Our Touchstone Partners Team discussed researched theories and best practices that guide managerial negotiations in conflict resolution, aimed at holistic outcomes that optimize both personal development and organizational behaviour. Critical conversations such as this emphasize our beliefs, commitment, and accountability for our roles in building an accomplished team, profound purpose at Touchstone, and the far-reaching impact we come to bear.
April 19, 2023
Our Touchstone Team discussed researched theories and best practices that guide managerial negotiations in conflict resolution, aimed at holistic outcomes that optimize both personal development and organizational behaviour. Cutting edge management science in negotiation techniques and tactics informed our conversations and debate. Sharing our views on vital topics such as this, highlights aspects of what makes Touchstone truly ‘Touchstone.’ Together, we aim to strengthen our three pillars, namely, our firm culture, our team, and ourselves, by visibly prioritizing the continuum around which we relate.
As a primer, a pre-session exercise had the team individually read and analyse a role each would play through a business case study titled, ‘Summer Interns.’ The case involved an ongoing, contentious conflict between two parties at odds over the current and future workings of a ‘summer interns’ program for the ‘Levver Corporation.’ Half the Touchstone team played one of the aggrieved characters and were each separately asked to confront the other half, playing the opposing, disgruntled character, and negotiate the matter prior to the Team meeting. The goal was to determine how each responded to the issues at stake, with due consideration to their interests and positions in reaching a necessary resolution.
The session advanced through a series of questions deliberating the case that were discussed within partnerships, small groups, and the larger setting. The aim was to uncover both stances that were taken and those that could have been taken, such as using a ‘BATNA,’ (Best Alternative to No Agreement). Other cues included conscientiously designing opening moves with strategies and focussing on the issues to manage the negotiation, while creating opportunities for value-creating trade-offs. This preferred tactic is in contrast to employing conflict escalating moves that utilize coercion, power-play through asserting positions and rights, and threats of blame to concede. Stands taken included starting with the purpose of the negotiation to protect interests and gaining an understanding of others’ perspectives and perceptions to find common ground.
The group discussion was interspersed with research and readings that advised the discourse. We gleaned strategies from the article, Six Habits of Merely Effective Negotiators by James K. Sebenius, published by the Harvard Business Review. Illustrating non-examples as ‘don’ts,’ Sebenius expounds on ‘what not to do!’ Other key points covered evaluating a deal option with its best ‘no deal option,’ or ‘BATNA.’ This schemes to actively plan and prepare for a negotiation by weighing a deal against its best alternative, should the negotiation fail, thereby enhancing bargaining power and helping determine the ‘reservation’ or ‘walk away’ position in the situation. We then examined the role of personality in successful negotiation, weighing ‘hunches’ we have about effective traits vs. researched indicators. Using identified cognitive biases to advantage, such as the ‘anchoring,’ ‘framing,’ and ‘contrast’ effects, employs manoeuvres that favour a case, as does the ‘availability bias’ in an argument.
Academic research and history in the literature of negotiation reveal the progression of negotiation approaches and outcomes from the 1950’s to date. From former ‘win-lose’ postures to a turn in wind to the ‘win-win’ bearing popularized by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton in their seminal book Getting to Yes, the pie can be reconstructed to both expand and divide through unveiling and reconciling underlying interests. The Manager as Negotiator, by David Lax and James Sebenius, prescribes, “productively managing the tension between the cooperative moves necessary to create value and the competitive moves involved in claiming it.” Negotiating Rationally, by Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale, highlights the behavioural study of negotiation, uncovering the notion that assumptions affect logical practices. Current perspectives continue to favour corrective measures to aid sound judgment for outcomes that are ‘mutually beneficial.’
Skills in tactful negotiation are a way of life for executives and organizations. Critical conversations on subjects such as this emphasize our beliefs, commitment, and accountability for our roles in building an accomplished team, profound purpose at Touchstone, and the far-reaching impact we come to bear.
Communications and Sustainability Officer