Business Eye: You get what you negotiate

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

It is fast becoming a truism that what they don’t teach you at school makes the most difference to success in life today.

Our schooling system seems locked into the aspic of the Victorian era for which it was once designed as the breeding ground for the professional classes at the time of the Empire.

At 15 we are still majoring on cotans and the periodic table as ladders to life success. Little seems to have changed from my own journey through the system some 30 years ago.

This is not to say that an ability to solve differential equations and an understanding of potential gravitational force are not relevant in some walks of life, but can you honestly say you used any of it once you escaped the mandatory tyranny of the classroom?

On the other hand, an ability to sell yourself or an idea to your wife, boss or a customer is a skill that is in play all day everyday.

That is also true of the 
need to work well in a team, take and demonstrate leadership, deploy a strong work ethic, act with confidence and think creatively beyond the rules.

No more is this so true than in the art of negotiation, perhaps the single most powerful determinant of a successful life journey.

To negotiate well you must stand in others’ shoes, understand their needs and desires, see their lines in the sand, be attuned to the slightest shift in tone, spot hesitation, and listen actively and attentively.

You need to understand and be truthful to yourself, to know your own outcome and be clear on where you can give ground.

The most important component is to focus on a win/win outcome, where both parties get some of what they need, and where neither is left feeling that the other has beaten them up.

A successful negotiation ends with something for everyone or sooner or later there will be payback.

That is not to say that it’s an easy thing to pull off.

When faced with your own or others’ egos, you may have to risk the lose/lose outcome for matters to progress.

The decision to close the Ravenscraig Steelworks when the unions dug their heels in was a recent case in point.

Do make sure you can live with your own losing outcome, but very often it will bring the other side back to finding the win/win.

You get what you negotiate.