“Ladies, hope is not a strategy.” That pretty much sums up a session at the WICT Leadership Conference Monday on negotiating skills for women, led by the Carol Frohlinger, Esq., Principal, Negotiating Women, Inc. While many women get in their own way when negotiating, both in and outside of the boardroom, arming yourself with information and planning out the possible outcomes will enhance your position. Indeed, “successful negotiating is definitely correlated to the amount of time spent preparing,” she said.
Broadly, there are two kinds of negotiations: the big “N,” or those that are explicit, planned and take place in the boardroom, and the little “n.” The latter are the ones you’re experiencing on a daily basis, though you may not realize that they’re negotiations. “Have you ever left a meeting and realized you had all the to-dos?” she asked the crowd, many of whom chuckled in agreement. “It was a drive by!” she bellowed. In fact, Frohlinger believes women may do more negotiating than men, since “women in leadership roles have to negotiate for things that their male colleagues do not.” So you better start learning how to get out of your own way.
A few ways in which women tend to make negotiations more difficult including not recognizing negotiation as a possibility, avoiding difficult people and conversations, thinking they’ll get noticed (and praised) for picking up the slack and confusing toughness with effectiveness. The first step to getting out of your own way, said Frohlinger, is recognizing your own patterns.
Key to combating the patterns is setting goals, she said. Then she recommends taking stock. “What’s going for you and against you? Where are you leverage-wise? What are your vulnerabilities?” and how can you shore them up? It’s also crucial to gather information, particularly in the case of salary requests. Benchmark known salaries in the industry and set reasonable aspirations, she suggested. In addition, you should take into account the other person’s personality. “Rarely will they have a yes or no,” she said, but they’ll have influence in the process. This is called the “shadow negotiation,” or the interpersonal dynamics of the negotiation.
The next step, according to Frohlinger, is considering alternatives, in case an agreement can’t be reached. “We tend to overestimate the other side’s power and underestimate our own,” she said. “Don’t cede the power. They need you often as much as you need them. And a mutually agreeable situation is in their best interest as well as yours.”
In addition, consider the other side’s situation and be sensitive to his or her concerns. Create proposals, she said. “Think about trade offs, contingencies. The more creative, the better.” The ultimate goal is to present the situation as both parties working together on the same side to solve a problem. Lastly, it is important to anticipate challenges. Brainstorm about all the things you know you will hear—and plan for a response. If possible, put the process to work by enlisting someone to role play.
Frohlinger insisted that despite the current level of your negotiation skills, they can always be taken to the next level. “You do not have to be born with the negotiating gene to be successful at it,” she said, noting that she herself did not possess it. “But I do believe it’s the critical career skill.”