Negotiation is one subject I like the most for the second quarter of my MBA studying. It is interesting because I have to look realistically at my strengths in a given area and also at my weaknesses. The end result is hopefully an accurate picture of the skills I have to build on along with the attributes I want to obtain. However, preparing a self appraisal paper is a difficult task, nevertheless I will try to examine my strengths and weaknesses as a negotiator. I will suggest opportunities to build on my strengths and ameliorate my weaknesses. Throughout this paper I will explore the lessons I have learned, what I found surprising, and I will describe the negotiator who I aspire to become. All quotes are referenced from the course text - Lewicki, Saunders & Minton (2001).
I worked as a manager in corporate finance and development area and my job is about forming long term relationships (both shareholders and corporations), and building trust.
So it was not surprising to me that I am most comfortable and confident in an integrative negotiation format. My strengths as an integrative negotiator stem from my ability to work well with others. My past experience has made me very good at empathizing with the needs of others and recognizing the difference between my needs and theirs. In fact, the fundamental skills of effective corporate development are identical to the four major steps in the integrative negotiation process.
"Identifying and defining the problem, understanding the problem and bringing interests and needs to the surface, generating alternative solutions to the problem, and evaluating those alternatives and selecting among them" (p91).
When developing corporate relationship with other companies I have to work with them to achieve mutual goals - to find a win-win solution, create new value for the company thus maximizing shareholders' interests. I first have to identify the way to establish contacts with my clients - a client needs, in a word, what they can benefit from doing business with my company. Next I have to bring all interests to the table. I would like to perform the procedure as soon as possible however my corporate clients may be tired of ordinary approaches or may be have different expectations than us. Therefore, I have to provide several creative alternatives for my clients and let them select the best possible time and way to conduct our business together. According to Lewicki, Saunders & Minton (2000) this makes me very good at closing the deal in a negotiation (p78). Providing several option packages to my counterpart can help to both reach an agreement and to understand what factors are most important to them. Sometimes, I even get the chance to provide "sweeteners" or extra incentives to reach an agreement with my clients by promising to a round of golf after the deal is completed (p79).
It is important to stress that most of the negotiations I have taken part in involved multiple players who had wide cultural diversities. I had to meet my needs while working to meet the needs of my other colleagues, the senior management, the accounting and audit professionals, the administrative staff and the marketing and planning team. Simultaneously, I had to balance the needs of both my clients and the corporation they represent. This was very complex because the schedules of my counterparts differed drastically over a time zone. For example, most of my clients are in Hong Kong or China which is 12 hours ahead of us and in a very different business environment or corporate culture. Therefore, I had to think on my feet, problem solve and seek out common areas between parties in a very short time span. I firmly believe that I was able to achieve a satisfactory result in the Bradford Development negotiation because I have had a lot of practice in the multi-party arena as both a mediator and a participant.
My corporate development background has also helped me to be aware of perceptions. Good businessman knows to look past the angry scowl of a client to see the underlying reasoning behind the behavior. In other words, I do not fall victim to the halo effect that "occur(s) when we generalize about a variety of attributes based on the knowledge of one attribute of an individual" (p115). I have been programmed to look for the underlying cues and to constantly adapt my perceptual screening. This should be an asset to understanding my counterpart(s) in any negotiation.
My past experience in corporate development also makes me good at depersonalizing the problem and practicing emotional intelligence. Often in a negotiation people tend to "become evaluative and judgmental" (p93). Viewing the problem as being "I am right and you are wrong" (p93) will only escalate conflict. Limiting emotions both improves the negotiations process and protects self interests. If I were to have shown my distress to a client who disagree with my idea I would limit the ability to negotiate a deal with him in the future. In the baseball negotiation video (class #2) the facility owners did not show their distress when the team owner could not see past her own frame of reference.
I am also strong in the areas of generating trust. As a corporate development specialist I have to develop trust to care for my clients. Trust is also a key element in an integrative negotiation. "To develop trust effectively, each negotiator must believe that both she and the other party choose to behave in a cooperative manner; moreover each must believe that this behavior is a signal of the other's honesty, openness and a similar commitment to a joint solution." (p107).
Finally, I excel in other factors that facilitate a successful integrative negotiation. I believe in the idea of a common goal. I trust in my ability to work with others to solve a problem. I find it easy to believe that both my position and my counterparts are valid and I can communicate well and clearly. (p105-6).
