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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode

  • Go in with an intentional plan. The odds of achieving your ultimate goals are extremely low if you try to improvise. Even when your team knows each other well and has experience together, it’s essential. Keep your agenda flexible where ever possible, but establish it in advance.
  • Get alignment internally over your strategy and goals. The sooner you approach it, the better. Hopefully, everyone will want to succeed. However, in less cohesive environments, things like worksheets can help.
  • Role-playing exercises can sometimes help people get a better idea of what to expect. Usually, a volunteer(s) stands in for the other side(s), negotiating from that perspective. In addition to familiarizing the inexperienced, this can facilitate evaluating the team’s dynamic and strategies in motion.
  • There are multiple possible roles that team members can be assigned. At the same time, you’ll often need a primary negotiator (for direct communication), a secondary (to listen), someone handling logistics (taking notes and keeping technological trains on time), and an expert(s) on the subject matter.

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Executive Summary

Welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! Today’s topic is negotiating within a team concept. Sometimes multiple people need to represent your organization. However, what roles or responsibilities should you assign them?

In fact, how else can you, as the team leader, help to ensure success?

Plan For Internal Alignment

Teamwork doesn’t always happen automatically. In fact, sometimes even gathering the best combination of coworkers without an agenda creates chaos.

Instead, go in with an intentional plan. It doesn’t have to be inflexible. Nevertheless, have a clear concept for everyone to pursue.

Know in advance what things should look like. Moreover, keep in mind how everyone’s voice will get heard and what your process will be.

First of all, think through the lens of the 4 steps of negotiation: preparation, conduct, measuring success, and review.

Let’s say you are one of 4 people assigned to negotiate on behalf of their company. As a team, do some stakeholder math. What do you know about who will be in the room?

Consequently, what are their interests? Jointly brainstorm options, as well.

If you have a healthy team environment, this can be done collectively. On the other hand, sometimes a team’s culture doesn’t encourage open criticism.

As a result, understanding and collaboration may be limited. If that’s the case, consider exercises like rehearsals. These will give people a feel for the upcoming situation. In fact, consider having team members fill out a pre-negotiation worksheet, too.

Designate Roles for Team Negotiations Early

Identify at least some of the roles that will be necessary beforehand, while you are at it. With this in mind, there’s usually a specific negotiator who is the primary communication link.

Meanwhile, a secondary negotiator may help tremendously. When multiple people speak simultaneously at the table, he or she catches details missed by the primary.

At the same time, a logistics specialist can take notes for everyone’s benefit. Additionally, they can make sure the correct PowerPoint slide is on-screen as needed.

A subject matter expert(s) can be invaluable for team negotiations. In fact, they’re handy, even when they’re not directly involved. For example, they may have information that’s critical to your goals.

Negotiations often require participants to brainstorm freely. Meanwhile, implementers help verify which options are genuinely possible and what the actual costs would be.

Key Takeaways for Team Negotiations

  • As the team leader, frame guidance and direction using the 7 elements of negotiation. These are interests, options, legitimacy, alternatives, communication, relationship, and commitment. They provide conducive structures for alignment and more.
  • Understand that everyone won’t always buy in. As a leader, anticipate occasional disagreement as a sign of honesty. If every team member always agrees 100% of the time, someone may be holding back.
  • Give us a 5-star rating at Apple, Spotify, or where ever you listen from (please). Your feedback helps us to grow. If you’re receiving value, we’d appreciate your sharing with a friend, too.

Nolan and Aram have more on preparing and executing team negotiations in this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Questions and topic suggestions to team@negotiatex.com are always welcome. Don’t forget to drop by negotiatex.com for more information on today’s topic and our negotiation prep tool, either.

Your time’s important to us. Thanks for listening!


Nolan Martin : Welcome to another episode of the negotiate X podcast. I am your cohost and co-founder Nolan Martin. With me today is my good friend, Aram Donigian and Aram, how are you doing?

Aram Donigian : I'm great. Nolan. How are you today?

NM : I'm doing well. How was your, uh, your trip to go pick up little Miss Maisie?

AD : The trip was awesome. So for those of you that don't know, we just adopted a new little Scottish terrier and her name is Maisie and she's adding all sorts of fun and excitement to the family. So the trip was actually the easiest part. Now, we've got to do some work and get her a housebroken, but I think you probably know a thing or two about that Nolan.

