How You Learned to Negotiate – And Why It’s a Monkey on Your Back, Part 1 of 2

by Omid Ghamami

Let me start by saying that I am truly honored that CPO Strategy Magazine named me one of the Top 5 Procurement Influencers in the World. What a recognition! Transforming this profession into a Value Added Center of Profit is my life’s work. 

I’m working on my 3rd book, tentatively entitled “Negotiation Godfather – Power Secrets for Negotiating World Class Deals”, and it will start with some semblance of what I have in this blog. 

How you negotiate is something you learned a long time ago.  And we all got the same training. 

What I want you to know is that you learned how to negotiate a LONG time ago, and it’s going to take hard work to unwire a lot of those practices, and to learn from them as well. 

Recently, I was watching kids play in the playground.  I fixed my eyes on 2 kids fighting over a toy.  Each of them wanted it.   Each one fixed their negotiation position.  Winning meant getting the toy.  Winning also meant the other party got nothing.

They fought over it – each making value transference moves – moves whereby in order for one party to gain, the other has to lose.  Predictably, the parents stepped in and told them to share. 

What’s wrong with sharing? It’s what every good parent tells their kids to do.  But what does it mean in application?  It means neither party gets what they want out of the deal.  Both of them want the toy all the time, but neither of them got it all the time. 

Far from being a Win/Win outcome, it’s in fact a Lose/Lose, because neither party got what they wanted going into negotiations.  This is just an example of what was taught to us in our earliest negotiation lessons. 

It continues though.   As we got a bit older, our parents told us to do undesirable things, such as “clean your room” or “make your bed” or “go to sleep” or “no you can’t have that dessert”.  The parent, with all good intentions, is probably making and communicating well founded decisions. 

In many cases, the child will ask “why should I?”, and the parent may just answer “because I told you so” or “because I’m your father/mother, and you’re supposed to listen to me” or “because your room is a mess and it’s unacceptable”.

Once again, we are taught another negotiation technique very early on: the use of Position Power instead of Influence to accomplish negotiation objectives.  People resent when a person in a superior position uses position power to get their way, even if they are entitled to do so. 

The best negotiators are great listeners and they are world class influencers – only resorting to position power when there is no other viable option.

Many times when children are trying to hash through a problem, the parents tell them to “stop arguing”. Though the parent’s desire is for silence, conflict and problem solving skills are inadvertantly suppressed.

Not all children get poor negotiation training though.  First born children are tasked from the youngest of ages to get the rest of their siblings in line.  Parents say “make sure your brother and sister are ready for school”, “make sure all 3 of you clean your rooms”, “go find out why your sister/brother is crying”, and so on. 

First born are required to solve problems THROUGH other people, with ZERO Position Power.  The *only* thing in their bag of tricks is the use of influencing skills. 

And they crack this nut very early in their life, then perfect it over a number of years, and then carry it into their adult years.  And they tend to move mountains. 

Consider the following:  A 2013 MIT study of leaders in the United States showed that 43% of CEO’s, more than half of U.S. presidents and 21 out of 23 astronauts were all first born children.  The statistics don’t lie. 

The ability to negotiate to make the pie bigger (value creation) and to drive outcome and results through influence instead of position power is paramount if you want to succeed in this profession.

I see so much negotiation training still that defines success as the ability to obtain “an unfair advantage” over the other party.  How can a 21st century supply chain be successful with every link trying to get an unfair advantage over the other links?   This has got to stop.

Use these concepts to articulate more powerful deals where both parties get more.  You are getting paid to engage in investigative negotiations about the other party and INVENT options in negotiations, not to transfer value.  Anyone can transfer value in negotiations. 

Stay with me for the 2nd part in this series soon. 

One thing you should know though is that I’ve got my biggest announcement ever coming on the CPSCM™ program and it’s going to rock our profession.  Pay attention and look for it.

In the meantime, I encourage you to watch this video I’ve posted about the current state and desired state in procurement:

Now go off and do something wonderful.

Be your best!

Omid G.

“THE Godfather of Negotiation Planning” ~ Intel Corp

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