… “We don’t have time to prepare-that’s a luxury we can’t afford.”
… “I don’t need a course to learn how to negotiate, I’ve been doing it for 25 years!”
… “In the real world, you learn from experience…”
These are typical examples of the kind of statements often heard from people who have to negotiate in their day-to-day working lives but have never received formal training. They often believe that learning takes place instinctively through experience. As a consequence of this belief, they tend to take a seat-of-the-pants approach, relying on their “real world” experiences as a substitute for training.
To some extent they are right. There certainly is much to be learnt from the practical experience of negotiating. It is however, potentially an extremely expensive way of developing skills. This article points out some of the ways in which very experienced negotiators sometimes pay a very high price for their lack of training.
The key to it all is that we each have our own view of the “real world”. Try for yourself. The next time you’re watching a film or play on TV with your family or friends, turn off the TV during a commercial break and get your fellow TV watchers to note down how they feel about the situation the characters are in, who’s right, who’s wrong, what they should do next, etc. You may be surprised at some of the different ways that others see the same scenario! In negotiation, you have to try to see the “real world” as others see it. That takes skill. That kind of skill tends not to come naturally!
The fact is, there is a big difference between having a hundred experiences and having one experience a hundred times – we believe that there is much that can affect how useful that experience is. Learning only takes place from experience when the experience is structured to allow learning to happen. You need a learning structure to bring out the potential learning from each experience. When you have properly structured learning experiences, you will get to see the real world as it really is rather than just as you see it! This will differentiate the effective negotiator from the ineffective.
Learning from experience can be effective if certain conditions are met. From dealing with thousands of executives and managers in companies from a range of industries in European countries we have noted that to learn from their negotiating experience:
There is a learning process. Those who have studied the techniques of learning may well be familiar with the KOLB model. Alternatively, you may have a personal preference for a different theory or model. What we can see from learning theory is that there is very much more to learning than experience alone. Learning takes place when we reflect on our experience in an informed and structured way in order to conceptualise how we will adapt our behaviour the next time an experience presents itself. That process is flawed if there is no opportunity to reflect, no skilled feedback, no planned adaptation of behaviour or if the experience passes completely unnoticed!
In the real world, effective negotiators regularly seek structured debrief feedback and discussion with trained colleagues. From such debriefs, they adapt and develop the successful aspects of their behaviour and positively learn to avoid the distracters in their style.
This brings us to styles – how many negotiators appreciate that there are measurable, identifiable styles of behaviours associated with negotiators? That some negotiators regularly lose out on the potential value on the table because of aspects of their style which prevent them ascertaining what the opportunities are? That many other negotiators actively but subconsciously discourage suppliers, customers, colleagues from wanting to co-operate? They would never do it deliberately, of course, it’s simply that they don’t realise the effect they have on others. Typically, they leave the meeting blaming the other party.
In properly structured training simulations, even the most experienced and senior negotiators are often amazed to discover during reviews how much they missed of what took place
In properly structured training simulations, even the most experienced and senior negotiators are often amazed to discover during reviews how much they missed of what took place at the table while they were sitting at it! They also frequently gain insight into the behaviours they use which discourage co-operation. They find not only weaknesses but also strengths and skills that they had not recognised before. This is why observed, videoed practice should be built into negotiations training wherever possible.
Another aspect often overlooked is the relationship between co-operation and negotiation. Have you ever considered the similarity?
To our knowledge, many deals with business counterparts are dead before they start because experienced negotiators can’t persuade their colleagues in their own organisation to co-operate. Sales people lose deals because they can’t get their company’s decision processes to move flexibly or quickly enough. How easy to blame “The Company”
– how often do they consider the degree to which a more fluent decision could have been reached had they used the process of negotiation when seeking
internal co-operation? The negotiation process is as
applicable to internal co-operation as it is to commercial negotiation with external parties?
That brings us to the process. All negotiations go through a process of phases and stages – whether the negotiators realise it or not.
It’s a bit like the tide coming in. It won’t stay away just because you’re out on the mud flats and don’t realise you’re on a sandbank! If you don’t realise how to manage the process it will swamp you! How often have you found that time has run out and you’re only just beginning to make “progress”? As often as not, in the so-called “real world”, the vast bulk of movement takes place in the last 10% of the time. The amazing thing is many experienced but untrained negotiators believe there is nothing they can do to influence this in a mutually beneficial way. They usually leave the meeting believing that not enough time was allowed.
… When negotiators walk in a world where their only learning has been through experience, they are unable to benchmark their behaviour against best practice and look instead to the environment itself
Effective negotiators understand how they can better manage the process by using their behaviour so that they can communicate in the ways most appropriate at each stage. The skill lies in communicating to induce the desired response. Most people communicate to pass what is in their heads to someone else. Effective negotiators recognise that that doesn’t work and use their communication skills effectively.
That’s another aspect – how effective are we at communicating…really?
Communication skills require understanding, practice, feedback and more practice. We have seen a negotiation where key pieces of information were raised by one party 13 times and missed by an experienced negotiator (25 years!) because he didn’t realise the importance of the issue to the other party! And that is not an unusual thing to happen.