My strengths have been apparent in the simulated in class negotiations. When working with Jamie Riff on the Tendley contract I was able to develop creative solutions to bridge our pricing gap including put advertising for the company in school for the August Group and suggesting payment schedule that spanned several years. I also worked well with Allen Zhou and Sheldon Lam Watt during the team negotiation. I took on a subordinate role, while Allen led the discussion. My role involved searching for cues from our counterparts to establish their goals and objectives and to relay my findings to the group when breaks were taken. Kevin Lam, Chris Matthews and I were able to work well together in the International Lodging Merger. We reached an excellent agreement with our counterparts. We used the good guy bad guy strategy. We took pre-planned breaks in order to adapt our offers according to the information from our counterparts.
My most obvious weaknesses stem from the fact that I am good at negotiations that focus on relationships, trust and a win-win situation. I enjoy these situations. Even though I have been almost eight years of corporate experience, I still get nervous and inpatients when my counterpart show strong signs of defensive strategy. Also, I am used to freely giving information to achieve a mutual goal and to trusting my counterpart. This makes me the perfect victim in a distributive negotiation. I realized that I lack the practice and experience using distributive tactics.
My lack of experience is reflected in the fact that even though I get the impression or recognize the perceptual cues that my counterpart is trying to trick me I cannot recognize the deceptive techniques they are using. When I negotiated the Job Contract with Sheldon, I got the impression that he was not treating this negotiation as strictly integrative win -win situation. It was not until after the deal was struck that I realized the tricks he had used to get the best possible deal for himself.
This simulated negotiation also taught me about my inability to see past my assumptions. When I went into the negotiation with Kevin (I was the candidate) I assumed that this was an integrative negotiation. I figured that I would have to work with Kevin (the manager) in the future so it would not make sense for him to use a competitive strategy and maximize his personal benefit at my expense (p38). I assumed that there was no opportunity to use deception. This was a naÃÂ¯ve way to view the situation. Why would the employer not try to maximize his personal benefit at my expense especially if he could pay me less then he was willing to?
Kevin also used a brilliant tactic that played on my assumption that none of the goals in the negotiation were mutually acceptable. I assumed that we were at opposite ends for every point we were negotiating. In actuality both parties wanted job assignment A and the placement of Winnipeg. Kevin used this to his advantage. By using an adaptation of the Bogey tactic, he made me believe that he wanted me to take Job assignment E and not assignment A. "Negotiators who use the bogey tactic pretend that an issue of little or no importance to them is quite important" (p82). He then leveraged this and made me believe he would be suffering a huge loss if I did not take assignment E. As a result he was able to influence me to give up one of my preferences. I gave up vacation time in order to get job assignment A. This simulation taught me a valuable lesson. I have to watch my assumptions and to fight hard to see through the actions of my counterpart in order to protect my personal welfare. Kevin deserves credit for being astute enough to take advantage of the situation. I commend this.
Another area where I show weakness is that I share information too easily, concede on issues too quickly, and I am impatient. Kevin was able to take advantage of me because I revealed to him that I wanted Job assignment A. It did not even occur to me that revealing this particular information would result in any harm to my situation. In fact, I was trying to be cautious with the amount of information I gave to Kevin while simultaneously giving him enough information in order to influence him to do the same. After my experience with Kevin I worked hard to improve in this area. During the Harbico negotiation I protected myself by not revealing my walk away limit and the areas where I was willing to concede until it was safe to do so. I also worked hard to slow down the Harbico negotiation so that I could intake all of the facts available and allow others to do the same. When the negotiation started I was in a vulnerable position representing the company. The Governor (Julie) wanted to eliminate me from the table. By slowing down the process I made others realize that I was not the party to remove. By not conceding early on an issue(s) I obtained a positive outcome, comparable to others in my role. Finding the balance in this area will be a key factor in my future success as a negotiator. It will also help me to avoid the winner's curse or wondering if I conceded too much too fast and could have gotten a better deal (p120).
I will also have to watch that I do not practice accommodative techniques when they are not appropriate. As a corporate development professional I often "maximize the others' outcome or let them gain to enhance the relationship" (p38). Effective corporate development involves putting the needs of the investors above your own. This strategy assumes that a relationship will occur in the future (if I give some now I will get more next time) and is obviously not appropriate for all win-win or any win-lose negotiations. I would always come up with the lower end of a deal. This will be a hard habit to break. Thus far I have not fallen into this trap.
