As a negotiator, you are sent into the heat of confrontation with clients or customers either in person or virtually over a video call. It is your responsibility to secure the value for your business and the weight of expectation and responsibility can weigh heavily on your shoulders.
This pressure is responsible for the misalignment of objectives internally, costing time, money and resources to reach consensus before even a proposal is delivered.
Negotiators under pressure, with high levels of expectation from their business, are more inclined to set lower expectations or shift the goals to less stretching targets. They are more willing to take on something they are confident to achieve than to push the limits.
It is an established fact that pressure negatively impacts performance. Studies of athletes, scholars, musicians and performers have demonstrated that in pressure situations it is more likely that mistakes will be made.
Individuals strive to ‘do a good job’ and as such, they feel more satisfied with meeting an easy goal than missing a stretching target. It becomes tempting, as the person accountable for delivering the agreement for the business, to bow to the pressure of expectation and become cautious. That way there is less chance of failure.
IT organisations willing and able to build the framework and organisational design to support the negotiation teams, with the purpose of reducing the pressure on them to perform, are more likely to maximise value, more frequently. It is critical to understand what causes pressure. There are three elements that need to be present in order for pressure to exist. If pressure exists it is because all three elements exist at the same time. Therefore to reduce pressure and the impact on the outcomes of negotiations, individuals and organisations develop negotiation strategies and tools to minimise each or all.
Strategies to reduce the elements of pressure
- You are responsible
Individual responsibility creates pressure. Sharing responsibility with others reduces the pressure felt by each individual. During important football matches, players feel pressure to perform, but the responsibility is shared across the team. In a penalty shoot-out when it is the individual challenged to win on behalf of the whole, the pressure can become intolerable for some.
By building a negotiation team responsible for planning and conducting important agreements, the pressure on each person is reduced and the team shares the accountability. Sharing and clarifying roles in meetings provides the same effect, allowing each to focus on the task at hand, creating an effective unit.
- The outcome is uncertain
The outcome will always be uncertain in negotiations. However forecasting possible scenarios, anticipating potential problems, assessing risks and creating contingencies empowers teams and prepares them for uncertainty.
A driver who anticipates a child running into the road after a loose ball is prepared; if that eventuality occurs in most cases the driver can stop the vehicle safely. Their instincts and reflexes are primed and the level of stress felt at the point of greatest risk is lower.
Expecting strategies to fail in negotiation means only that if they do fail, it is not a pressurised decision to change course, it is controlled and structured. Organisations who plan contingencies are more likely to be agile, dynamic and realise value than companies who only rely on one plan.
3.It is important
The level of importance of an agreement is often set in the context of the circumstances. With no alternative agreements, possible pressure becomes intense, because if no deal is agreed then failure ensues. Perspective plays a crucial role in the importance of agreements.
More senior leaders have a greater view of all possibilities and less reliance on a single customer agreement for success. The historical effect of similar agreements in the past also changes the perspective. Whilst today an agreement may feel like it is the most important moment in time, there have been similar moments in the past, and perhaps these turned out to be less significant than was felt at the time.
Examinations for 16 year-olds at school are the most important milestones in their lives, dictating their whole future, with failure dooming them to a life unfulfilled – or so it feels for many. In the context of time and perspective, these exams are an important stepping stone but are not as critical as thought at the time.
Organisations who involve senior leaders supporting the negotiators, and retain organisational memory of past agreements or plan activities to create and retain alternatives in case of disappointment, protect their teams from the pressure caused by over-emphasis on the importance of a moment in time.
Dealing with pressure is a requirement of the business world, and many strategies to reduce pressure build confidence in the individual of their capacity to succeed. None of these is more effective than skills development, practice and coaching. People who practice more frequently are more skilled, they feel more confident and are more likely to perform under pressure because there is greater certainty of success.
Organisations who invest in capabilities and encourage the practising and coaching of these skills will succeed. Negotiation is no different. Negotiators able to cope under pressure, maximise agreements and secure value for their businesses do so because they are capable, they perform regularly and they have a support network to enable and empower them.