The Negotiator Magazine

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Being Your Own Advocate

Deborah M. Kolb, Carol Frohlinger, and Judith Williams 1

Negotiation is the currency of business. Business people negotiate all the time, and for no group, perhaps, are the stakes higher and the margin for error slimmer than they are for the self-employed and for entrepreneurs. Still, most of this negotiation is no longer characterized by what Intel’s Andy Grove called “a battle to the death,” but by an appreciation of the importance of relationships in business. The simplistic scorecard notion of winning has, by and large, been discarded in favor of a collaborative problem-solving approach.

Collaborative problem solving is based on a single premise: The best outcomes happen when negotiations are approached not as adversarial win/lose situations, but as opportunities to develop an exchange that makes mutual gains possible.

Many different issues and interests coalesce in any given “single” problem. And those differences constitute the raw materials from which “package deals” can be fashioned. You have only to look for differences in needs and interests and propose solutions that play on those differences. No one party leaves the table with everything, but no one goes away empty-handed either.

But mutual gains negotiations do not take place in a vacuum. Nor are their results always the product of the merits of one solution over another, where the participants actively cooperate in reaching the “best” alternative given the interests in play.

Unspoken wants and expectations intrude that interfere with getting to yes. Negotiators have concerns that have nothing to do with the problem, but affect its resolution. Good ideas, good trades, are not enough. In other words, how negotiators resolve their issues hangs on the actions they take in the shadow negotiation.

Working the “shadow” part of the negotiation process requires that you position yourself in the conversation so that you can effectively advocate for yourself. This effort is especially critical for independent contractors and entrepreneurs because they usually don’t have an organization backing them up.

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1 This article was adapted from “Breakthrough Bargaining,” by Deborah M. Kolb and Judith Williams, which appeared in the February 2001 issue of the Harvard Business Review. It draws on Kolb and Williams’ The Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), named one of the top ten business books of 2000 by HBR.

Deborah M. Kolb, Carol Frohlinger, and Judith Williams are partners in The Shadow Negotiation, LLC, a company that will provides negotiation courses specifically for women on the Web. The first course, Getting What You’re Worth, is available now. Navigating Divorce, Making the Sale and Setting Fees are planned for 2002.

Deborah M. Kolb is professor of management at the Simmons College Graduate School of Management in Boston and codirector of its Center for Gender in Organization. She is a former executive director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, where she continues as codirector of the Negotiations in the Workplace Project.

Carol Frohlinger is president of Crossell, Inc., a consulting and training company focused on helping to advance women in business. Frohlinger has over 15 years’ experience consulting to major corporations on performance improvement, both developing course materials and leading training initiatives. A former practicing attorney, she holds a J.D. from Fordham University.

Judith Williams has worked in publishing and investment banking. In 1990 she left the private sector to establish a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the study of organizational change and how women can promote it. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard