Corporate Team Building in Negotiations

There are times when having a negotiating team is appropriate.

In corporate environments this is often the norm. You have the executive responsible for solving or managing the situation, the corporate counsel who may be involved or may enlist out-house counsel to litigate the matter, the staff insurance or risk manager, and the insurance carrier's representative. This core team may then add professionals or experts depending on the complexity of the matter. There may also be other corporate representatives involved.

In effect all corporate negotiations are team negotiations no matter who arrives at the settlement conference.

Like any other aspect of negotiations, teams need to be properly managed.

If you are heading up a corporate team, you are responsible for that team no matter to whom the individuals report. You are responsible for its preparation, research, and the role each member will play. This is especially important if there are 'professionals' on your team. Too often clients delegate the preparation and research aspects of a settlement conference to their legal staff. This would be fine if the issues were legal details. But when it comes to other issues and overall strategy, the responsibility should be vested solely with the lead negotiator.

You need to build your team based on the needs of the occasion and not the desires of political factions within the company. Representation at each meeting is not a requirement for each member of the team, especially if that individual proves disruptive to the settlement process. In establishing the team, make sure everyone knows their role, is prepared, and most importantly, that you have set the goals and objectives for the team.

If you are not used to working with the members of your corporate team, take steps to establish your role as team manager.

Corporate Team Building Tactics:

- Welcome them to the planning session and indicate your appreciation of what they can lend to the team.

- Source the pecking order of the individual team members and see if there are potentially conflicting internal goals and objectives to be resolved.

- Discuss with each new member of the team their role, qualifications, and specific areas of expertise.

- Ferret out areas where the other team members appear to not agree fully with you. Monitor closely the non-verbal reactions to the discussions to note any unvoiced discord. You want your team to be focused and mutually supportive.

- Collectively establish the goal of the team and the negotiating parameters.

- Prior to each formal negotiating or settlement session meet with the team doing the negotiating and establish the goals and objectives of the day's discussions.

- Decide prior to meeting with the other side if you want to reveal your leadership role during the meeting or let someone else lead the dialogue. There are times when it is beneficial to use a straw man while you observe the interaction of the other team.

Negotiating teams are no different than other teams. They need good leadership. They need direction. And they need to be managed so they function efficiently and constructively.