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The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding


Laws of Power 45: Design a Negotiation Architecture

By Karen S. Walch

Classic realism notions about economic and political power measure wealth and success in terms relative to others. An individual who negotiates with power is considered wealthy, affluent or rich because of the ability to accumulate substantially more riches than their peers. Power “over”, egoism, competition and coercion are the predominant currencies and motivations for classic definitions of success.

This week’s law will continue with our focus on an alternative architecture for success and prosperity in the 21st century. There is an increasing dissatisfaction with classic negotiation power approaches. An alternative mental model has emerged around integrative and problem solving negotiation methods and architecture. Throughout the Laws, we have addressed how this method yields more satisfaction and sustainable results given the realities of multiculturalism and global interdependency.

Still, many negotiators recognize how the habits of classic models of power are difficult to overcome. Many point out that they know the classic mental model is not in synch with the social and economic reality of the contemporary market place. Even though many recognize the value of an integrative negotiation strategy, negotiators need to skillfully prepare to manage the unconscious habits of classic power tactics of our own and others. The good news is that the mindfulness and discipline about the design of a problem solving negotiation architecture yields significant creative and sustainable benefits and opportunities.

Underlying this modification to the mental models about negotiation strategy is also a redefinition of power and wealth, in general, for many negotiators. For example, state of the art research today can quantify with more clarity not only tangible wealth (land, financial capital, assets), but also intangible fortunes (social and emotional capital and satisfaction). Prosperity and security practically includes a much wider range of professional and personal variables and motivations than once was recognized.

Power and wealth in the 21st century not only include the classic measure of what assets one gains through negotiation, but it is also captured in how well a negotiator is able to foster relationships and social networks and connections. Such wealth and power provide safety and protection against various unforeseen and ambiguous forces and crises that can impact one’s standard of living. The connective realities of economic, social and, even, neurological forces require negotiation skills and the power of understanding in order to successfully grow and survive.

Integrative thinkers and problem solver negotiators recognize that a new model of negotiation power can be constructed. Ambiguity itself can drive the brain into action as negotiators become aware of how the brain and globalization require attention to the importance of not only one’s own self-interest, but also the inclusion of ideas and interests of others. Inclusion practices and cooperation skills leverage the knowledge, energy and capabilities of increased diversity. Problem solver negotiators have questioned and are not fooled into believing that nothing better than the classic approach exists.

The summer that Cecile, an executive, received her highest financial bonus ever, she was alarmed by her lack of satisfaction as a result. She had done very well in a “dream” consulting firm; and up to then, had little time to reflect on her own experiences and value system. That particular summer, Cecile felt ‘full’ from all the activity and financial gains she had accomplished, but was not satiated. It was not that she needed more financially to satisfy her — it was something more. She finally took her several months of unused vacation because she was in crisis about her physical and emotional health at the time. Cecile felt she needed to slow down and understand why that she had moved professionally very far away from her goal to accomplish something of purpose with her career.

Cecile, like many other experienced negotiators, wanted to achieve a standard of living and success that included both the material and intangible assets. However, upon reflection Cecile realized she was “out of control” and had unknowingly defaulted to classic notions about power in her interactions with both clients and coworkers. As she had achieved significant financial rewards relative to others, she was increasingly aware of how isolated she was from various professional social networks and resources. She also felt she had lost sight of her purpose to assist others in her career.

Up until that summer, Cecile had not realized how stressful it was to struggle for survival as she protected her status and position. She noted that alliances and networks were developing in her business unit without her. These teams of consultants were able to sustain client contracts over several years where she was not. She also wanted to integrate in her own professional experiences into the broader “canvas” of her life which was to value relationships and provide service to others.

By the time fall arrived, Cecile had developed the tools which helped her recover her sense of purpose and willingness to problem solve with others in her professional (and personal!) setting. She come to realize that she had lost her ‘power’ as she became scattered and out of alignment with her own physical, social and emotional (and spiritual) needs as she struggled to make a living. As Cecile became more mindful of the problem solving mental model about power, she was able to prepare on all dimensions (see Laws 2 – 14). Today, Cecile reports that she not only enjoys the financial aspects of her career, but also the intangible sense of integration of her personal and professional needs. She said it was difficult, but not impossible to”change her brain”. She is confident that if she can do it, anyone can.

Law 45 Reflections

1. Do you see that you have a central role in the design of a new architecture for your negotiation approach?

2. Are you willing and enthusiastic about addressing complexity?

3. Do you give yourself time to create and refuse to rush in with habits of classic approaches?

Extra Credit

To learn more about the role of mindfulness in creating a prosperous life, read: Change your Brain, Change your Life, by Daniel G. Amen, 1998, Three Rivers Press.

48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Go to the main menu for the series.

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