For the past few years I have had the privilege of serving as a “virtual mentor” for freshmen college students studying leadership at my alma mater-Western Washington University (Go Vikings!). This innovative program, led by Dr. Joe Garcia, matches students with alumnus who are considered leaders in their communities or professions. The student and mentor communicate via Google Groups, with the student asking questions related to the classroom content being discussed. It never ceases to amaze me how inquisitive and insightful these kids are, and affirms my belief that our future is secure in their hands.
My most recent virtual student posed the question; “Have you ever had to present an idea to a group of followers that they weren’t initially interested in, and if so, how did you get them to go along with it?”
My response: “First, you can’t come into the situation and make it appear that you have already made up your mind (even though you think you have). To have any chance of success you need to;
* Have confidence you have thoroughly researched the issue and come up with alternatives, including a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).
*Have critically and impartially tried to view the issue through the eyes (values) of those you need to convince.
*Engage the team in dialogue in an attempt to validate what you suspect their values are, their emotional reaction, and most importantly – any other potential solutions/options that you and your team have not considered.
*Listen AND HEAR what they are saying. Keep an open mind.
*Be honest. They will already be suspicious. If you are deceptive, you are dead.
*Try to identify who the informal leader(s) of the group are. Just because someone on the other side has a formal title doesn’t mean they carry all the weight of authority.
*Park the ego…. You may think you have the solution. But often I found that the folks I was trying to convince had even better ideas (which makes it much easier to reach consensus!)
*Know your limits. Even though you may come up with a creative solution, if the solution exceeds your authority (administrative or financial) to implement, you need to be very careful on how you proceed.
I’ve used all of the above and then some in my plethora of negotiations with city staff and union leadership. Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost. But, at the end of the day the preservation of the working relationship stayed intact, and that is invaluable. Hope this answers your question.”
Hey leaders, what are your negotiation/persuasion skills and approach? Would love to hear them so I can share your thoughts with my current and future students.