We are all involved in negotiations many times a day in our relationships, at work, at school, in traffic and with ourselves. What is fascinating is that much of the time we do not realize we are negotiating unless the stakes are major. Then negotiating appears to be this ferocious monster that gets our pulse racing, palms sweating and emotions frayed.
I was speaking with my very good friend Dennis Johnson - a television and film producing executive who has worked with NBC, ABC and Showtime - and the subject turned to negotiation. Dennis told me of a situation he had to deal with while he was the President and General Manager of a startup network. This company was going through the process for approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to become a publicly traded company and had been assigned an officer who seemed to be unsupportive. This proved to be a challenge when this officer exhibited a negative attitude and was inconsistent and could be unavailable for weeks at a time.
Negotiating experts would tell you to separate the people from the problem. Dennis took care of the problem of the person to make room for the original problem to be resolved: he approached the officer on a personal level, expressing his concerns and frustrations with the process, but in a non-confrontational way. He established a relationship for mutual gain. Using his usual charm, he won the officer over and the approval process continued smoothly after that. Allowing the emotional expressions of frustration and anger would only have made the situation worse.
In carrying out the day-to-day functions of his job, Mr. Johnson didn't only have to negotiate with people outside his company and you most likely have to negotiate on a daily basis with your co-workers as well, even though you might be on the same side. My friend told me about how he had to negotiate with his business manager who would, in turn, be negotiating with the manager or agent of a talent he wanted to use, who would subsequently be negotiating with their client the talent. In all of these negotiations, it is important to be aware of, and recognize your counterpart's status, as well as the roles they play, since these can determine their interests and positions. Understanding people's interests and positions makes it easier to determine common grounds and issues and helps in creating new options to explore.
Dennis explained how he came to appreciate the role of his business manager once he understood that their job was, to an extent, to protect him from his own creative passions. In the end, he said, "The bottom line is not who wins, but which decision benefits the company the most". Acknowledging this made is easy for him to give more autonomy to his business manager, which, ironically, created a greater sense of affiliation.
I asked him for advice in my own negotiations. His response was: "Be aware of others' perceptions of your power, - leverage it to your advantage, and know when to walk away".
Invaluable advice, if you ask me. Feel free to use it.....Tell them Dennis sent you.
Here's a link to more information on effective negotiating.