Next, I have an ethical problem with using deceptive techniques and as a result I lack experience using them. I want to stress that I a very competitive person and not a saint. I like success and "winning". However, I prefer situations where parties can mutually succeed in a fair and equitable way. Thus, using the techniques like the bogey will not be easy for me. Especially when you consider that I am also a terrible at bluffing.
Finally, I will have to watch the language that I choose to use in a negotiation. I have been used to working and negotiating in a very relaxed environment. I will have to improve my lexical diversity. Being able to use a broad and rich vocabulary denotes confidence and competence. The opposite can give a counterpart the impression that I am anxious, uncomfortable or inexperienced (p113). I will have to work on managing my appearance with respect to language.
REDUCING MY WEAKNESSES AND INCREASING MY STRENGTHS THROUGH EFFECTIVE PREPARATION
I have a high opinion for negotiators who take the time to prepare and gather the appropriate information. Understanding the issues, stakeholders, alternatives, interests, priorities and goals are paramount to any successful negotiation. Well prepared negotiators have concrete supporting arguments and they know their starting points, their goals and when to walk away (p50). They have identified their reservation price and their BATNA. Only through careful planning will I improve my strengths and counter my weaknesses.
Careful planning will allow me to improve on my problem solving abilities. I admire people who are adaptable and flexible and can "use every negotiation technique (they) know" (p50). These are negotiators who believe in the contingency approach. Using all of the lessons that I have learned from the text, class simulations and lectures will help me to improve my weaknesses in negotiation and to build on my strengths.
Through better planning I will identify my assumptions and how I have framed the negotiation, I will be more patient and I will stay focused and composed under stress. The in class negotiations although valuable were no where near as stressful as a real life business deal will be. When I get stressed I tend stick to my frame of reference and focus on my assumptions. When I am stressed I become impatient and concede quickly. When I am stressed I show it. I respect people who can stay clear headed and who can manage "the actual give and take that occurs at the table, by staying in balance" (p112). They know when to be aggressive and when to concede, how to manage appearances or look the part and how to be patient and wait for the information to reveal itself. (p112). Careful planning will limit my weaknesses during stressful situations.
Planning will help me to negotiate ethically. I admire the ability to leave the table with good will when it is appropriate and achievable. I respect negotiators who know when to reveal information and how to balance the need for mutual trust and ethics with the need to protect oneself from harm.
Planning will help me to identify when distributive tactics are appropriate, what these tactics are and tactics I can use best. One of my errors in the course involved assuming that a negotiation was integrative and as such distributive tactics were not appropriate. In short, I have learned that the win- win situation is not always an optimal or even attainable outcome. It makes prefect sense that if you are in a one shot bargaining negotiation, like buying a home, the rules are different. It is appropriate and prudent to use competitive strategies when "parties do not expect to work together in the future" and "a fixed amount of resources are to be divided" (p38). Secondly, planning will help me to forecast the distributive techniques that my opponent might use and therefore be able to identify them. Lastly, through planning, I will identify techniques that I feel comfortable using in the distributive negotiation. I am very good at the "flinch", a technique where one displays an obvious negative emotion after a counterparts offer. I was able to perform my role as the "good guy" in the International Lodging Merger.
Planning will help me to improve on my listening abilities. I admire people like Bill Richardson (p50), who are good listeners and who can use active listening to gain information about what their counterparts' motivations are. Good negotiators use this information to evaluate the BANTAs and reservation prices of their counterparts. They identify if there is a zone of potential agreement (ZOPA). When there is no ZOPA, they use information to bridge the gaps, to expand the pie, in order to maximize joint benefit through integrative bargaining, and to claim all the value that is on the table. They also use this information to check the validity of their assumptions. Good listeners identify the frame of their counterpart and use this information to reframe how their counterpart views the issues. The video of the baseball negotiation was a valuable lesson from class. The facility owners were able to make a deal because they changed the offer to meet the frame of their counterpart. Therefore planning helps you create and capture all of the value at the table. I learned a valuable lesson from the EL-TEK negotiation with Doron and Joanne. Even though we worked well together and reached a favorable deal for ourselves there was some value left on the table. We could have listened even better to our counterparts and captured all of the remaining value.
According to the course outline negotiation is the art and craft by which decisions are made, agreements are reached, and disputes may be resolved between two or more parties. This self assessment has taught me that I have a lot of work a head of me before I can fairly state that I have mastered the art negotiations. I am up for the challenge. I am an optimist. I know that I can "come out of every meeting with something even if it is only a plan for a second meeting" or a new lesson for the future.