QBQ! QuickNote Negotiate to Be Outstanding!
I sold leadership training in the Twin Cities of Minnesota from 1986 to 1995. One of my favorite clients was St. Jude Medical (maker of heart valves and more) in St. Paul, Minnesota. The VP of Operations, Bob Elgin (now retired), and I not only had an outstanding working relationship, we became friends. He also taught me a great deal. One of his “Bob-isms”—those wise and pithy one liners that I still remember—was this:
Everything in life is negotiable, but not everything is worth negotiating.
It’s a statement that has always made me think. Now, if we want to pick it apart, the truth is not everything is negotiable. When I go to buy gas, the station owner isn’t going to lower the price just for me. But, it is true that not everything is worth the energy—some might call it the hassle—of negotiating.
And, quite honestly, that’s healthy. I mean, if we tried to barter, debate, and persuade every single time we held a conversation with another person, that would become quite tiresome, wouldn’t it?! Here’s how it would look:
Spouse #1: “Honey, I’m wondering if you could pick up Char from volleyball practice tomorrow?”
Spouse #2: “Hmm, well … if I do that, Dear, will you wash my car and do the next grocery run?”
You see what I mean? Though we could negotiate here, most wouldn’t. Not if we want to maintain healthy relationships!
However, many people don’t negotiate at all, and that’s not healthy either. If it’s a financial negotiation, we lose dollars. In a relationship, the cost might be feeling like a door mat, being taken advantage of, experiencing anger and frustration with no outlet. That is, until we explode, screaming and yelling, while the other person stares at us incredulously thinking, Holy moly, where did this come from!?!?
The truth is, negotiating is a valuable life skill and it’s not always about money. Most don’t work on getting better at it. In fact, according to Don Hutson and Dr. George Lucas, authors of a great little book called The One Minute Negotiator: Simple Steps to Reach Better Agreements, many people suffer from “Negotiaphobia”: the fear of negotiating. For many, negotiating is akin to arguing, being disagreeable and unpleasant, and a quick way to upset another person. So some folks just avoid it altogether. I agree with Hutson and Lucas completely, yet it’s surprising that we adults fear it so much, since children are some of the best little negotiators around and we were all children!
One exception to this rule, though, would be daughter, Molly, now a twentysomething. When she was little, here’s how her negotiating went:
Dad: “Mol, bedtime in 15 minutes.”
Molly: “Can I stay up longer, Daddy?”
Dad: “OK, Sweetie, 20 minutes.”
Dad: “Fine, bedtime in 10 minutes.”
Molly: “Thanks, Daddy!”
If you want to become a better negotiator at work and at home, listen to the new Be Outstanding! Show available right now athttp://outstandingorganization.com/podcasts/ and http://webtalkradio.net/shows/be-outstanding/. My guests are Don and George as we explore their new book mentioned above.
Meanwhile, here are a few “Miller-isms” on negotiating. To negotiate well, one must practice what I call “The Five Willings.” We must be:
1. Willing to ask. I am always amazed how infrequently people ask for what they want for fear of offending someone. My mantra of “It never hurts to ask!” is one that has served me well. Of course, as a salesperson since 1986, I know the value of “asking for the order.” There is great value in simply being willing to ask for what we want.
2. Willing to walk away. If we want something so much that we cannot walk away from it, we’ll never negotiate well.
3. Willing to let the other person win—something. I find that when each person gets something out of the negotiating that they didn’t start with, they feel better about both themselves and the other person. This helps long-term, for sure.
4. Willing to be realistic. Obviously, this is subjective and situation specific. But if someone asks me for an apple and I in turn ask for a four-course meal served to me twice daily for the next 30 days in exchange, I’ve taken the “realism” out of the conversation.
5. Willing to treat the other person like a person. Of course, this is the way we should always act, right? In Outstanding! we teach a very unique concept in a chapter titled: Treat Vendors Like People. This is what outstanding organizations do, recognizing how badly they need suppliers. And this is what outstanding peopledo, recognizing the value of the other human being with whom they are bargaining. It’s not a war to win, where we beat up those we need and leave them bleeding on the battlefield.
Just some practical tips on negotiating.
You know, I mentioned client, Bob Elgin. Well, I can honestly say over all the years we worked together, he and I practiced the “Five Willings.” Maybe that’s why we’re now friends.
John G. Miller
Author of …
QBQ! The Question Behind The Question, Flipping The Switch, Unleash The Power of Personal Accountability and Outstanding, 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional
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