In our work with corporate clients, it is very apparent that they do benefit from experience.
However, it is equally apparent that they do not benefit from that experience to anywhere near its full potential, unless they have the necessary frameworks and feedback to shape the practical learning that can be achieved. During training, negotiators learn about the behavioural characteristics that others always see in them which they never realised were present. They also learn to cope with behavioural characteristics of those with whom they have to negotiate! In this way, negotiators can build an appropriate portfolio of behaviours. Without this armoury, negotiators tend to be unconsciously influenced by the business environment of the day, their skills being diluted by everything from economic climate to company culture.
As human beings, we all seek to succeed and strive to meet the criteria for success, whatever they may be. The effective negotiator builds and uses a portfolio of behaviours based on established best practice behavioural criteria. In this way, he or she remains responsive to a wide range of negotiating environments and climates.
However, when negotiators walk in a world where their only learning has been through experience, they are unable to benchmark their behaviour against best practice and look instead to the environment itself. There is evidence to suggest that their style will reflect the economic and cultural trends of the day. Therefore, when the environment is unstable – such as during a recession – there will be wild swings in style. These swings in style create uncertainty and a lack in confidence that other business parties have in the sincerity of the negotiator. This lack of confidence undermines the relationship and quality of deals achieved by all parties.
As individuals working in the market place, negotiators are influenced by many factors, some of those factors being more influential than others. When companies revise their policies and marketing strategies, and economic factors impact the market place, the criteria for measuring the success of a negotiator may be perceived by the negotiator to have changed. The negotiator, therefore changes the tactics that he or she uses because they perceive that that is what is required by the employer. In our experience, this is rarely the case and the company still expects that the relationship will be win-win. In such situations, effective negotiators draw on the versatility that comes from their combined experience and training. They do this by applying the fundamental principles of negotiating behaviour to achieve negotiations that are ethical and mutually beneficial.
Through the last ten years, we have gathered data from clients negotiating in industry on the styles used by experienced negotiators. This data evidences swings from predominantly positional to concessionary tactics coinciding with the entry into recession and the emergence into recovery. These swings have caused untold problems with relationships for many companies in those industries.
With appropriate guidance, training and support from their companies, these negotiators would have been able to manage their tactics so as to preserve the mutually beneficial relationships that their employers wanted them to achieve. Once formal training has been undertaken, the framework for developing competence is in place and the potential for development of effectiveness and learning from experience becomes powerful rather than arbitrary.
In today’s business world, experience is an essential ingredient of learning to negotiate, but should never be perceived as the sole source.
Einstein is reputed to have attributed his success to the fact that he was able to “…stand on the shoulders of giants”. In today’s competitive markets, negotiators must be developed rapidly to efficient effectiveness. The learning process has to be accelerated into a short period of time through formal training, practice, coaching and feedback.
It is through training that the negotiators can themselves stand on the shoulders of the giants of negotiation, for it is through training that the wisdom and learning of those giants is passed down, studied and learnt. It is through coaching and feedback that the learning is incorporated into the negotiator’s personal behaviour portfolio. The practice, coaching and feedback can then be extended into the market place through supported experience. In this way, time is saved, costly mistakes are avoided and valuable business relationships are preserved.
There are several styles of training and a range of training programmes in the market place. Not all programmes favour the win-win style of negotiating.
This article makes the assumption that negotiators seek to establish and develop mutually beneficial long-term relationships with their customers, clients, suppliers and colleagues.
So, in summary, what is the benefit of learning to improve your natural negotiating skills through formal training?
The conclusion to be drawn is that learning by experience to be an effective negotiator does work but it is a very costly and inefficient method unless it takes place against a framework of more formal learning. If it takes 25 years to become effective through trial and error, how much more quickly could we learn from the experiences of those who have gone before? And what unknown price has to be paid through the damage done to relationships and the inability to get the best possible deal available?
Only through a carefully planned learning process can the benefits of experience be extracted and the costly mistakes born of trial and error minimised.]]>
From the relatively stable environment of two decades ago, the world of banking and financial services has evolved from low-tech to high-tech, from stable to highly competitive, from banker-focussed to customer-focussed and from hierarchical to much leaner, flatter and more cost-conscious. Inevitably, as customers’ expectations become more sophisticated and financial institutions seek to operate more cost effectively, the management of client relationships can experience difficulties. In this feature, PAUL HAZELL, an experienced facilitator in the field of negotiations training, identifies how training in negotiation skills can help people operating in the financial sector to manage client relationships in such a way that they benefit both the client and the service provider.
Today, the name of the game for those whose clients are corporations or high net worth individuals is to aim to maintain long-term relationships. Within these relationships the financier or banker must work both strategically and in the short-term to identify the needs of the client and create and sell solutions to meet those needs. Those solutions have to be sold on terms that represent value for money through the eyes of the client and make a profit for the service provider. The need for both sides to perceive value in the deals they agree inevitably gives rise to a tension that can be difficult to manage for the untrained negotiator.
