Late Friday afternoon, I scheduled a last-minute meeting with a supplier to negotiate pricing before our in-person meeting on Monday morning. After the 45 minute phone call, I was feeling great; negotiating with suppliers is fun for me. Not everyone likes to negotiate and avoids it like the plague. It’s a bit like leadership. Some people enjoy taking on a leadership role or exercising leadership, while others prefer not to. And like leadership, becoming a skilled negotiator takes practice.
According to negotiation literature (one of my favorites being Snell’s Bargaining for Advantage) there are five styles:
- Competing – assertive, aggressive, focused on the bottom line
- Avoiding – passive, may withdraw from the situation
- Collaborating – open and honest communication, seeks mutually beneficial solutions
- Accommodating – concerned with satisfying the needs of the other party, focused on relationship
- Compromising – finds the middle ground, give and take
Understanding your style will allow you to play to your strengths. Additionally, to become a better negotiator, it is important to learn other styles and be able to move in between them when it makes sense. Leadership is the same way. Dr. Monroe, who facilitates a bi-annual group relations conference in San Diego, reiterates the importance of understanding our tendencies when exercising leadership. Do we tend to take on the protector role? The motherly role? Are you passive or aggressive? Of course these styles or roles won’t always work in every scenario, thus by being aware of your tendencies, you can proactively choose how to exercise leadership in varying ways. Imagine a crayon box, instead of always jumping to the blue crayon for everything, practice using other colors, whether your negotiating or exercising leadership.
In this particular situation, I got to use my preferred method of negotiation, Collaborating. My tendency is to share information about my interests (or in this case my company’s), my constraints, goals, concerns, etc. And in turn, ask for the suppliers’ interests, constraints, concerns. By understanding what is driving us, together, we can find solutions that address both sides’ needs. We bounced some different ideas that would be beneficial for both parties, chatted about our commonalities in the situation, and sympathized with each other on the constraints, mine being budget, and hers being revenue.
I’ll find out on Monday morning what the results of our negotiations are. Regardless though, I found it interesting how practice and self-awareness are both a must in negotiations and leadership.