve their goals. Group leaders establish objectives and set a course to obtain the desired results. Negotiators should look at the various people at the table, from both sides, as a small but dysfunctional group in need of leadership.

The challenge is to motivate the group as a whole to focus on mutually beneficial goals.

Mediators, trained to manage such small groups, have the benefit of being assigned the role of leader. Negotiators must acquire the role through application of management skills to capture the respect and attention of their opponents. Demonstrating expertise, professionalism and passion are common traits of strong business leaders. These traits also serve the negotiator well when establishing a position of group authority.

A manager and a mediator have their positions established by others. Negotiators have to earn theirs without directly confronting the other person. Collaborative managerial styles are excellent means of subtly establishing a role of leadership. Such styles include:

- Establish a Common Goal: By giving each person a vested interest in the outcome of the negotiations you establish a common cause that should underscore the reasons behind each collective decision the parties make. Identifying a common goal is the first step towards establishing an informal, small group which can be lead.

- Parity of Power: By recognizing the power bases of the parties, you can dissolve misconceptions about who has the most power and create an environment where both parties need each other to resolve the situation.

- Persuasion: Mediators are masters of group persuasion. They must get warring parties to set aside their differences and reach an accord. Most people are used to being told what is right to do. A mediator is unable to make the decision for the group. He does not function as a judge or jury. He must encourage each of the parties to set aside their animosity and strive to work out a solution. He may have to persuade a recalcitrant party to let go of their emotional baggage and focus just on the settlement terms. He can do this by re-stating the other person's position or proposal in a more favorable light. He may remind the disgruntled party of the time and expense of pursuing the matter in court and point out that settling during mediation might cost less in the long run. What the mediator needs to do is get the party to soften an absolute rejection so some dialogue can start.

Making others want to do things they don't initially want to do is what successful mediators and negotiators do. Hitting the other person over the head with facts and demands is a good approach if you have power and authority on your side. If not, you must resort to the basics: inform, educate, and enlist.

Inform - By informing the other person of salient facts, tangible information and logical arguments, you are providing reasons for the person to reconsider their position without losing face.

Entice - By creating alternative and/or innovative incentives for the other person to reconsider their position, you are expanding the negotiating arena to include other commodities that may make an otherwise untenable accord viable.

Enlist - By seeking the other person's help in solving the dilemma, you are cashing in emotional concessions in return for advancing your cause.

All three approaches are basic management tactics designed to get the other person to do what you need him to do. They work as well in the negotiating arena as they do in the business environment. Essentially they are non-threatening management styles designed to motivate another person to action.

Being able to capture a leadership role within a negotiating small group environment is a management challenge. If you can achieve it, you will be in an excellent position to also broker a settlement or construct a viable accord.