The Playbook

How Effective Leaders Prepare for Negotiation

Sam Bacharach, director of the Cornell Institute for Workplace Studies, explains that negotiating effectively as a leader is all about preparation.

Video Transcript

00:11 Samuel Bacharach: When I was a beginning academic, which was a while ago, they basically talked about bargaining theory. It's strange because the notion of negotiation sort of blossoms much more lately, but when I was in graduate school we talked about bargaining theory. And now we talk about something different, the whole notion of negotiations. But when we talk about negotiations, I think we're talking about an essential leadership skill. The one thing leaders do, day in day out, is they negotiate. Negotiation is not something that's sort of restricted to a labor management crisis, or a Middle-East crisis. Negotiation is something you do all the time. You negotiate all the time. You do it all the time. It is if you want to know something that I call micro-skill. I like to think of negotiation from a small end rather than the big colossal end.

01:06 Bacharach: So it's a thing you do all the time. And the most important aspect of negotiation, is that most of is in your head. It's preparation. It's preparation. Before you get to a metaphorical table -- and I mean table quite metaphorically, it could ... Two people meeting by the water cooler, is also a metaphorical table -- you've got to sort of think where are people coming from, what are the issues, where am I coming from, what's their alternative, what's their relative power. These are things that you really have to think about and you have to be trained to think about it.

01:38 Bacharach: Now, when you speak to people like this they go, "Well, that sounds very political to think about where people are coming... " But, you know what, it's also empathetic. When I'm thinking about your position vis-a-vis my position, what your alternatives are, versus my alternative, I'm being empathetic. In that sense, empathy and thinking ahead is very much part of negotiations. We teach people a lot, but the thing we fail to teach 'em is how to prepare for negotiations, and that's 80%. Before you go into the room, before you stand in front of the audience as a leader, before you go into the meeting of your project team as a project leader, before you go in front of possible funders as an entrepreneur, think of what's gonna happen in there. Negotiations is 80% preparation. It's 80% preparation. The rest is tactical.

Last updated: Dec 10, 2013

SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies

Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.

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