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5 Steps to Prepare for Negotiations

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The art of negotiation is a delicate balance between asking for too little and too much, according to Tim Lybarger, a human resource and organizational development expert.

To reach a balance, and a solution that is acceptable to both sides, you need to focus on the other person and anticipate what they need.

“You want to offer the other party things that are low-cost for you but high-value for them,” Lybarger explains.

As an instructor of professional development and corporate training courses in leadership and management, Lybarger focuses on principled negotiations, in which negotiators are neither friends nor adversaries but problem solvers. They are not “soft” negotiators who make concessions or “hard” negotiators who make demands and seek victory but “principled” negotiators who avoid having a bottom line, focus on the problem as something for both parties to solve, and work to find the wisest outcome that will result in mutual gain.

He’s used this technique throughout his career in both corporate and nonprofit settings. For 10 years, he served as manager of training and development with Nestlé University.

At one point, he negotiated with his boss to leave Los Angeles and work out of his newly purchased home in Vermont. He made it clear that he understood the pressures she was under to trim directors like him. Lybarger offered her a concession, suggesting he take the diminished title of manager – and live in Vermont. “At first she said no,” he recalls, “but then she thought about it and came back and agreed.”

Tips for negotiating
When you head into a negotiation, be it personal or professional, it’s important to be prepared. Lybarger offers these five steps to get ready:

  1. Separate the people from the problem you’re hoping to solve. Articulate the substance of the problem, and anticipate what problems you might run into with the other person.
  2. Identify the interests of both parties: yours and theirs.
  3. Brainstorm options for mutual gain. Anticipate where you and the other party might come together. Identify potential independent standards. What are the conflicting interests between you and the other party?
  4. Identify the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). This is what you’ll need if the negotiations fail to produce your ideal outcome – or the other party’s. You need to identify this beforehand so you know what you can live with.
  5. Finally, when it comes to any negotiations involving dollar figures, don’t focus entirely on the money.

Emphasizing Values Over Profits
“Most people get so focused on the dollar value,” Lybarger explains, “that they lose the greater value, which doesn’t have a lot to do with money, and then they damage the relationship.”

Emphasizing values over profits will benefit you not only in negotiations but also in other workplace situations, including restructuring and layoffs. In his professional development courses and leadership training seminars, Lybarger encourages professionals to develop “personal leadership” steeped in values.

“Each individual today has to have a clear understanding of what they truly value, over and above money, and a constantly evolving sense of how they can create value for others. This makes them less reliant on the leaders above them,” Lybarger says. “There’s an unlimited amount of opportunities for people. The biggest challenge is figuring out which ones resonate with your values.”

Tracey Maurer is a Senior Program Developer and Director of New Business Development for the UVM Center for Leadership and Innovation.

business leadership, negotiation styles
Tracey Maurer