It is a fact that when we have discussed negotiation issues with both clients and their bankers, it is quite common for each to perceive that the other has the upper hand. In many cases, where experienced but untrained negotiators are involved, this results in deals that fall short of what the negotiators had hoped to achieve or sometimes in no deal at all. Worse still, sometimes – deal or no deal – the negotiating process can damage these crucial relationships. Such damage to banker/customer relationships and other such liaisons leaves the client coping with the inconvenience and expense of looking for an alternative financial partner. Simultaneously, relationship managers can find themselves having to explain why valuable clients have been lost and performance targets have not been achieved.
Analysis of the process of negotiation reveals a range of patterns of behaviour that tend to lead to varying degrees of deal satisfaction and leave business relationships in a similar spectrum of resilience, trust and potential longevity. This spectrum ranges from strategic alliances at the successful end to total breakdowns at the other. There has been ample literature published on the subject of negotiation in recent years but what has emerged is the clear picture that whilst nearly all negotiators aspire to achieve “win-win” deals, most instinctively resort to “fight or flight” tactics when facing a counter-party at the table. As a result, valuable time is lost, emotions can flare and opportunities are missed.
The need to overcome instinctive reactions with a more emotionally intelligent approach is where training can make a big difference – to both the deal itself and the way the negotiators get there. A deal that has been struck in an atmosphere of undue pressure and resentment is doomed to failure – no matter how good it may look on paper. The tactics used at the table do much to determine the atmosphere of the negotiation and the
resulting ability of the deal to stand the test of time. It is the tactics – the behaviours used by the negotiators – that can make the difference to the financial specialist as to whether the relationship between them and the client is consolidated or creates an uphill struggle for the next time they meet.
So, in summary, negotiating from intuition and instinct alone can be a time-consuming and expensive business. Effective skill-based training can provide even the most experienced negotiator with a series of behavioural frameworks that can help them take more control over the process, deliver better-value deals for both parties and strengthen the relationship between them, even when the going gets tough.
At the same time, these behavioural frameworks provide a practical, protective shield against the unscrupulous negotiator who seeks to use pressure tactics, rather than reasoned, logical influencing to cause you to move. Understanding how and when to move in a negotiation can make a dramatic difference to the value to your organisation of the deal you strike. It is quite common for participants on our “Negotiating Effectively” programmes to report afterwards that they have quickly recouped what they paid to attend the course by applying the techniques they learned!
So, if so much is understood about negotiation, what are the pitfalls that make learning from experience alone so expensive? Well, there are many and there would not be space here to address any of them in depth. What we can do however is signpost some of the
key areas where costly mistakes are made and offer some practical tips. Training will help the negotiator develop the skills to apply these techniques so as to avoid these pitfalls. We have identified six key areas and summarise them using the acronym VAPORS:
We find that most negotiators seek to base their negotiations on achieving a margin over their costs. Inevitably, this leads to discussion focussing more on fees than on the benefits delivered by the service. Superior returns, money saved by the client and the prestige of doing business with the financial institution are all overlooked! By emphasising the value that your services bring to the client, the focus can be more readily shifted away from
price and on to other variables. How confident are you that you have developed the techniques of value-based negotiating?
Negotiators often tend to assess the strengths of the other party and the weaknesses of their own. Emphasising the advantages of the other party subconsciously affects the way you behave at the table. Try assessing the strengths and weaknesses of both parties. Effective preparation can help you do this. Be warned though that we find that time spent in preparation often does not correlate with being well prepared. Effective negotiators use a systematic approach to negotiation. Have you been trained to prepare effectively and systematically for negotiations?
There are seven principles that form a framework for effective, “win-win” negotiators to turn the “win-win” approach from an aspiration into a practical reality. Most negotiators do not do this instinctively. Without the guiding framework provided by the seven principles, negotiators are more open to the pressures exerted by counter-parties and by their own organisations. Would your negotiations pass the “Principled Test”?
Frequently, when we research the issues undermining the negotiations undertaken by our customers, it is the internal negotiations that are most problematic. Negotiators often feel constrained by what they feel their head office or credit committees will allow yet rarely
negotiate with those internal parties the scope available for agreement with the client. They expect to negotiate with clients and suppliers but miss opportunities to negotiate internally. Effective negotiators identify internal constraints and negotiate them. Similarly, IT projects often suffer “project creep” because IT specialists do not negotiate the implications of requests to “just do this…” or “make it possible to do that”!
How often have your efforts been thwarted by a lack of internal co-operation?
Many negotiations are “skin-deep” – they focus on persuading the other party to change their position rather than searching for ways to meet their needs. Reacting to the other party’s position is likely to end up in arguing about price. How often do the people with whom you negotiate leave the table with the perception that you “didn’t understand where they were coming from”? How confident are you that you have the techniques to identify the underlying needs? Furthermore, untrained negotiators often try to do this at inappropriate stages of the negotiation process. How confident are you that you use the appropriate behaviours at each stage of the process?
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are patterns of behaviour that have emerged from research into the way people negotiate. If you understand your own preferred style, you can work on it to develop and adjust your repertoire of behaviours so as to come closer to the style that represents the “win-win” approach.
