When you get picked for a big project at work, you of course want to do a great job. But what if the project is thorny and is challenged by difficult stakeholders? What if there are dissenters who have different desires for completion. You may have leaders with different demands and frustrated employees. Middle managers or others may think the effort cannot be implemented until other conditions are met. These represent just a few types of challenges you may have to experience and negotiate during your project.

The Art of Negotiation

Negotiation is twofold concept.  As you lay out you the direction for your project, there are many phases, steps, and tasks to consider and negotiate. Grenades will be thrown at your project, but developing a plan, with a well-communicated path will help avoid deviations.

The second part of negotiation and perhaps trickier, is dealing with challenging stakeholders. How do you deal with prickly stakeholders who are causing challenges? Here are several tips for negotiating during your project.

1. Perform Introspection

You may want to consider some introspection on your capabilities as a negotiator. Do you communicate well, when speaking and writing? Can you keep things focused while remaining civil? It’s important to actively listen and be able to communicate your thoughts.  Some find it hard to perform both at the same time.

During your introspection, you will want to define your role while understanding your personal value as the project manager. Look for and try to understand the stakeholder’s vantage points and discern potential methods to meet their desires or demands.

2. Search for the Win – Win

Every time you lay out a benefit or a proposal for your project, make sure that you’re considering and offering up benefits for all parties. You will have to become good at creating value for opposing stakeholders. Many consider this one of the most powerful negotiation skills a manager can obtain. When each party is concerned with gaining the biggest “slice of the pie” possible, someone will be forced to receive less. Some professional negotiators suggest growing the whole pie. Each stakeholder realizes greater value and this technique can develop a greater sense of trust – beneficial in later negotiations.

3. Use Emotional Intelligence

Another great capability is understanding your authority and boundaries as manager for the given project. Compare these to the organizational priorities and desires for your project. Every organization has goals and objectives, and you will always have dissenters to these. You will have to rely on your emotional intelligence to weave these two areas together.

You will need to read stakeholders’ emotions. This enables you to understand their implication, rather than waiting for them to explicitly state their desires. Restate their requirements for them. This will give you greater understanding and demonstrate positive emotions, increasing the groups feelings of trust during negotiations. The opposite will lead to feelings of frustrated, anxious, nervousness; leading to a potentially negative atmosphere and subsequent challenges.

4. Get it in Writing!

As you gain agreements during the project, make sure to record these in writing. Place these publicly into the meeting notes and review. Stakeholders’ opinions and desires will change as the project matures. Good ideas will pop up or stakeholders will try change project direction. You may have to adjust, but the documentation will provide additional understanding of previous decisions and direction. Therefore, having this type of a reference will reduce headaches when the “good ideas” start to pop up late in the project.

Practice Makes Progress

No matter your experience, practicing negotiation is a great way to develop these skills. Read more on the subject. There are also learning opportunities and classes to take, should you desire to become a professional negotiator. Regardless, the more frequently you negotiate and the more projects you manage, you be will honing your skills for the future.



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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at Gr8Transitions4U.com.