Negotiation Prowess at Inaugural Get Bullish Conference in Miami

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I woke up this morning dreaming of palm trees and a Miami sunrise along my jogging path. Had I dreamed it all?

Nope.

This weekend I spent a delightful 24 hours in Miami, where I led the seventh iteration of Hands-on Workshop for Negotiation Prowess at the inaugural Get Bullish Conference, produced by the impressive Jennifer Dziura. #BullCon blogger Emily Brown covered the event here.

Here’s a short video of yours truly, explaining what Negotiation Prowess means.

When we hear the word negotiation, the most common knee-jerk reaction is to think of money. And money is a sensitive issue, because we associate it with personal worth. Every time I speak on the topic of negotiation, I try to widen the scope of thinking around negotiation. In reality, we negotiate nearly every facet of our lives. Every day, we set and reset boundaries by negotiating conflicting desires and interests that we encounter in ourselves as well as in other people.

On the flight to Miami on Friday, I was reading “A is for A$$hole: The Grownup’s ABCs of Conflict Resolution” by one of my negotiation mentors, Victoria Pynchon. She defines negotiation as a

resolution of a problem by way of communication, and communication is not simply the language of words, but also of feelings, hunches and intuition…[and the] constant enemy of clear communication is fear.

I bookmarked this page, because it encapsulates the heart of my message in Negotiation Prowess. The message being, of course, that we need not let fear talk us out of taking action on asking for the things we desire.

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Fear blinds us into thinking we are more limited than we actually are. The intent of mock-negotiation sessions in Negotiation Prowess is to overcome fear through action, by practicing the ask in a safe space and being open to feedback for improvements. At #BullCon yesterday, the attendees and I had the great pleasure of engaging in mock negotiations at the pool-side cabanas of the Surfcomber Hotel. Not a bad way to grow the negotiation muscle.

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The caliber of attendees really impressed me. They hailed from all over the country and from careers in academia, international development, technology, and media. They are future leaders, founders and CEOs, who are serious about growing their negotiation skills.

At mock-negotiation session, I partnered up with a woman who initially thought she had very little bargaining power and was unsure how she could articulate her value to a prospective employer. But once we dug deep for her value, she found she had a lot to offer and great negotiation skills to boot.

“I’ve worked ten years in this field, starting from the very bottom and I’ve done just about everything at the company,” she said. “I know the median salary is X, and I would like to ask for the top end of the range, but I don’t know how to ask for that.” So I probed her a bit further, to see if she could back her value proposition with specific details, facts, and figures. “My role in account management is very hard to quantify,” she said.

So I asked her to tell me a story in which she played a crucial role in saving an account. She realized she had a great story to tell, of how she once saved one of the most widely recognized luxury brands from leaving the agency. She accomplished this through her calm demeanor and relationship management skills. She realized she could articulate her value by qualifying her skills, tying them to a specific benefit her employer received from them (i.e. saving a huge global account), and projecting confidence.

In the beginning of our session, she thought she couldn’t negotiate for herself. Once we got into the mock negotiation, however, she surprised both of us with how well she actually did. After countering my initial offer, she leaned back into her seat and calmly said, “well, I appreciate the offer. I’d like to think this overnight.” To which she later added, “Tell me about the company’s employee benefit program. Is there room for improvement in my vacation package?” From the perspective of a hiring manager eager to fill a position, the first statement creates a sense of urgency, and the second statement brings to the negotiation table non-monetary compensation.

I’m deeply grateful for many who made the Miami workshop possible. I’m really grateful to Carol Frohlinger, another great negotiation mentor who connected me to Jen Dziura. I’m grateful to Gwen Taylor, my collaborator and mentor who gave me the encouragement I needed to say yes to this wonderful opportunity.