Business development 19 July 2017

Want to thrive as a business leader? Improve your negotiating skills

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Clarity is key as a business leader

By developing a few key negotiating skills you can thrive as a leader whilst staying true to your personality, write authors of business book Real Leaders for the Real World, Karen Meager and John McLachlan.

Communicate clearly

A trait more common in women than men is to use softer language in their communication. There are times when this is really useful. As a leader though, clarity is key.

Avoid using words like perhaps, maybe, kind of, which leave a lot of room for interpretation and therefore are open to abuse, misinterpretation and lots of re-explaining. Also avoid inferential communication like dropping hints or making vague suggestions people can easily ignore or misunderstand.

Own your opinions. For example, it’s better to say “what I think would get us the best result here is..” rather than, “don’t you think it would be better to..”. Women often think they need to be harder as leaders but this is not true, just be clearer.

Negotiate well

Most people don’t have good negotiating skills or are good at dealing with conflict situations, both men and women. Generally though, men tend to push their way through these situations and a lot of women back down, feeling ambushed. This is not a good trait for being a leader. Here’s how to upgrade your negotiating skills and style.

  • If you feel like backing down, buy yourself some time instead – “That’s interesting, I’ll think about it and get back to you”. If you do end up backing down, at least you would have considered it properly rather than an instinctive response.
  • Learn to acknowledge someone else’s perspective without agreeing with it – “I can see this is important to you”or, “In your shoes, I would probably feel the same way about this situation”
  • Take discussions to the bigger picture rather than arguing on the same point – “I think we’re both concerned with the impact this will have on productivity generally”
  • Negotiate on the points that are important to them, not you. If you think a change would have a negative impact on the people but you know the other person cares more about profit and is less interested in people, put your argument in a way that speaks to their interest.

“If we push this through too quickly, a lot of people will have problems with it, which will mean us all spending a lot more of our time fighting fires rather than focusing on the job in hand. If we take it slower and pace people through it, it will be much easier to implement.”

Build emotional resilience

Don’t become “hard” emotionally, the belief that business leaders need to toughen up has taken a negative toll on organisations since the 1980’s. Instead use these tips to build your emotional resilience and “bounce back ability”.

  • Remembering that other people’s behaviour towards you says more about them than you, don’t take it personally. If there is an ongoing theme – like your communication seems to confuse a lot of people – use this as feedback you can pay attention to.
  • Remember the best way to support people is to empower them rather than to jump in and rescue them. Teach people the skills to do things for themselves and solve their own problems.
  • If you feel like reacting emotionally buy yourself at times, go to the toilet, take a phone call or remember an urgent meeting. Then go back to it when you’ve calmed down and taken a few deep breaths.
  • Don’t let people off the hook for bad behaviour, you train people all the time how to behave towards you in terms of what you’re prepared to put up with. Even if you go back to address it later, make sure you do.

Overall, the key the thriving is to know yourself well and know how to manage yourself in a way that sets you up for success. It’s easy to feel pressured into attending social events, but if they’re  not your thing and they drain you, you could consider going along for just a short time.

If you have a queue of people at your desk, find a way of creating some time where you can have some space and think. If you like to be in the hubbub of things, make sure you get your people top up and not become too isolated.

Keeping yourself well and energised is probably the single most important factor when it comes to thriving as a leader, so instead of only thinking about what everyone else needs, instead consider what you really need to do to be at your best more often.

John McLachlan and Karen Meager are the authors of Real Leaders for the Real World and founders of Monkey Puzzle training and consultancy, a UK NLP training company.

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