NM : Yeah. And for those of you that don't know, basically my wife and I have fostered dogs over the last couple of years, and I think we've hit about 38 or so I believe. Yeah. Very familiar with the, uh, the breaking in of the new puppy.

AD : We should do an episode called negotiating with puppies.

NM : [Laughs] Yeah, I think so. Well today I am very excited to talk about how to negotiate with a team concept. So basically if you're going to have multiple people that want to be at the table, or at least in the room, what are some different roles or responsibilities that we can assign each of the members to have a productive negotiation? How's that sound Aram?

AD : No, I think it's great. And it is a fun topic because I mean, you and I've spent a lot of time in our time of service, but also now we've gotten out, working as parts of teams and this, so this is a kind of a critical concept. And I think one that sometimes gets missed within organizations.

NM : Alright so usually I think, um, we've identified that it's best to have kind of that one-on-one structure in a negotiation, or at least that's the easiest, maybe not the best. So what needs to occur or what should happen if you're going to have multiple people involved in the negotiation process?

AD : Yeah. So let me get to like, let's frame out, maybe the problem a little bit more so, so we do need, because we sometimes have different expertise within an organization. We didn't have different stakeholders who are critical, who need a place at the table, whether that's because they have input or because they need to hear something. We're often going to find ourselves with multiple people at a table. And so we need a way to be able to bring them to the room without them tripping on each other, or if they're operating in different rooms. So we have different members from operations negotiating with another counterpart's operations team and our engineering team, but then we're negotiating another component. I mean, to ensure shore in different rooms, we need to make sure there's some alignment across both space and time. And so I think that's probably my first piece of advice is getting alignment internally over, um, kind of our strategy and our goals.

NM : Yeah. So I think, you know, one of the key things that we kind of talked about with this is to go in with an intentional plan. It doesn't have to be a concrete, rigid plan. It can be flexible. I mean, as we know in our military experience, no plan survives first contact, right?

AD : That's right. Yeah. I mean, the enemy always gets a vote, right. And you and I, you and I would never frame, uh, our negotiation counterparts as, as the enemy, right? We'd always say the other party or our counterparts, sometimes even our negotiation partners, those are words we would use. And you're absolutely right. That we, at least, if we're going to go into it as a team, we need to have a clear plan on what this looks like, how our voices are going to get heard and kind of what our process is.

Assigning Negotiation Responsibilities To A Team Of Four [4:28]

NM : Alright so let's talk about it. Let's say, um, we have a group of four individuals. They want to take part in some negotiation for their company. What are some helpful roles or responsibilities we can assign each of them.

AD : Sure. So first of all, let's start with kind of, as we think through our kind of steps in the negotiation process, and we think about preparation, conduct, measuring success and then review. So let's start with preparation. I think there's ways to break up preparation pretty well. So we can jointly as a team, you know, do some stakeholder mapping, understand all the counterparts, all the different touch points that we might have with them. We can certainly break that out, flush out, uh, what we know about the meeting room, what those different folks that we anticipate engaging with, what are their interests? Are we really clear on ours? We can brainstorm together different options. And within that, we can actually do some, Hey, you know, Nolan, I want you to focus more on kind of option generation Candace. I want you to focus more on what do we think their alternatives are? Have we thought about what ours are? And so even in preparation, we think we can split that up. Then as we get to conduct, which I think is what you're asking about, there's probably some different roles there we can assume too. Well,

NM : I kind of want to back up to preparation. I was just kinda thinking of something. If, say you have some time to prepare for a negotiation, have you found it helpful to have each of the team members fill out their own negotiation prep worksheet, or, you know, is it better to do it collectively? I mean, what are your thoughts on that?

AD: : I think there can be pros and cons both ways. I think you can do it collectively if you have what I would call a healthy team environment, where the teams can, you know, openly criticize and do some unfettered brainstorming. If you've had that kind of built into your team culture, great. Go for it. If that's something that's a little harder because people don't like being criticized or it hasn't been welcomed in the past, then absolutely fill in your own and then come back and have a discussion about, “Hey, here's how I'm kind of reading the situation. Here's how I'm doing it.” I think then you gain some of the richness from different perspectives. Let me add one more thing that may be really useful for a team to do when you're getting ready to negotiate in preparation to Nolan. And you kind of, as we're having this discussion, you kind of make me think about this.

