Negotiation proficiency a non-negotiable for the 21st Century leader!

When people discuss the profile and enablers of an effective leader, power is top of the list.

To do their work well, leaders require outright power. Leaders crave outright power because when they attain the state of powerfulness, they can order others to do things they want to be done for them. You may never appreciate how difficult it is to get others to do the work you want to be done until you don’t have the power to get them to do it.

Our way and not Your way!

In others words, whether others do the work you want them to do or not, boils down to how much authority you have over them. Really?

Well, we have to tread carefully with the above theory. In this day and age, where the Millennials are occupying increasing space on the corporate middle and senior management tiers, even those with outright power can’t always have their way. Leaders, especially generation X, are waking up to the reality that they are not always able to get those below them to do work that they don’t want to do or believe in.

Forgive us for not fronting in this blog the X generation and those that come before them. We are writing to influence the management of the emerging critical mass in the 21st Century (2001-2100) labour force.

The power of these two generations is undeniable. By 2020, Millennials will form 50% of the workforce. Also, the next generation (Z), that is even more socially complex than the Millennials is starting to get into the labour force.

The Millennials and Z-generation are a different kettle of fish and are forcing OD practitioners to rethink the configuration and relationship management at organisations. There is a shifting psyche amongst the Millennial and Z generations. They thrive on positivism at work and obsession with themselves. A study by PWC points to the unusual characteristics of the Millenial generation. They are forcing a change in the work dynamics and rendering negotiation skills a vital tool in the leader’s toolbox

Employers can’t merely disregard what Millenials and future generations want. OV’s have to be thought about and acted upon in sync – the leadership, strategy, design and people foci have to be Millennial and Z-generation compliant

Indeed, there may be a real case here for changing the description of someone providing their skills for a fee from labour/er or employee to partner or associate. That is how much the balance of power is shifting in favour of the Millennial and soon, the Z-generation

It’s no longer a one-way street and effective 21st Century leaders and managers need to master the art of negotiation

Why negotiation skills?

There will always be tension of some kind at work. As a matter of fact, we at the Effectiveness lab encourage such tension. It’s healthy and prevents group-think developing at work.

However, the complex, 24/7, turbulent, and fast moving work environment has led to more tension, than is at times required at work. Anxiety, when coupled with an increasingly loud and rights-conscious Millennial labour movement, has made the job of a manager harder.

Outright diktats won’t work any longer. Where diktats by the seniors are acceptable, it’s due to the lack of an alternative employer or source of livelihood, for those taking the diktats. The latter causes productivity challenges at work. When you force others to think like you, without creating space for their opposite views, you create team disequilibrium at work. Team disequilibrium equals lost organisational value and wealth or impact

Truth be told, absolute power alone is no longer enough to get others to do what you want them to do. There has to be win-win discourse between those of you that have the power to order others to do specific tasks and those being asked to do the jobs

Negotiation and organisational context:

Of course, we aren’t advocating for giving the Millennials and Z-generation a blank cheque at work. Negotiation has to be put into context. And just like leaders are being called upon to understand the mannerisms and work psyche of the youngest generations, they, in turn, have to understand that organisations need to remain viable. Viability is two-pronged – it has to do with the bottom line or impact for the non-profit entity, but also the values that are espoused by the organisation. Organisations have a ‘personality’ that has to be respected all the time. It’s its cause for being!

According to the book Negotiating at work, negotiation at the workplace is premised on three main pillars:

  • Organisation Culture
  • Past negotiations
  • Power relationships

Negotiation is not held in a vacuum. The above three factors drive which issues are negotiable and by whom. There will be specific matters in an organisation that aren’t negotiable due to the organisation’s culture. For example, some Charity organisations from the West won’t negotiate with anyone, both internally and externally, on gender equality.

Past negotiations may help determine what is negotiable and by whom as well as how to go about it. Negotiations with labour Unions are generally informed by previous negotiations. The same would apply to individuals negotiating for promotion, pay review etc.

Negotiations are also influenced by the relationship between the person negotiating and the person they are negotiating with. For example, it can be a tough job negotiating with a person that is more senior than you. Yet, in an increasingly flatter and more networked modern organisation, middle-level cadres have to negotiate and convince managers more senior than them on what to do or not within the agency’s customarily limited resource envelope or strict values regime. The better a job you do at selling yourself and unit, the more likely you are to get resources for your project and at times, secure your position longterm.

Negotiation tips:

Ed Brodow’s ten tips for successful negotiating:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
  2. Shut up and listen.
  3. Do your homework.
  4. Always be willing to walk away.
  5. Don’t be in a hurry.
  6. Aim high and expect the best outcome.
  7. Focus on the other side’s pressure, not yours.
  8. Show the other person how their needs will be met.
  9. Don’t give anything away without getting something in return.
  10. Don’t take the issues or the other person’s behaviour personally.

So the bottom line is – there has always been and will continue to be problems between individuals and teams at work. However, we all need to take note of one changing dynamic. That absolute power alone is not enough to get others to do what you want them to do.

As a matter of fact, developing a genuine negotiating culture at your organisation is a tool for creating change and excellent and sustainable change that ultimately sustains all the four OV’s

Categories: People

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