Do you know your own style? – How similar is your view of you to the way others see you? What unconscious signals do you send out when you are negotiating? Others will respond to those signals whether you are conscious of them or not.
So then, in summary, negotiating is a process that we tend neither to understand fully nor follow effectively until we are given guidance. Negotiation Skills training can help us understand the stages of the process and become more conscious of our instinctive and intuitive behaviours so that we can develop our natural style into one more conducive to “win-win” or mutually beneficial deals]]>
A company that I was working with had recently implemented a major new software system for aiding the appraisal of new business propositions. The target audience was middle and senior managers and it is fair to say that they had struggled somewhat to come to terms with such a different approach to analyzing new business. The key client contact, a Board Director, decided that they should be given “some very complex, senior training” in addition to the training they had already received. This, he said would make them more likely to want to use the system!
This was a route I was very reluctant to take. Firstly because I and my colleagues had undertaken a full needs analysis before designing and delivering the training: the training they had received was the training they needed. Secondly, the
training had been evaluated and the trainees had demonstrated that they could use the system correctly.
So then, when people know what to do and have the skills to do it, but performance is still not meeting expectations, what is the solution if it is not more training? In such a situation it is essential to analyse the underlying causes. In this case, it was revealed to be a lack of confidence on the part of the trainees in their own ability to use the system. This was not a surprise – we had recommended at the start that the training be supported by on-the-job coaching but budgetary constraints had prevented the client from providing it. A lack of confidence is not the same thing as a lack of training. What technique is most suited to improving performance through building confidence? Coaching!
I recommended an internal coaching scheme in a short proposal to the client and a couple of days later he called me back;
“We can’t have coaching” he said. “Coaching is too soft. These are senior people and touchy feely stuff is not appropriate for them. If you mention coaching to
them you will lose all credibility. I don’t want coaching raised at all”.
This at first seemed like a significant setback. I spoke to his secretary and arranged a meeting to discuss what he thought might be appropriate. At the meeting, he was very forthcoming,
“Mentoring”, he exclaimed. “That’s what they need. That’s what will change the culture!”
I have been a mentor myself to several people through the years and was a member of the UK’s National Mentoring Consortium. Mentoring was however not the most appropriate route to resolve this particular performance problem. So I asked him to describe for me how he thought mentoring would help the situation. He gave me a textbook description of coaching!
We subsequently delivered a purpose-built coaching course under the moniker “Mentoring For Senior Managers” – without ever mentioning the “C” word – and observed an appropriate change in the level of confidence and competence of usage of the system.
The moral of this story is that even though they sometimes use the same words, people often understand different things from them!
We have found that people in many organizations have their own ideas about what coaching is and what mentoring is – ask any ten people and the chances are, you will receive ten different descriptions. Most people tend to use “coaching” and “mentoring” synonymously. In a similar way, people often use terms like “knowledge”, “Skills” and “competence” to be interchangeable. And
maybe, for general conversational purposes they are; but any good Development specialist will confirm that they are really different concepts with crucially different meanings and implications.
So it is with coaching and mentoring. Coaching in its literal meaning is a specific skill set that enables the coach, through the use of skilled questioning, to raise the awareness of the coachee of issues they need to address and for the coachee also to determine ways to address them. Coaching, when carried out correctly, is a powerful and effective way to help others to help themselves and
can result in dramatic improvements in performance. Coaching is one of the tools often used by skilled mentors.
Being helpful and having an open door may all be part of being a member of the team in the office but do not in themselves constitute coaching. Anyone can learn to be a coach; eligibility as a coach is not a function of seniority, past experience
in the same job as the coachee, or being part of the same team. Peers, subordinates, bosses, consultants – can all coach if they have learned the right skills to do so. When part of an underlying culture, coaching becomes a regular tool for continuous improvement. How many people in your organization have been trained to coach?
Mentoring, on the other hand has a wider meaning altogether. A mentor is usually someone who operates from outside the immediate activities of the mentee and who does have previous experience directly relevant to the mentee. A mentor fulfils a variety of functions so needs to be even more versatile than a coach! A mentor may need to be a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board for new ideas, an advisor or – wait for it – a coach!! How many of your people have been trained in mentoring skills?
It perhaps follows that some people have access to both a coach and one or more mentors. I have met a saleswoman who had a mentor with whom she regularly discussed the issues she faced as a woman striving to build a career in a predominantly male environment. This mentor was like a role model – she had been a senior manager in a different department for some years – and regularly listened like the proverbial “wise owl” and proffered guidance and impartial advice. On the other hand, for the achievement of her objectives, the same person used an external coach who would spend time helping her to reflect actively on the challenges she faced and to identify ways of meeting those challenges. As a saleswoman, she was also coached by her line manager who, through his coaching, helped her improve her day-to-day sales performance.
An example of a mentoring system that generated real benefits very quickly was a client company that had encountered difficulties after they instigated a professional development scheme. Under the scheme, managers would work under the supervision of a local university to obtain professional certification in aspects of their roles. A budget was set up whereby managers would gather evidence of their performance that they felt illustrated their competence in pre- defined areas. They then presented this evidence to the university who assessed it and awarded points towards the final certification.
