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We all like to win. After all, be it in personal life or business, it’s better to win than to lose. The trick is to recognize the best path to victory. And often, this path is not always as clear as one might think.

In the course of business, you cannot underestimate the importance of or the art of negotiation. And by negotiations, I do not mean specifically things such as contract terms with suppliers, co-marketing agreements with partners, revenue-sharing arrangements with service providers, or the like. I mean the day-to-day negotiations required to help you achieve your outcomes. For example, in the course of doing my everyday job, I am constantly involved in the “give and take” of much more mundane business happenings. These may include setting sales targets for employees, making a business case to management for the need for additional headcount, determining who will have responsibility for certain tasks or outcomes, etc. Now to be very clear, all of these examples involve negotiations of sorts.

Keeping our inherent desire to win in mind, it is easy to see how negotiations can appear more combat-like with both sides wanting to come out victorious and doing what they must in order to achieve that outcome. However, perceptive leaders and experienced negotiators recognize that the outcome of any individual skirmish does not indicate the outcome of the broader battle. In fact, in considering negotiation strategies, it is best to understand what your most important requirements are [“must haves”] and be sure to focus on achieving them so as to reap the benefits of those elements, while sacrificing other, less essential, desires [“nice to haves”] along the way.

It is in this give and take that a leader reveals their true abilities. Those that believe that winning at any cost is the objective, will perhaps be victorious in the short run. But it is the leader that understands the foolishness of forfeiting long-term objectives for short-term triumphs that succeeds in the end. What’s more, the leader that knows when to take and when to give will ultimately reap higher rewards. As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.”

Johnathan Farrington has some great tips around preparing for negotiation. These include asking yourself the following questions:

What is the best deal I could realistically achieve in this negotiation?
What is the likely outcome of the negotiation?
What is the limit of my authority?
At which point should I walk away?
What concessions are available to me?
What is the cost of each concession and what value does each have to either side?

In plain speak, this is simply picking your priorities and knowing how to work with negotiation nuances to ensure the best possible outcome. Or, as Kenny Rogers pointed out in “The Gambler”, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.” He clearly knew that “folding ‘em” or “running” were excellent strategies that at the end of the day were steps in the direction of victory.


Nina nets it out: Our lives, in both personal and professional settings, are comprised of an endless series of negotiations – what do you want for dinner, what movie do you want to see, what should your sales quota be, do you deserve a raise. To come out ahead in these encounters, understand that taking one step back, may just be the fastest way to your desired goal. Please share your own stories of counter-intuitive negotiation success.

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