24 October 2016

Thoughts on the CAUL Negotiation and Influencing Skills Workshop

Along with a couple of other colleagues, I recently completed a Negotiation and Influencing Skills Workshop. This two-day course is organised ​annually by the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and facilitated by Steve Lancken from Negocio Resolutions.

The philosophy of the course is that it is possible to build positive relationships with those we negotiate with and to expand the value that both sides can receive out of those relationships. This is quite different from the more traditional view of negotiation as a combative exercise in which one party wins and the other loses.

Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/meeting-relationship-business-1020145/. CC0 Public domain. 

The course encourages participants to adopt the Harvard Model of Negotiation or "principled negotiation". Some of the key aspects to this model include:
  • focusing on each party's interests (which can be met in lots of ways) not on positions
  • using objective criteria / standards to inform the discussions
  • taking a creative approach and brainstorming options without criticism or commitment
  • separating people from the problem (i.e. always aiming to maintain or improve a relationship, even during difficult negotiations)
  • having a good understanding of your alternatives if the negotiation can't come to a successful conclusion. 

Part of the course was identifying our own negotiating styles (without being too judgmental of our self-perceived shortcomings!) and being mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches. There was also a strong focus on asking open questions and developing good listening skills. Throughout the course, the importance of spending time preparing for a negotiation was emphasised, and there were lots of good tips about dealing with difficult people or situations.

The willingness of participants to share real-life examples was a critical part of the learning. Steve Lancken has a good understanding of the library sector and all participants had shared concerns and some common experiences, by virtue of being from higher education and from libraries. This sector-specific focus made the course even more effective in my opinion.

I approached this two-day workshop with some trepidation, particularly since I knew it involved role plays (not a favourite thing for introverts!) However it ended up being one of the best training courses I had ever been on. I have already been able to practice some of what I learned in recent chats with vendors of some of our library systems. I have felt a lot more confident and in control of the situation than before I did the training, and the outcomes of those discussions have been extremely positive.

The recommended text for the course is available to buy or to borrow from a number of Australian libraries:

Fisher, R., 1922-2012, Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2012). Getting to yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in (Updated and revised, Third ed.). London: Random House Business Books.

Highly recommended!