Some months went by during which none of the managers completed their qualification. By the end of the allotted time span, the process was over budget; yet still nobody had qualified and many had not even begun the accreditation process. A colleague and I were asked to help generate momentum for the initiative.
An extension was granted only after we had recommended a mentoring scheme. Under the mentoring scheme, each manager on the accreditation programme was allotted to an experienced, qualified manager whose role in the scheme
would be to provide the learner with the impetus and support they needed to complete the process.
The mentors were trained in the principles of mentoring and given basic coaching training. It did not take long for the first managers to qualify under the
programme. The feedback from the managers who were being developed was clear. After the mentoring started, the competences that they had to demonstrate came to life and the coaching sessions the mentors conducted helped the managers to learn from the hurdles they encountered instead of being frustrated by what had previously be seen as a “paper chase”.
Our experience has been that many companies speak of introducing coaching in some aspects of their businesses but that all too often there is a lack of understanding that undermines the good intentions; they end up with coaching schemes that are coaching in name only. In a lot of companies, coaching is included in the job descriptions of many people but those people are ill-equipped to fulfill that function; either they don’t have the knowledge or the skill or they don’t have the time. Sometimes it is a very sad and frustrating mix of all three!
That situation of “well-meaning” being ineffective is often exacerbated further when organizations attempt to ensure that coaching happens by imposing empirical targets and measures.
For example, in one client organization, following one of a series of “restructurings” (downsizing), area managers in one country found themselves decimated from 15 to 6. This vastly increased not only the number of clients in their portfolios but also the number of staff for whom each manager was responsible.
At the same time, they were informed that they would be targeted to hold at least one coaching session per quarter with each of the sales people in their regions. This meant that for some people, they had to coach around 100 people per quarter as well as managing other aspects of the business. Inevitably, the six area managers resorted to having “coaching days” where they would spend the day driving from office to office to “coach” their sales people. One sales person reported that her coaching session one month had consisted of ten minutes over a cup of coffee, during which the harassed manager ate his lunch before dashing off to the next office to complete his quota for that day.
Clearly, neither coaching nor mentoring will work if it is not implemented effectively and for appropriate reasons. The circumstances in any case will be unique but as a general rule, the following “Five S’s” will help an organization make a well-informed decision and implement coaching or mentoring when necessary and in a way that will work. Each of the questions under the Five S’s is
often incorrectly answered or not considered because of the haste to “implement something”. The result can easily be a scheme that is ineffective.
PITHON Limited can offer support and advice at each of these steps or can undertake them for you.
Examine closely the circumstances that have led you to believe that coaching or mentoring might be appropriate. What has led you to believe this? What is the underlying cause of the circumstances you want to change? What kind of outcome do you expect to see if the initiative is successful? Who are the stakeholders to the initiative? What will they judge its success upon? Do you have the skills to correctly identify the problem?
Beware of making assumptions as to what the problem is, when really you have only identified symptoms. More painstaking research now may save a lot of time and budget later!
What kind of solution will resolve the situation and generate the outcomes that you and your stakeholders expect? Don’t use coaching or mentoring as a substitute for training – it won’t work. Likewise, don’t train people beyond their needs when they would really benefit from coaching. Are you certain you need any of these? Do you have the skills to determine the nature of the solution that you need?
Identify the source of the solution. Will you use internal people? If so, do they have the skills to undertake coaching, to become a mentor or to deliver training – whatever is needed? If not, how will they obtain the skills and confidence they need to become coaches or mentors?
Many companies try to cut costs by avoiding training those who have to coach or mentor. They assume, wrongly, that if you have done the job then you can coach someone else in that job!
You do not need to know how the job is done to be an effective coach, but you do need to know how to coach! Directing people who have not been trained to coach – to coach others, is a common mistake. The result is wasted time, loss of performance and lack of credence in the concept of coaching. See the diagram to understand why this is.
Coaching and mentoring schemes – like any other business initiative – requires forethought, planning, resourcing and managing. When good intentions are the only drivers, then the initiative is like trying to maintain a computer system with no IT specialists! However, when competently implemented, coaching is one of the most effective ways of gaining performance improvement and mentoring can work wonders for motivation, commitment and long-term professional development.
Be clear on the purpose and scope of any arrangement you set up.
The first concern of coaches and mentors must be their “clients”: the coachees and mentees with whom they work. Does the remit include just performance improvement, or perhaps also work-life balance or career management? Will coaches or mentors be required to travel or perhaps to meet the client’s customers? Do you need to secure company confidentiality agreements from the coaches and mentors? What is the process to be followed if it becomes apparent to a coach or mentor that the client’s interests no longer fit with those of the employing company?
Consider here also the length of commitment of the arrangement. Does it specify a certain number of hours, or meetings? This period must be long enough for the principal and client to establish a trusting working relationship or the desired results will not be generated.
