Negotiating to Win-win During Change

“Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” Sir David Frost, (1939 – 2013), English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host


Over the past two weeks, I’ve had a seat at the table of some high stakes negotiations. Significant funds would change hands. Moving people to new locations in multiple cities would be mandatory. An aggressive time frame would need to be met. So how did we do? We won…and so did the team with whom we were negotiating. Well, I guess I think we won a little bit more than they did. 🙂 Care to know why? Read on to learn how to position yourself to win with a ‘BIG W’ while allowing the other team to also win…with a ‘small w.’



1. Define your vision.

Outline not only what the desired outcome of the negotiations is but also why this result is important to you. Keep this vision statement handy to refer to while you are in the throes of the negotiation, as you will experience moments of wondering “Why are we doing this? It would be such simpler to keep things as they are.” This vision will also help you in knowing where you have flexibility in your boundaries.

2. Choose a great team, and then trust them to perform their roles.

Outline the experience, talent and values you need to succeed, and then staff your team accordingly. Communicate with the team throughout the process to ensure all know what matters most, what’s changed, etc. If you have a team member that turns out to be a poor fit, replace them as soon as possible. You will have enough to be concerned with during the negotiations, so you don’t need to be uneasy about whether or not someone is pulling their weight. Move on quickly to find the right fit. You will find them.

3. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

We prepared for these talks for 18 months. Our extensive groundwork gave us confidence in both entering AND exiting the negotiations. We were then able to operate from a place of surety versus fear. Then, at a point during our talks when we became uncomfortable with the terms presented by the other team, we walked away from the deal. We had a cool assurance in our position and weren’t willing to stretch beyond the boundaries pre-defined by our team. A month later, we were invited back to the table…with more favorable terms and the added benefit of a compressed timeline that worked in our favor.

4. Never underestimate the power of silence.


Taking these actions, as well as a couple other factors, helped ensure a smooth transaction where all parties were satisfied with a fair outcome. While I must admit I found myself wishing for a bit more spark during the debates, what pleased me more was seeing how our preparedness ensured an effective process and rewarding outcome. And, I’m wise enough to know that there is a change lurking just around the corner that will be chock full of hearty debates. Bring it on!

Learn to enjoy your negotiations – that is, after you’ve defined your vision, surrounded yourself with the best and the brightest team possible, and adequately prepared to ensure your BIG WIN versus small win.

Thank you to my team members for their outstanding preparation, execution, guidance and support.

What have you found to be valuable in your negotiations that have gone well? What would you do differently in those talks that did not go as you desired? Share with us one tactic or thought so that we may all learn from your experience.

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Sandra Schwan

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