Tips and Tricks for Negotiating for Yourself

“So much of life is a negotiation – so even if you’re not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you.” – Kevin O’Leary

When we think of negotiations, we tend to restrict our thinking to business situations like deals, compensation, office location etc. However, we negotiate in our daily lives starting as early as toddlers when children hold their parent’s hostage to have their way. To talk about some tips and tactics to help us amp up our negotiation game in every walk of life, the Society’s CFA Women’s Network hosted Laurel Bellows on November 27, 2018, at The Standard Club.

Laurel Bellows, founding principal of The Bellows Law Group, P.C. is past president of the nearly 400,000-member American Bar Association, past president of The Chicago Bar Association and past president of the International Women’s Forum Chicago and The Chicago Network. Bellows is currently serving on the Executive Committee of the InterAmerican Bar Association.

Bellows began the event with a short video clip of a comic which was aimed to explain how brains of men and women work. It was good humor that shed light on how men and women think differently and hence negotiate differently. Overall, it was a great event with simple yet important takeaways we all should focus on while negotiating. Some key themes to discussed during the event are briefly described below.

Know your opposition

Knowing how the opposition thinks and anticipating their goals and their best alternatives for the negotiation can help you strategize your efforts.

Determining the goal of negotiation

By determining what constitutes a successful negotiation to you can help you decide what works for you and how flexible you could be during the process. It is important to think about what kind of relationship you would like to have in the future with the counter party and how their non-performance could affect you. At the end of the day a successful negotiation is when you have a viable deal for both parties.

Preparation is Power

Key is to Prepare, Prepare and Prepare. Do not negotiate with your gut! Determine authority of the person you are dealing with and make sure they can sign off on the negotiated terms at the end of the conversation. You do not want to waste time negotiating with a person who would need approval from a higher authority which almost every time leads to a counter offer to your best negotiated terms. Gather knowledge, know your opposition and visualize your deal. This process will help you figure out motivation of the deal for yourself/client, define finite priorities and be able to articulate your position succinctly in 5-7 words. If you are dealing with a difficult person, be firm and don’t be afraid to walk out! If on the phone, respectfully let the other person know you are not comfortable with their behavior towards you (especially if they are shouting) and hang up. Deciding on where to hold the negotiations, your place or theirs? Your office will enable you to take control, their office would give you the ability to walk away. Whichever the case may be, own the room you walk-in!

Build a working relationship

Clarify your position, propose creative options and be consistent to establish trust/reputation with the opposition. Never lose sight of your reputation and listen closely to your opposition. Do not plan your response while listening to them, the brain can only focus on one!

Do not have more than one best alternative to what is on the table at any given time during a negotiation. The best alternative may change constantly as you may choose one over the other but avoid having more than one at any given time. If the BATNA is no deal you walk out! Make sure you are aware that walking out could be for good.

Control the Agenda

By controlling the agenda, you will be able to focus on objectives, control information exchange timing and who makes the first offer.

Persuade the Opposition

Be patient and listen to your opposition. Your tone of voice matters depending on who you are against. Mirror your opposition to engage with them and build trust and be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations. It is ok to be fearful, but you may be able reframe the situation with optimism and further the conversation with curiosity.

Conversational Techniques

Use accurate facts asserting informed certainty. Do not be afraid to interrupt to take control of the conversation but do so respectfully. It’s a good idea to have a default expression like a light smile to be unpredictable and be sure to practice a few default moods ahead of time. Power language is important. For example, using more ‘ands’ (positive) in place of ‘buts’ (negative) can make a difference. Try recording your ending sentence to see whether your statements have a hint of a question or uncertainty and address that. Use open questions to gather more information and use ‘blocking’ technique (answer with another question or refuse to exchange information at the time). Try to avoid impasses by talking past a ‘o’ by either stating facts or moving on to another subject.

Communication

Avoid negotiating on email unless you really must. It is easy for the opposition to say ‘no’ not leaving much room to negotiate. During team negotiations make sure you know ‘who is who’! A telephone negotiation can happen from time to time. Be prepared and have an agenda as small and simple as conveying a deadline or timeline or a mood. If you get a call suddenly, ask them call back in 5-10 minutes to make sure you are prepared and have an agenda. There is no excuse for not being prepared!

Reaching an agreement

Leaving a little bit something on the table sometimes during negotiations may help build long-term relationships. Attend carefully to the dates and time concessions. After the deal, the opposition party may come up with minor changes like a week or two early delivery dates or a minor design change in packaging. It is best to either refuse outright or ask something in return. It could be a small ask even if you don’t care much about the change but if not done at that time, expect many of such nuances down the road. Just be resilient!

Taking Control of Your Career

The CFA Women’s Network at CFA Society Chicago kicked off their series Taking it to the Next Level: Empowering Tools for Women in Finance aimed at events that optimize career development and advancement for women in the financial services area.