The importance of being clear on the scope and responsibilities of these relationships was highlighted in the following example. One of our coaches was introduced to a new coachee under the company’s “high flyer” scheme. It became apparent to the coach after a couple of meetings that the coachee was somewhat disenchanted with the company and was also restless about the long hours he was spending in the city at the expense of his family. He was seriously considering leaving the company.
The terms of the coaching contract clearly stated that the coach’s first loyalty was to the coachee. The coachee had a clearly defined fast career path if he stayed but had also been head-hunted by two other companies. The coach worked with the coachee to identify the option that offered the coachee the best all-round benefits for him and his family. They examined each option, including the options for resolving his problems with the current employer. The favoured option emerged to be the job being offered by one of the head-hunters. The coach and coachee then worked together to organize how the coachee could plan his exit without causing unpleasantness or undue inconvenience to the current employer.
The final outcome was that he left on good terms with the senior management team of the employing company – with the door open to return to them if his needs changed in the future. He went on to introduce his new employer to his old one and the new employer became a new client of the old employer. The
coachee was appointed as a key account manager to look after the old employer!
The key points here of course are that the coach knew that the scope of the coaching contract was not limited solely to the coachee’s role in the company and was also clear that his duty was to the coachee before the employing company. Because of this clarity, the employing company also gained from what could have been an acrimonious split and a difficult situation for the coach.
Even with the best of intentions, an arrangement will not work if it has to be conducted “off the side of the desk”.
Meetings need to be painstaking and substantial enough to delve into the client’s issues in some depth. Impromptu, 10-minute sessions can be useful to help overcome some routine business hurdles but should not be the foundation of the relationship. Usually, face-to-face meetings are the most effective although we frequently become involved in telephone sessions. Sessions may last anything from an hour to several hours depending upon the nature of the issues being discussed.
All these things take time: time for preparation, time for travel, time for meetings and time to maintain confidential notes. If you are using internal coaches and mentors, what proportion of their time will they spend engaged in working with their “clients”? How will this aspect of their performance be built into their objectives and performance appraisals? If no formal allowances are made then the best you can expect is token commitment – “lip service” as the British call it.
On the other hand, where the need for time and confidentiality is recognized and quality coaching and mentoring takes place, the rewards to the sponsoring company can be great.
Coaching and mentoring are two distinct but related roles. They are trust-based and require the right circumstances to work. They are also like any other tools in any field of work; they are good for the right purpose but should not be viewed as a cure for all ills, nor as a substitute for good management or training.
Setting up an internal coaching or mentoring scheme can deliver enormous financial and well-being benefits for the sponsoring company as well as for the client individuals but only where it is set up well and the coaches and / or mentors are appropriately skilled. People do not become competent coaches or mentors simply by having it added to their job descriptions, any more than they could become brain surgeons by being given a white coat!
In PITHON we frequently work with our clients on a range of simultaneous levels: helping them to diagnose issues or introduce changes, designing and delivering training and supporting the solutions and the transfer of those solutions to the workplace through coaching. Our coaching faculty are practicing coaches in their own businesses – that is why we use them – and are often mentors to clients and colleagues.
Thus PITHON is well-placed to help you consider the implications of introducing a coaching or mentoring scheme in your company and can offer assistance, advice or training in the necessary skills as you implement the scheme.]]>
In this feature, Paul Hazell, Director of PITHON and one of our team of faculty on the Negotiating Effectively and Further Negotiating Skills programmes, examines some of the reasons why the other person so often appears to be unfair and unreasonable.
Most negotiators never deliberately set out to jeopardise the potential for a successful outcome to a meeting they attend. They usually enter meetings with the best of intentions, hoping to secure a deal that is good for their company. Ask most of them what they want for the counter-party and they will tell you that if the deal is to stand the test of time, then it must be good for the other party also. That is fair and reasonable.
Fairness and reasonableness are qualities we all believe we have. We often use “fair” and “reasonable” to describe the approach taken by one’s own side in a negotiation. How is it then that so many of us so often have the misfortune to find that the people on the other side of the table are clearly lacking in these all too important qualities? After all, if you are being fair and reasonable and the other party disagrees with you, what does that tell you about them? Clearly, they are being unfair and unreasonable . . . aren’t they?
Unfair and unreasonable is how negotiators often perceive the stance taken by the other party at a negotiation. When the other party fails to appreciate our attempts to build bridges, or to make proposals, we become frustrated with them because it appears to us that they are being selfish or stubborn at best and greedy or deliberately provocative at worst.
So why would someone who has scheduled time to meet you – perhaps travelled and gone to expense and inconvenience to be at the meeting – deliberately behave in a way that makes the chances of reaching agreement remote? After all, their business stands to gain from coming to an agreement with you or you would not be at the table together in the first place.
Well, like so many things in this world, the situation is likely not to be quite as simple as it seems. If you could read the thoughts of the other party you would probably discover that they are wondering why you are so stubbornly refusing to understand their point of view, when to them it is so obviously right! Have you ever considered that, to them, it is you who is being unfair and unreasonable? Next time you metaphorically point the finger at someone else, beware – there may be three metaphoric fingers pointing back at you!!
