Ten-Hut! Five Military Negotiating Tactics That Can Help You Get Ahead in the Office

By Kyle Stock

A new workplace is a foreign land, full of new customs, traps and potential allies and enemies.

The dynamic is not unlike situations faced every day by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq (although the stakes are drastically lower). What’s the best way to proceed in such an environment?

To address that question, we checked in with Jeff Weiss, who has taught negotiation techniques to West Point cadets for eight years. Weiss, who is also a partner at Vantage Partners LLC, a Boston-based corporate negotiating consultancy, has drawn up a simple framework for soldiers, based on nearly a decade of interviews with former field commanders.

What he found is sound advice for new bosses looking to win buy-in from subordinates and corporate foot-soldiers hoping to climb the ladder or secure more power and money.

The most important advice? Tone down the swagger and strong-arm tactics, at least until they are called for. “Many of us walk around with a default setting and a belief that to be a good negotiator you should use threats, anchoring, bluffing, banging the table and a general show of power,” Weiss said. “Frankly, what I have seen in good negotiators — whether they are a 30-year-old captain in the Army or a 40-year old salesman — are folks that say ‘There’s a time and a place to do that, and it’s not often.'”

Keep that in mind at every step of Weiss’s five-point plan:

1. Get the Big Picture
Get a lay of the land at the outset, particularly the opinions and view-points of other parties. In other words, don’t dive in and try striking deals right away. Be humble and curious.

2. Uncover and Elaborate
Learn the motivations and concerns of other parties. Propose multiple solutions and invite your counterparts to improve on them.

3. Elicit Genuine Buy-in
Win others to your side with reasoned arguments, not power plays or brute force. Avoid threats.

4. Build Trust First
Directly linked to No. 4, this tactic is all about building a foundation of success. Don’t try to ‘buy’ support. Rather, make incremental commitments of good faith.

5. Focus on process
Forget about results, or lack thereof. Put your energy into having a healthy and robust discussion free from knee-jerk reactions.

Check out more of Weiss’s research here.

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