One constant in our lives, for most people, is how our personalities work: the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. This extends to how our personality affects our approach to negotiations, and whether this is something we need to be concerned about.
It is worth testing the assumptions about character affecting negotiation approach. In the most simple of personality assessments, understanding if we, as individuals, tend towards introverted, or extraverted. At one level, we can understand that extraverts will be more comfortable with the broad levels of engagement and development of relationship with people unknown to us than introverts are, and may be more comfortable with proposal development and testing of ideas with others.
Most personality profiling tools are many layers more complex than that, looking at a broad range of characteristics and painting a picture of our inner workings which cover ranges of different characteristics. By the time a procurement professional is into their career, it is very likely that one or another of the popular profiling tools will have been deployed (and if not, on-line profiles are available). Armed with this sense of self, what can an enthusiastic negotiator learn?
At one level, there is the idea of different personalities being more attuned to particular types of negotiation. Those negotiations with a more technical focus, with a mastery of detail being needed, have a different feel to those based on personal interaction and position. Similarly, strategic, long range negotiation feels different to short term price based negotiation.
A hard leverage negotiator, using positional bargaining to drive a specific outcome may feel less engaged with either a high detail technical negotiation, or a long range strategic negotiation. That does not mean that a particular personality type cannot undertake negotiations which are less intuitive to their personality, but that there will be a need to understand and account for approaches which feel less comfortable.
Although our personalities follow a certain direction, awareness of how we are wired does allow for a degree of modification of approach to suit the particular negotiation. If we know we are detail oriented and able to generate value from deep analysis and insights from data, our negotiation approach will need to be adapted to suit a negotiation based in a (Kraljek) bottleneck quadrant, where an innovative approach to value capture is likely to be of benefit. Lift up from the spreadsheet!
Accessing creativity is often a key part of a successful negotiation, looking for insight and opportunity away from the obvious areas. For those personalities with a less natural creative streak, finding other ways to unlock value in different ways can be important. If a particular approach feels hard to access, it may be important to look for others to help who have a different perspective. Building a negotiation team which has a balance within it, allowing for that variation of style, can really help with unlocking the challenges of more complex negotiations, or indeed any which the lead negotiator is not directly aligned to.
As such, we need to be comfortable with the idea of building in others ideas and approaches into a negotiation, which is a challenge for some personality types anyway. The driven leaders, with strong self-assurance about their approach, may find that harder to do at just the moment it is most required. It does take a good amount of reflection to recognise the opportunity that other people’s approaches and ideas can lend to a successful outcome.
Of course, there are two sides to the table; there is also an inherent risk that our own personality and that of the lead negotiator on the other side has an inbuilt clash which is more about the people involved than it is about the businesses which are being represented. This can develop a need for either a very managed approach to our own responses, a very adult conversation with the other side, or a recognition of a need for change in approach or people to get to the right result.
Some of these areas can seem overplayed, but in some areas of negotiation, the issues and challenges we are identifying here are recognised as being sufficiently challenging that they need to be fully addressed before any negotiation takes place. In training delivered for intergovernmental negotiation, these aspects are placed front and centre to ensure that the personality aspects are well understood and covered.
In Procurement, we often have to do the things we need to and don’t have the luxury of a large team and an opportunity to vary approach or people. As such, we need to be even more aware of the challenges our own personality can place on the success of our negotiations and deal with that appropriately. Our next look at negotiation will be thinking about fundamentally different types of negotiations and exploring where value comes from.
About Mark Hubbard
30+ years experience in procurement and supplier management, in line and consulting roles
Previous employment: Positive Purchasing Ltd, SITA,
QP Group, BMW, SWWS, Rover
Education: BSc in Engineering Metallurgy, MBA University of Plymouth
CIPS: Current Member
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