Negotiators who have been trained, learn to recognise such situations and master techniques that enable them to defuse the tension and explore ways to reach agreement. Then, after training, when those techniques are applied, options often become apparent that had not previously been identified.
However, because people don’t deliberately misunderstand one another, they have first to experience how easy it is to be in such a situation and not immediately recognise it. And there lies a major difficulty. We are for the most part “reasonable” in our intentions and therefore it must be the other person that causes the misunderstanding. This is the “no, not me …surely?” factor. Because we can’t
imagine how such a reasonable person as we are can create a misunderstanding, it can take years to learn these things through intuition. It is therefore much more cost effective to learn it in a structured way through training.
In our Effective Negotiating Skills and Further Negotiating Skills programmes we use simulated business situations that maximise reality so that natural behaviours come out. We also employ debriefing techniques that help participants realise the impressions – favourable or unfavourable – that their behaviour at the table created. When people realise the impressions they create, it is often a surprise to them.
These realisations are not only a surprise to the learner, they can go to the fundamental roots of their approaches to negotiation. Realising the risks of misunderstanding opens our minds to learning how misunderstandings occur.
There are four key categories of reasons why negotiators unwittingly create the impression of being unfair and unreasonable, even when their intentions are entirely honourable. These four types of reasons are encompassed in the acronym “NEGS”.
NEGS is an easy way to remember four contributing factors; “Natural Characteristics”, “Education and Upbringing”, “Gestalt” and “Selected Behavioural Patterns” – see Fig.1 above – that influence our behaviour from within ourselves. In the following paragraphs, each of these four is explained in a little more detail.
Before we become shaped and honed by the experiences of life, we are born to be different. We can all see differences in personal features, complexion, skin colour, height, weight, girth, etc. What are often not so obvious are the differences that are
not immediately visible. The way we make sense of the world around us, for instance.
Some of us interpret things literally; we deal with the here and now and relate everything to the way things are today. However, not everyone is like that. Many people see in the here and now, the potential for what could be or what may be in the future. Imagine a painted country scene with a gravel pathway, an old barn and a few chickens. That is exactly what some of us will see in the picture. However, others may imagine pixies and fairies hiding in the barn or wonder who the owners of the farm
are, or imagine that barn renovated as a bustling farm shop. Such people may though not notice imperfections in the way the artiste painted the picture.
Thus, the picture takes on a totally different character for them than it does for the first group. The first group might feel frustrated with the second group because they don’t notice the obvious shortcomings, whereas the second group can’t understand why the first group is so limited in their willingness to use their imagination to consider possibilities.
Then some of us like to tie up issues quickly and tidily; make decisions and move on to something new. Others though would feel uncomfortable being pressed to make decisions until they have satisfied themselves that they are fully informed and that their decision will take into account all available facts. They prefer to deal with several issues at any one time, keeping them all open in case new facts become available. Here the former group perceive the latter group to be disorganised and untidy in their thinking, whereas the latter group are frustrated by the way the former group make decisions – apparently in unnecessary haste. The potential here for stress and frustration in a negotiation if these people meet is enormous!
Then there is the way we prefer to learn. Some of us love to learn by experimentation; making mistakes is all part of the excitement of discovering new things. “Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty” is their motto. After all, they will tell you, you won’t learn anything new if you don’t try! Others of us however, prefer to read about it, plan it and perhaps watch others before trying something new. Making mistakes is the
result of “more haste, less speed”. Prepare well and you are more likely to succeed! How often do issues like time frames, urgency and targets cause frustration in negotiations?
So, how well do you understand how your own personal preferences differ from those of the person across the table, or those with whom you work? What seems a perfectly logical approach to you may seem unduly risky, uncomfortable or cumbersome to someone else. How sensitive are you perceived to be by those who negotiate with you? Trained negotiators learn to identify and deal with these differences.
From the time we are born, we commence learning. Our very first learning is physical in nature – how to breath, how to cry, how to feed, etc. However it is not long before we begin to learn what is right and what is wrong. The foundations for this are laid by our families, particularly our parents and, in some cases by establishments like churches, clubs and schools. From an early age we learn frames of reference by which we judge people, ideas, events and behaviour. These dimensions of interpretation are known as constructs. Our constructs become so ingrained in our thinking that it becomes indisputable to us how things should be.
Examples of how powerful this can be occur in everyday lives. Is it good or bad to borrow money? Is it difficult or easy to learn to use a computer? Is it better to hand- write or type a letter? Should Sunday be a day of rest? Each of these questions has been the subject of heated debate in many an organisation, many a family. Age, religion and culture all contribute to the stance that individuals take. Thus sometimes, in other cultures or other organisations, something that is clearly unacceptable to one group might be the norm to another.
The norms and values of different cultures can vary fundamentally but can also vary subtly. Thus when an Englishman, a Frenchman or a German travels to Japan, China or a Middle-Eastern country, they expect the culture to be different. They know that dress, language, customs, religion, laws and etiquette are different and therefore perhaps go to greater lengths to avoid making embarrassing mistakes or unintentionally offending local people.
