Monday, February 1, 2010

Association Negotiations 101!

The common definition of negotiating is to communicate in search of mutual agreement. We negotiate every day whether we realize it or not. Often, it is obvious especially when we are trying to purchase a service or a product. Maybe it is a little less obvious when we are navigating the workplace or even just dealing with relatives about where we want to spend the holidays.

If you walk into any bookstore you will find dozens of books dealing with successful negotiation tactics. There are tricks of the trade that do increase your odds of achieving mutual agreement in less time and more painlessly. How much more effective do you think your negotiations with your board of directors would be (or your owners if you serve on the board) if effective negotiators were involved in those communications?

The first thing to remember is that taking positions does not work during negotations. Looking at the big picture or end game is much more effective than starting a dialogue from an entrenched position. Humor and self-deprecation can be powerful and very effective tools. Here are a few more tips to remember next time you are negotiating with your board or your owners to solve a particular problem:

• Not everything is worth negotiating; some battles simply don't need to be fought.
• Warn in a respectful way; don't threaten.
• Be soft on the people and hard on the problem.
• You can't control a bully's behavior, you can only control your response.
• Don't strike back.
• Don't give in.
• Don't break off or walk away. Keep working towards a mutual agreement.
• Ask the right questions: "What will it cost if we don't reach an agreement here?"
• Acknowledge some expertise on both sides.
• Present your view in addition to the other side's view not as an alternative.
• Don't always respond with a like-kind response.
• Acknowledge differences with some degree of optimism.
• Consider face-saving options when possible.
• Do the proper research before embarking on the negotiations. Don't threaten certain actions or repercussions that aren't feasible.
• Silence can be powerful.

Successful negotiation in a community association context is especially important because it is a "living together" relationship. Unless one party leaves the community, you will be forced to contend with each other for many years after the negotiations are over. Next time you're in a bookstore, wander over to that negotiation section and see if you can't take away a few clues that make sense in your association context.

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