Negotiations are comprised of small groups of people struggling to accomplish a mission. Such groups can be viewed as teams. Teams are management challenges. When viewed collectively, the two opposing negotiating forces actually comprise a potential team populated by competing forces. This discord threatens the team environment.
If you are expanding your team, you are adding the management challenge of having to manage the people on your team. You assume responsibility for your team's preparation, pre-engagement research and the role each co-negotiator will play. You need most importantly to establish a global goal for the team and strategy for the pending session. If you are part of a negotiating team but not the team leader, make sure you know the team's goals and objectives. If they are not clear, ask for clarification. Success is being part of a winning team; not knowing why your team failed. Worse yet is to not know why! If the other side brings in a team of negotiators, You need to take steps to engage and manage their team.
If you are facing a team of negotiators, welcome the opportunity as a management challenge. Apply basic team building tactics to begin to merger the two teams:
- Welcome the other team to the negotiation.
- Observe the other team's pecking order and note who your prime opponent defers to, if anyone. This may tell you who the real decision maker is.
- Don't assume the primary speaker is the actual team leader or decision maker.
- Pepper random members of the other team to uncover latent leaders or issues that need to be addressed. Interview each new member of the team as to their role, qualifications and specific area of expertise.
- Establish your role as the overall discussion leader stating clearly and concisely the objective of the day’s discussions.
- Look for areas of disagreement or conflict between the other team members. Typically non-verbal communications reveal such discord.
- Take time to fully debrief the other team, individually, before launching into the issues of the day.
Negotiating is small group management challenge. Seek to engage and involve the other team as part of the collective team. This will predictably come as a surprise to them. Confusing your opponent is often a viable negotiating tactic.
The group is dysfunctional at the start. Their are conflicting goals and objectives. You can establish an informal leadership role if you are able to establish a common goal for the collective group. This is not as hard as it sounds. You have all invested the time and money to attend the meeting. That presumes a common goal. Try to find a way to establish that goal as the primary purpose of the meeting in a fashion that addresses the needs of both sides.
The author is an assistant editor at How-to-Negotiate.com, a site featuring articles about corporate team building required in the dispute settlement process and how people negotiate everything in their daily lives be it personal issues, parenting matters, social conflicts, or business or work related challenges. The site promotes the fact that conflict is a natural aspect of everyone's life and we should all work at improving our ability to negotiate the curves life throws our way.