It might be different though when they travel to the USA, Belgium or perhaps
Canada. There the differences are less obvious. However, that doesn’t make them less important or unsettling. For example, in a negotiation, the need to defer to the elders
of a business family might be great in some apparently similar cultures, not at all pressing in others.
Another negotiating example lies in the relative importance afforded to contracts. The preoccupation with contracts in some cultures, for instance, can be bewildering to those from cultures where personal respect, trust and rapport are a more important indicator of likely success than any form of legal documentation. Yet when contract- focussed people do business with people from more social cultures, the differences in perception continue to cause frustration and perceived insensitivity.
These kinds of differences – and many more – can arise through country culture, religion, or company values so that, in a negotiation, someone from one company may find perfectly acceptable something perceived with discomfort and maybe distaste by someone from another company.
So how sensitive are you perceived to be to the values and beliefs of those with whom you negotiate? How often have you been frustrated and your suspicions aroused by another party when their actions – founded innocently upon what they believe to be right and proper – clashed with your dearly held principles and your perception of what is right? Have you been trained to understand the dimensions of cultural difference and other forms of diversity?
“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. One of the reasons why this statement rings true to so many of us is that it applies to the way in which we categorize and remember information.
The brain looks for recognisable patterns in the data it receives and then categorizes that data alongside the previously stored patterns. Thus we recognise two dots and a curved line laid out in a certain way as a “smilie” even though, in literal terms, they are three marks that bear little resemblance to a human face! This ability to “fill in the gaps” in order to make sense of disjointed data is very useful, but at the negotiating table it can and often does cause difficulties.
The difficulties arise when two parties have considered what they believe to be the same information and come up with two “obvious” but totally different interpretations. When each party knows that the other sees the same set of circumstances differently, they can at least discuss the reasons for those differences. However, all too frequently, our personal interpretations are born of such strong “gap filling” – assumptions – that it seems like fact and we then assume that everyone else’s interpretation is the same as ours! They will almost certainly not be!
Trained negotiators use techniques that enable them to recognise and clarify differences in perception. On the other hand, negotiators who have to rely on intuition and experience alone, are far more likely to become uncomfortable or defensive – feeling that the other person is not to be trusted. When the other person senses the non-verbal signals the first person sends out, then their resultant defensiveness serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy and the first person believes they were right to distrust the counter-party in the first place! Have you been trained to be aware of the non-verbal signals that you send out? How well do you control your natural reaction to the non- verbal signals of others?
It is not surprising then, that over a period of time, our experiences collaborate to make us pre-disposed to react in certain ways when we think we are recognising familiar sets of circumstances! Then we are likely to move into selected behavioural patterns to deal with the situations we assume ourselves to be in!
Not surprisingly, the combination of factors discussed so far, coupled with the unique set of circumstances that a person at the table finds themselves in, can generate an inclination to react in a certain way based on their previous experiences. A predisposition like this to behave in a certain way to a perceived set of circumstances is an attitude. An attitude is the way we are inclined to behave unless the environment or our own conscious reasoning somehow prevents us from doing so.
Thus, the person who has once been bitten by a stray dog may well instinctively react at the sight of another stray dog, by crossing the road to avoid the animal, in the belief that it too may attack if afforded the opportunity. However, if accompanied by a
group of friends they may resist the temptation to do so for fear of looking foolish or cowardly in front of the group.
Similarly, the negotiator who has once experienced what they perceive to be unfair treatment by a supplier or client, may well treat that company’s representative with suspicion the next time they meet, no matter how keen the latter person is to be seen to be fair. The behaviour of the first person is likely to be precipitated by the circumstances they perceive themselves to be in, although it may well be tempered or
adapted by the environment in which the encounter takes place. For instance, a person with a deep distrust of consultants may be naturally inclined to be sceptical or hostile towards them. However, if that person’s boss recommends a certain consultant and then attends the meeting, then the person may well temper their natural reactions.
In negotiations, we may unwittingly trigger behaviours in those with whom we negotiate, because those people believe they recognise sets of circumstances from past experience and are already pre-disposed to react in set ways to those circumstances. That may seem unfair or inappropriate to us – to them it is the way experience has prepared them to behave.
We may never discover what led them to react in the way they did. If the reaction was unfavourable, it may be frustrating to endure, but if we can defuse it in some face- saving way, then a solution may not be far away. Likewise, we are inclined to do similarly frustrating things in response to the actions and words of the other party and they too could be surprised, hurt or offended.
Negotiators who have been trained are able to deal with such apparently irrational behaviour by using techniques designed to build trust and rapport. Those who rely upon intuition are likely to experience frustration and confusion and may well leave the meeting blaming the other party who, in turn, feels their concerns have been justified by our reaction!
In PITHON’s Effective Negotiating and Further Negotiating Skills programmes, we explore the kinds of reasons why negotiations sometimes prove to be so difficult to resolve, even when the issues on the table at first seem straightforward.
By applying the NEGS formula, we can adopt an emotionally intelligent approach based on the principle “I will not allow any behaviour to distract me from reaching a sound agreement with you” rather than accepting failure by exhorting bitterly, “It was all their fault – we were fair and reasonable”]]>