The Leadership Value of having a “We Will Agree” mindset
One of the key competencies of an effective leader is the ability to negotiate, influence others and manage conflict. Achieving success in such negotiations, however, can be difficult, as multiple barriers often get in the way. How a leader navigates these barriers will, in many cases, determine the outcome.
Many years ago, while working on resolving labor disputes, I had the good fortune of meeting a management attorney during negotiations that were particularly challenging. The union leader involved in the dispute happened to be very difficult to work with, throwing up obstacles, grandstanding and, in general, slowing down the process, thus avoiding or at least trying not to effectively address the issues at hand. Negotiators who had previously dealt with him would come away frustrated and unable to get him to focus on resolving issues. This attorney, however, took a different approach. Rather than get frustrated or emotional as others had, his approach was from the beginning based on the mindset of “We Will Agree”.
Often, executives are not as effective as they could be in influencing others because they don’t take enough time to prepare to influence.
When I ask my executive coaching clients how much time they spend putting together business plans, they respond in numbers of weeks or months. But when they go into a meeting where it is critical for them to influence others, they wing it!
To influence effectively, prepare. Here are some key questions to think about as you prepare for interactions where you want to exert influence:
- Who will you be meeting with, and what are their perspectives on the situation?
- What do you want to gain from the discussion?
- What do they need to gain from the discussion, so that they will see the outcome as beneficial?
- Who are their key stakeholders, and how will they be impacted by the meeting outcome?
- What kinds of questions should you ask to get clarity on their needs?
- When they say no, how will you respond?
One of the most successful executives I know deals with difficult personalities by establishing a win/win mind set at the beginning of every interaction. He walks into meetings and declares that no matter what difficulties or barriers emerge, he will find a way to create a win/win outcome. With win/win as the destination, this leader gives context to objections, emotional outbursts, and aggressive behaviors. He keeps the focus on finding areas of agreement.
You, too, can use a win/win approach when dealing with difficult people:
- Listen to what the other person is really saying (and not saying)
- Ask questions to uncover conscious and sub-conscious needs
- Don’t allow anyone to “push your buttons”
- Focus on the win/win destination to preempt emotional responses
- Rephrase other peoples’ points of view, and seek clarification of their positions to show that you really understand where they are coming from
- Calmly articulate your own needs, and share how what you need will help all of you reach the win/win destination