Creativity (abstract design)

Don’t Kill Creativity at the Negotiating Table

Let dealmakers work their magic by empowering them.

Imagine that an artist was offered a well-paid commission to paint a mural – but only under the condition that every brushstroke be approved before applying it. Do you think he or she would take the job? Probably not. But every day at the dealmaking table, managers kill creativity and value creation by how they constrain their negotiators.

This article isn’t intended as an argument for unlimited authority, nor does it advocate for relinquishing management oversight of responsibilities. However, when it comes to sending negotiators in to make a deal, enlightened leaders find ways to empower their dealmakers. Today, many dealmakers have so much internal red tape to contend with that they’re not creating the highest value deals; rather, they’re creating deals that have the highest probability of cutting through red tape in order to be approved. Talk about missed opportunities!

Here’s how managers can empower their dealmakers:

Get Stakeholders Involved Early: Most red-tape-heavy processes have to do with ensuring that all key stakeholders are aware of how deals will impact them. Instead of consulting with them at the end, start talking with them before you walk into the room to strike a deal. The more the stakeholders know about a deal’s strategy and objectives before negotiation begins, the more comfortable they will be – and the more likely they will be to support the negotiator throughout the process.

Focus on the Outcomes: Negotiators who are empowered know the negotiation’s objectives and precisely what is expected of them; they are then expected to develop and execute a strategy that delivers on those objectives. Meanwhile, those less empowered tend to be unclear about the objectives and are typically told how to conduct the negotiation, with little latitude allowed. The empowered negotiator is judged by the outcome, while the unempowered negotiator is judged by how well they managed the process.

It’s About Accountability, not Consensus: Consensus building leads to abdication of responsibility. We’ve seen numerous processes in which a deal’s “sign-off” is required by many people. This creates circumstances where successful deals will have many parents, but failed deals will be orphans. Instead, enlightened leaders encourage a diversity of ideas and dissenting opinions to be heard in order to strengthen the position and approach, but they also make a single person or group accountable for creating a valuable deal.

Having process and structure is good – it helps organizations to be more efficient and replicate results consistently. However, an overbearing bureaucracy can be devastating to a dealmaker’s ability to negotiate valuable deals.

About the Author

Brian Buck is the CEO of Scotwork North America, a negotiation consulting firm with offices in Parsippany.

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