I would definitely do rehearsals. That's something near and dear to yours and my heart. I would use the opportunity to have a team negotiating, to actually kind of role play it, get a feel for what it's going to sound like, get a feel for when different people might bring their voice and their expertise. If you kind of have a cross-functional team, you know, representing the organization at the table, I would go ahead and role play that and use one person as kind of the other side and maybe multiple voices from the other side and be able to kind of role play it. So I, I would add that to the kind of the preparation piece.

After Roles Are Assigned, It’s Time For Execution [7:06]

NM : I think that's a great point. All right. Kind of moving on here to execution. How do you kind of see this flushing out?

AD : I think again, having outlined a good process and having kind of a good agenda is going to help internally. Another thing that's going to help is having some roles identified, right? So being really clear on different roles that, you know, we've done some work in the past with the FBI hostage negotiators. They have a great example in terms of, you know, the way they formulate their teams. So they'll often have you kind of a team leader or supervisor they'll have a primary negotiator. Who's kind of the direct communication link. They have a secondary negotiator who, you know, is listening- probably has those important job, because they're trying to hear for things the primary negotiator may not. They actually bring in other roles such as the intelligence officer, somebody who's going to be kind of collecting information for them. It's often real time for organizations that could be in advance.

They actually have a psychological expert to understand the emotional state of their counterpart. Probably something we don't bring to our teams, but it's a, you know, certainly some analysis to be done. And then they have some kind of logistical sort of roles to just somebody who's taking notes. Who's making sure we have the right materials? Are we reviewing the right documents? Do we have the equipment we need, if you know, if we're going to be, working together with our counterparts, you know, on some sort of PowerPoint or if we're doing this virtually, is everything set up? So, I mean, I think there's some value there too in considering that more administrative logistical piece as part of the team,

NM : So Aram is there anyone else that you considered bringing in on this negotiation?

AD : Subject matter experts as appropriate can add a lot. So they may not be party to the negotiation itself, but they may have some information that's really critical. So somebody from finance, somebody from operations, somebody from engineering. In fact, on those last two pieces, a lot of organizations that I work with, one thing they do is they consider bringing in an implementer to the team. And the reason for that is it's easy to get caught up in as a negotiator, all the creative things we might do to solve this problem. And at the end of the day, if that negotiation result can't be implemented well, it was all for naught. So we need the ability to make sure kind of a dose of reality and that engineer, that person who had operations, who's going to put this thing into practice. That's a real valuable person to have at the table who can say, “Yeah, we can do it on that timeline. Absolutely. We could get that done to that spec. Absolutely. Or “No, that's, that's really not possible.” Or that's going to come at a cost of other lines of effort, other places we're putting, we have other priorities. So I think that's another consideration for what we bring to the table.

NM : Quick sidebar here, [laughs] I know exactly what you're saying with this. Because with my other company, gray line media, I may or may not have recently agreed to something without my technical expert being involved. And I think it's going to come back to bite me in the butt. So we'll talk about it probably in a future episode.

AD : Never a good thing, my friend but I would say it's common. Uh, there's some interesting research. I don't have at my fingertips right now, but, um, I mean the number of negotiated agreements that break down in implementation, it's fairly significant. And you see some of that with the issues that companies have around mergers and acquisitions too. That's a really difficult thing to pull off. It sounds really good when you're at the negotiation table, it's a whole another thing when it's trying to be implemented. So that could be, again, something major like purchasing the company, it could be something a little bit more minor? Yeah.

NM : So now let's talk about the actual negotiation more along the lines of like the agenda. How are you going to shape this out when there's multiple people potentially participating?

AD : Yeah. So I'll just, I guess the, how versus what the, what is you gotta be, you gotta have an agenda. You've got to have a clear process or folks are going to just step on each other and you're going to, you have increased the likelihood you're going to go in circles. You've got to have something in terms of what that agenda looks like. You know, again, I guess it's kind of based on where you are in the negotiation process, most negotiations are occurring, you know, over some time. So if you're early in the process, you know, having- it may make a lot of sense to have like an agenda where we really identify the problem and we really need to do some root cause analysis of the challenges we're facing, be really clear on what our concerns are and if we can get to it, do some brainstorming on possible options. And that might make sense to do kind of planaria altogether or make, make a lot of sense that you've got multiple people and assuming your counterpart has multiple people to do some breakout and start building some cross party alignment.

