Getting to win-win through negotiation

a womanExcellent leaders possess strong negotiation skills. Yet the art of negotiating successfully is rare these days. As many organizations transition to their next generation of leaders, soft skills training, which includes negotiation skills, seem to be forgotten. I consider negotiation skills to be a key trait for up-and-coming leaders to succeed in the marketplace.

Negotiation is having a conversation with the goal of arriving at a win-win conclusion and having no regrets. The goal is to achieve what you want while allowing the other person to feel like they also achieved what they wanted. By no regrets, I mean you could end up winning a negotiation but regretting how you treated the other person. On the other hand, you could end up walking away with not quite what you really wanted and regret not asking for it. That’s why it’s very important to know before you start what exactly you are negotiating for and what are your “non-negotiables.”

On the career front, people regardless of age are negotiating flexibility, now more than ever. Whether they are raising a family or helping aging parents or simply want more time to do other things outside of work, people are asking for flexibility in hours and the ability to work remotely. 

Opportunities for future advancement and promotions are the next item on their agendas. Rising leaders focus on the future, not just on their current position. They want to know the company they work for has opportunities to grow not only within their job but also within the organization. 

Of course, salary will always be a crucial decision-making factor around which leaders negotiate, though negotiations with vendors are also a critical part of a leader’s job. That’s why it’s so important to master the skills to lead a successful negotiation.

I advise young leaders to be decisive in negotiations. Prioritize your requests in order of importance to you. For example: Before entering into the “negotiation conversation” with your boss, ask yourself these questions: Do you want the new title or a higher salary? Do you want flexibility, or do you want more vacation? Do you want additional training or new responsibilities? Knowing what you want and why will increase your confidence when negotiating.

When negotiating with a vendor, do your research before you start, and work on your negotiation strategies. Remember, reputation (yours and your company’s) will always be at stake.

I believe in life-long learning; therefore, to hone my own negotiation skills, I read and teach on the topic. The purpose is to not only share my experiences, but to continue to remind myself of “why” I want what I’m asking for. Understanding the “why” will make it much easier to prepare for the negotiation.

I also seek the wisdom of others. Joining me to share their thoughts on negotiating are industry colleagues Regina Barr, Michael Berman, Greg LaFrance, Paul Means, Barry Sorensen, Kris St. Martin and Vicki Turnquist. All of them agree on the importance of seeking win-win solutions, preparing yourself through research, listening to the needs of others, and practicing. Join me in learning from their wisdom and experiences.


Marci Malzahn is president and founder of Malzahn Strategic, a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management, treasury management, and talent management. Malzahn is also a professional speaker and author of three books. Contact her at [email protected]