Since when is there something wrong with winning? And who wants to lose? 

No one I know.  So what is the secret?  It is that you need to work with other people, win agreements, and in the process, not make them feel like losers.  Everyone at the table needs to walk away feeling like they have something to gain by working together.  Otherwise, they under-perform and under-deliver down the road.

I recall a negotiation workshop that I facilitated with Motorola employees a while ago…. I distributed candy bars to 16 people who were participating in an experiential activity.  I told the group that the outcome of the exercise would determine who would “win” all the candy bars (which would mean that some participants would have to give their candy bars to the winning team at the end).

Early on, one team decided that if they collaborate with their opponents they could work together to win and split the candy bars, even though one member complained he didn’t like chocolate.  They launched their strategy, but soon discovered that their opponents were only out to win for themselves. I overheard the other team say “We’ve got them now.  They’re going down!”

The team that was being treated like losers felt like losers. And, losers have amazing power that most people aren’t unaware of. Losers can keep a team from winning. In this case, without much prompting, the losing team ate their candy bars, including the participant who claimed he didn’t like chocolate!

Leadership in Action: What You Can Do

  • Be careful about your own drive to win.  In Getting to Yes authors Ury and Fisher define negotiation as “getting the most for yourself that the other side can live with.” They remind us to be firm on issues, but not harsh.
  • Make sure the other side has a compelling reason to perform – and walk away with something that keeps them at the table.

Negotiation is not a battle of wills and personality.  It is not about winning (with a few exceptions), which is short term.  It is about long-term success.  Follow this simple three-step strategy to get there.

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Know what you need.
  3. Work collaboratively with others to get there.

    Lory Fischler