Career Advice

The Number 1 Skill You Need to Master At Work Is…

Negotiation is a necessary skill in all areas of life. Whether you realize it or not, you probably negotiate in your personal life on a regular basis. Did you reach a compromise on where to have dinner with your friends? Or did you develop a pros and cons list to debate which show should be binge-watched on Netflix next? If the answer to either of these questions was ‘yes,’ then you’ve negotiated.

In business, negotiations can either be obvious or subtle, but with results that have equal weight.

Here are some examples of where your negotiation skills are integral to business success:

When the other party has reason to not give in
While negotiating a sales contract is a more obvious form of negotiation, negotiating vacation time may be less apparent. You begin by asking your boss for time off, and it so happens that the time period you seek is not ideal for them. This could be for a number of reasons: it’s the busy season for customer inquiries; someone else already has requested that time off and your being gone would reduce the team to a skeleton crew, or whatever.

The negotiation then becomes a challenge to see what you can offer to assuage your boss’ mind that your absence will not impede workflow and results. The value of being a solid and genuine negotiator who ‘gets’ that it’s not about just getting what you want but also about leaving the other party feeling they got (most) of what they wanted, as well, is an art.

[Related: 4 Questions You Must Answer To Negotiate Your Salary…Or Else!]

When the other party is resistant to change
Navigating a matrix environment implies that you are charged with a complex project crossing a large number of business units and across multiple states or even countries. You have to use influence to get everyone to cooperate. It is likely in these situations you are not directly managing all of the stakeholders. This is when negotiating comes into play to convince others they should comply with your requests even if they are not directly obliged to follow your orders. The push on your end has to be to use your leadership skills in tandem with your negotiation skills to inspire other leaders within the decision-making process to see the advantages of following your lead, so that they in turn inspire those they report to, to do the same.

[Related: I Hate My Boss – What Do I Do?]

When you are the main benefactor
Perhaps there is something someone else has that you desperately need to advance your (your division’s) goal, but there is no obvious benefit to the person who will be providing this service/product/tool/information, etc. Your skills at vetting out potential imminent or even future benefit to the other person are integral in building and negotiating a solid case. You want to make sure that even if in real time the decision would only benefit you, that you frame the situation as a win-win for both parties. This will ultimately inspire the other party to give into your needs. This particular approach takes a little extra work, including some personalized research to make sure that you’re finding ways that the other party would be moved to agree.

Ultimately any negotiation conversation involves both speaking and listening. You want to make sure that you understand where the other party is, what would motivate them to agree to your suggestions and what you’re willing to compromise to move the point forward.

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