Negotiations & Cognitive Diversity

by Edward Henkler on June 9, 2015

Do you like negotiations? Do you consider yourself an expert? My answer to both questions would be a resounding NO…yet a business colleague and I just concluded a successful negotiation. The negotiations were cordial and it felt as though the final outcome was a win-win. I believe that three distinct elements contributed to our success:

  1. Solid input from The Skilled Negotiator
  2. Cognitively diverse team
  3. Inexperienced negotiator

Let’s start with The Skilled Negotiator. I’ve The Skilled Negotiator of Jane Dolente, Jack Debardelen and their company. If you worry about leaving money on the table or even just being uncomfortable with the negotiation process, I would highly recommend contacting them. Here’s a quick sampling of some of the insights they shared during our training:

  • Problem solving mentality; we both have something to offer – how do we find a mutually agreeable midpoint on ranges or a reasonable mix of wins on critical items for each party?
  • Bring a flipchart with proposed scope and 2 columns for eventually recording ranges and final values
  • Focus on overall agreement (first on scope, subsequently on actual #’s) rather than negotiating sequentially which makes each item a win/lose prospect

Negotiations - My Or Your Way Signpost

Negotiations – must there be a winner and loser?

Don’t you wish everyone on your team could see things the way you do? The answer is another resounding NO. The second element which contributed to our success was cognitive diversity. It is clearly more comfortable when everyone on the team sees things the same way but that is unlikely to yield the best outcome. Different thinking styles and perspectives push a team to consider possibilities which any one individual can’t and won’t. Not surprisingly, I was more risk-averse than the entrepreneur who was the other member of the negotiating team. Significantly different perspectives pushed the boundaries. We sought a more favorable arrangement that I would have pursued on my own. At the same time, we avoided off-putting proposals that might have stalled or sunk the negotiations. Leave your comfort zone and work with people who think differently!

The third element may seem a bit surprising. My negotiating partner suggested our success was partly because I wasn’t a slick negotiator, pushing to extract every last penny out of the deal. Instead, I sought opportunities to make both parties feel they were getting a fair exchange and did my best to consider the other person’s perspective. They may have been more experienced at negotiations but I gave them no reason to try to dominate. I might also add that stretching myself continues to contribute to my career reinvention. Push yourself – don’t be satisfied with the status quo!

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