Posts Tagged ‘how to be a good negotiator’

Character and Personality #9: Negotiator

by Gary Monti on August 31, 2010

Of the core competencies, the capstone trait for a leader is the ability to negotiate. Humility, courage, and competency, traits listed in the immediately previous blogs, all come together to support this capstone trait. This is no simple task!

An Emperor’s View

The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, reigning from 161 – 180 A.D, stated the task well in the opening to Chapter 2 of his Meditations.

Begin the morning by saying to thyself; I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial… (For we) participate in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity…(and) we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is (in) acting against one another…(we become) vexed and… turn away.

That’s easy for him to say! He’s never had a room full of people in a meeting looking down as if they are praying when they actually are taking an electronic hit from their Crackberry with the same desperation of an addict with a crystal meth pipe. (Actually, he had his own problems with people being preoccupied while the Empire was starting to crumble. I just needed to vent regarding one of my personal annoyances when working to hold a team together over whom I lack direct authority.)

Aurelius goes on to explain why finding common ground is so important.

Remember how long thou hast been putting off these things, and how often thou hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet dost not use it. Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art a part, and of what administrator of the universe thy existence is an efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for thee, which if thou dost not use for clearing away the clouds from thy mind, it will go and thou wilt go, and it will never return.

“Think!” is the short version of what Aurelius is saying. “What do you believe? What’s the goal? What principles are at play? What technologies are needed?” is a slightly longer version.


What is needed is the creation of a link between what motivates people and the goals the leader must achieve. Aurelius understood a rallying point was needed; something each stakeholder wants before everything else.  Creating an opportunity for stakeholders to gain what is burning inside them is what leads to proactive behavior. When the flow of all this is right it leads to distributed decision making and powerful group wisdom.

The Challenge

Here’s the trick, or should I say, the challenge. Aurelius knew he had only so many hours in the day. He also knew expecting people to change is a waste of time. The challenge was creating a common bond knowing different people want different things. Some want to work on a bleeding-edge project, others want money, still others want as much personal time as possible, and it goes on and on. Like Aurelius who worked to hold the Empire together, leaders must spend their time getting to know the wants and desires of key stakeholders and creating the aforementioned link. But the leader must be careful. Without a personal anchor, s/he can be pulled in a thousand directions. This is why humility, courage, and competency are “must-haves” for successful negotiations