When you reach the ranks of decision making in the company, the congratulatory advice starts to flow. You find yourself excited about the new opportunity to flex your experience and knowledge all the while, unsure of your ability to make the tough and right decisions. You can find tips and lists on being the best negotiator or executive decision maker, however, the power of negotiation for everyone is different.
I recently received what I would consider a lateral move to a position that offered sourcing and contract opportunities. Don’t get me wrong I was happy to take the risk, because like anything you learn from every move in your life. Good, bad or indifferent! I have negotiated contracts in my former positions and knew that I had a “style”. Yes, I had developed a style of negotiation and overall business tactic that was clever and compassionate and best yet, it worked for me!
Wait, did I just say compassionate? Yes, I did and for a woman in a heavily male-dominated department, company and industry that could damage my reputation or legitimacy, right? Wrong! The power of compassionate negotiation is never a bad thing and has worked well as my negotiation style.
Whoever came up with this ridiculous sentiment couldn’t have been a woman! What’s even crazier is that when a man gets upset or frustrated during a negotiation, his competence is never questioned. There are plenty of articles out there that support the positive impact of compassion on the business and one that I enjoy is written by Amy Rees Anderson in Forbes. She conveys the importance that one show of compassion can ripple positively throughout the entire organization, so imagine if the whole organization made an initial ripple.
So, back to my style of clever and compassionate negotiation. If I could leave you with three simple reminders, they would be:
I always remind myself right before a meeting or negotiation about the “who”, “what” and “why” of this interaction. This helps me realign myself with my intended outcome. It also helps to center my thoughts and refreshes my memory about the person or people involved in this negotiation. You see, each decision made by a negotiator has a direct impact on their company and the other parties involved. These companies are comprised of people that are trying to make a living just like me, so my impression on their lives is direct regardless of the negotiated terms.
Remembering that I am great at what I do and I can rock anything I put my mind to, is key to this principle. As women, we are tremendous at supporting each other but, when it comes to ourselves we fall short. We forget to give ourselves the old pep talk and spark that fire deep within. Anytime I am walking into a negotiation I empower myself to represent the best part of me in full unfettered form! I can’t tell you how many times, my colleagues and management have asked me how I get people to do what I ask without any complaints or pushback. I just simply respond, clever compassion!
I choose to always remember how my decisions have affected others. I always remember how exposed the other parties must feel, especially smaller firms when they are meeting with large corporations to negotiate terms. I consider their lack of resources that put them at a disadvantage. So making sure that I have presented my best case, alleviating senseless and costly legal contract reviews, utilizing resources to extend conversation and negotiation prior to final legal review, and being mindful of the end goal and overall contract value, are ways that I can remember the true intent of the negotiation and my impact on the whole process.
This is such a taboo topic especially when women in the workplace are in roles of decision making and power. To show the slightest inkling of compassion or “feelings” is for some reason a scarlet letter across the chest. It becomes a form of weakness instead of power and astuteness. It suddenly denies women the ability to be their authentic selves and resort to adopting methods and characteristics that are foreign and uncomfortable for them. Let’s remove the stigma from having a heart in the boardroom and start promoting negotiation that represents a positive exchange of opportunity for all parties involved.
Sheena Morgan is the owner of Lengo a business consultancy suite specializing in competitive business development and business asset creation. She is a 20-year veteran of the Supplier Diversity industry and staunch advocate of small & minority business entrepreneurs. She enjoys educating, informing, and empowering professionals everywhere.
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