The Importance Of The Team Leader [11:47]

NM : Alright Aram, as you progress throughout the negotiation, what are you going to do as kind of the team leader to bring in the team one more time before you actually reach a deal or anything like that?

AD : I was kind of describing what you might do early in a negotiation process. If you're further along into the process, a little bit more mature and you're actually getting ready to kind of reach an agreement. You know, I think there's some things you might consider as you start to refine products. You need to know how many more meetings do we need in the sequence. Are we reaching a good agreement? Are we filling the pressure to close because of where we are maybe in the quarter or in the year. And there's somebody kind of saying, ah, you know, we want to make that agreement. We may not be quite there. So we need to make kind of a, there needs to be an intentional decision around the team management about, “Hey, can we, can we step out for a moment and just kind of level our bubbles, so to speak, make sure that we are still all aligned as we get ready to move into a commitment phase and then implementation phase, have we missed anything?” And I think that honest brokering and can be incredibly helpful for a team in those mature stages of the negotiation. You know, Nolan, you know, you've had a lot of experience leading teams throughout your military time, you know, I'm curious, what do you do if, if you've experienced this, where you thought you had team alignment, everybody seems on board that you have that one person who's kind of pushing back the scenting and is now kind of is potentially throwing this negotiation off, off tracks.

NM : Yeah. So I think each of my teams I've always had that one person, but actually, you know, as a leader, I've always found them very valuable because they're going to identify some things I may not have thought about. You know, I don't think it's necessarily good for everyone to always be on the same page. I encourage people to speak their opinion and then it doesn't necessarily have to be up to a vote, but I definitely want to take that into consideration and then, but we still gotta move the ball forward. So I think, “Hey, I listened to them. It's a valid point. We either adapt or change our plan.” If we're going to, you know, arrive at some sort of conclusion, then that's it. Like it's got to end there. It's not something that's going to continue on. Does that make sense to you?

AD : Yeah, it does. And the fact that it doesn't have to be kind of this, everyone on board go, no-go sort of decision kind of a very, what I'd call kind of a checklist mentality, be one in which, you know, “Hey, that diverging point of view is incredibly valuable. Wow, let's go back because we didn't consider it. Let's go back and consider that now.” Or, you know, we have, we've acknowledged the, kind of the risk that you're raising and we have some ways to mitigate it and manage it as, you know, as we move forward. I think it's pretty naive to think that we're going to have a perfect solution every time that everyone on our team is on board with. And if we're going to always wait for that, I mean, like you said, you know, we got to get that ball moving. If you're always waiting for everyone to a hundred percent, be in love with everything you're going to do, I don't think anything's ever going to get done. So I think the way you framed that up is really good.

NM : All right Aram. Well, I appreciate the conversation today. As you may know, this is a podcast that is all about action and the whole purpose is to elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation. So with that, Aram, what are some key takeaways for our listeners to better prepare for any future negotiations?

Action Items For Aspiring Negotiators [15:00]

AD : Sure. Yeah. As listeners who've been with the program for a while, know we use these seven things called the seven elements of negotiation, interest options, legitimacy, alternatives, communication, relationship, and commitment. And when I think about managing a good effective team, I think that a leader needs to be able to frame guidance and direction using those seven things. Are we aligned? Are we clear on what our interests are? And have we as a team collectively really considered what theirs are, have we done a good job brainstorming possible solutions? And are we open to doing that as part of the team process with our counterparts and so forth. And I would work through those seven elements as both an alignment structure and as a guidance structure for the team that I'm leading. Yeah, sure.

NM : And I think that a point that I would like to make is just as the leader, makes sure that you're creating an atmosphere where not everyone is going to buy in all the time, because if you are in the event that everyone agrees, then they're likely not being completely open and honest with you. And it all starts with culture. So I encourage you to definitely check that out. All right. So the next key point is we need you to head to apple podcasts or wherever you listen to this podcast and give us a five-star rating. We greatly appreciate it. We are growing pretty quickly, a lot faster than I think we were ready for. So we definitely appreciate that to the NEGOTIATEx team out there, everyone listening. Thank you very much for any of the information that we had today. In the episode, you can go to negotiate x.com/eleven. There you'll find some resources, likely just the prep tool that Aaron keeps mentioning that would help prepare you for any upcoming negotiations. If you have a topic that you would like us to cover in future episodes, then please shoot us an email at team@negotiatex.com. And we will try to address it in further episodes. And with that, we will see you in the next episode.

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