The first event in the series, titled Taking Control of Your Career, focused on managing and shifting the course of careers by the speaker Gail Meneley. Meneley is the co-founder of Shields Meneley Partners, a confidential advisory service to C-Suite executives and board of directors during times of organizational and professional crisis and transition. She was one of eight founders of the Center for Executive Options and served as a CEO of the Institute of Financial Education. With extensive business experience, Meneley has been widely quoted and published in multiple reputable business publications and has been the keynote speaker at national conferences and conventions. She holds a B.A. from Mundelein College of Loyola University and has participated in executive programs at the University of Texas, the University of Washington, and the University of Southern California. Additionally, she is active in many civic, cultural and business organizations including the Economic Club of Chicago, The Chicago Network, the Chicago Finance Exchange, and the Lake Forest Caucus.

Meneley presented advise on how to navigate through career transitions and or progression to the mostly female audience at a well-attended event. She touched upon some of the important, yet less discussed issues faced by women during their careers. Key takeaways from the discussion are briefed below.

Better Navigation at work

Meneley could not stress enough to remain confident in periods of uncertainty and self- doubt that women are more likely to feel than their male counterparts in the workplace. Additionally, she advised women to stop selling their abilities short – both internally and externally, and ‘learn to toot their own horns’ shunning the uneasy feeling which is usually experienced by most women in the situation.

She advised women to make the expectations at work clear at the outset by carrying out discussions that may be uncomfortable like the authority to carry out assigned tasks, extent of involvement in terms of leading a project vs helping the team in a more supportive role. This should help manage responsibilities and receive deserved credit for the performed work.

Stagnation and Progression

If you feel you are feeling stagnating at work or disagree with any aspect of your role, she advised to discuss it with your manager before thinking of switching jobs. However, just complaining about your situation will not be fruitful and instead take up this discussion with your manager with a suggestion to resolve it.

In order to prepare yourself for the conversation, make sure you understand the root cause of your feelings. Is it the lack of opportunities or lack of responsibilities? What would it take for you to feel satisfied at your job?

Being explicit about your expectations will help your manager address them more effectively. Signing up for not so popular projects would be one way to communicate your commitment and enthusiasm at work and a way to standout from your peers. Despite your efforts and failure on your managers part to resolve your reasonable concerns may be a sign to think about alternatives to the current role.

Assessing your dissatisfaction in the current role

Many women feel dissatisfied in their current roles which might be signs of emotional and/or literal blockage at work or a result of reaction to a negative situation at work. To deal with such feelings, Meneley provided some guidance to assess your situation by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you disagree with the overall business strategy?
  • Did you engage your manager without resolution?
  • Have you lost respect for the team?
  • Are you frustrated with the work?

If any of the above apply to you, it may be time to consider an exit. However, she cautioned to rule out any emotional reaction to a specific negative situation by giving it some time to see how you feel after a while. If after 6 months negative feelings haven’t improved or have gotten worse, it might be time for the necessary action.

Career Growth Strategy & Change in Jobs

Gail Meneley stressed on how one must ‘always’ continue to engage in networking and building professional and personal relationships whether they are looking for a job, looking to switch jobs or careers or content with their current employer. Constant networking should be an integral part of your overall career strategy.

Other important considerations should be self-reflection of whether you have achieved the satisfaction you expected in your current role or with your current employer? If not, what could be improved and how? What would be your favorite job and why? Do you feel like meeting your coworkers each morning? Do you see yourself managing other people?

If you feel you need to change jobs or transition into a different career path you must be thoughtful of your moves from one employer to the other and its emotional and practical implications. One very valid consideration would be the decision to relocate. If you do plan to relocate make sure it matters and is a long-term decision.

Skills Enhancement

In order to grow professionally, one should constantly learn new skills. Women who consider themselves as introverts can train themselves to become extroverts by doing the following:

  • Try to get to know other people
  • Draw out people by interacting with them and making them feel comfortable around you
  • Learn to read other people
  • Hire a coach. This should be particularly beneficial when transitioning for single person role a leadership role

Very effectively, Meneley explained how a manager’s role differs from that of a leader. Managers, she said, have a more engineering type process to tackle people and work whereas leadership roles are more about connection of hearts and minds. Effective leaders tend to focus on what interests other people and end up making them excited about the job. To ascertain a good leader from a bad leader, look at who everyone is following. To transition from being a manger to a leader, work on your people skills and do not hesitate to seek help from a career coaching expert.

Exit Strategy

Once you have made up your mind to leave your current employer, it is important to make your exit at a positive note. Meneley emphasized to maintain a relationship of mutual respect with the employer. This would include negotiating an exit package that both parties can agree on and using exit interview as a means of keeping your reputation intact. She strongly advised against suing the employer as this could have ramifications to your employability in the future.