Saturday, May 10, 2008

Library Leadership Follow-up: On Negotiation

This session was designed as a follow-up Session for those who attended the 2007 Library Leadership Institute. The Facilitator was Maureen Sullivan

Maureen Sullivan began saying "everyday we are negotiating". Her easy style, as a
negotiator, was developed during many years serving as the Director of Library Personnel Services at the Yale University Library and prior to that, she worked with the Association of Research Libraries in Washington, D.C. She is on the faculty of the annual ACRL/Harvard
Leadership Institute and is a professor of practice in the new Ph.D./Managerial Leadership in the Information Professions program at Simmons College.

Sullivan provided an excellent handout, which is summarized below and kept an audience attentive during the last session of the day. A skilled facilitator, this session was obviously the short version of other presentations that she does on this subject, but she engaged the participants in role playing, discussion, group activities, and even took a "cookie" break!

These notes are mainly from her handout with some added comments:


  • Let others know your interests
  • Explore interests that are compatible, and those that are not
  • Identify conflicting needs and interests
  • Parties commit to fulfilling the resulting agreement
  • Find a resolution that is mutually satisfying to different parties
    Agree on how to work together (For example, we are going to agree to listen to each other)
  • Use the "pregnant pause" as a way to illicite a responses from those who are quiet participaters.
Sullivan added that "Compromise is short of true collaboration". In true collaboration, the needs of all are satisfied, and may result in the end product being greater than what was anticipated.

During the session participants were paired to discuss the following: A situation in the recent past in which you were negotiating for something of importance. What was your goal? How did it turn out? How satisfied were you with the result?

It was interesting to watch the pairs as they used good listening skills:
Making eye contact
Nodding heads
Vocalizing encouraging words to each other
Asking open ended questions
As the conversations continued, voices became a little louder, gestures became more frequent, as people expressed real life situations that were important to them

Sullivan suggested that back in the library when you are getting ready to negotiate, look to a colleague to help you in the planning process. You take on the role of the difficult position.

She suggested these skills to develop for effective negotion
  • Be mindful of your tone of voice
  • Ask questions (use your neutral question asking experience as a Library professional)
  • Start by stepping back and asking questions.
    Continue to spend more of your time listening

Suggested was an article for further reading by Peter Drucker: Managing Yourself (some people learn by listening, others by reading, others in other visual ways)

Comments from participants:
"When negotiating with "bull-headed" people, the result is often disappointing."
An example shared was deciding on a lease when a couple was looking to buy a car.

More suggestions:
  • Invite people to think and take time for reflection
    Consider a BATNA - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement if no perfect solution can be reached
  • Establish assertive/responsive approach.
  • Recognize parties as equals (sometime you need to give up the typical hierarchy of administration)
  • Helps to be tentative (Let me hear where you want to go)
  • Use language as neutral as possible (be specific; avoid generalizations
  • We want to have an opportunity to "lay our cards on the tables"
  • Be sure to "Wrap up". Ex: This is what we agreed to.
Stages of Negotiation
I. Analysis
Identify your interests and needs
A lot can be accomplished by using the phrase: "Help me to understand."
"I didn't mean to put you on the spot."
Confidence comes from practice.

Two book recommendations from Sullivan were: Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman. These books tell us how emotions can get in the way and be channelled. Be aware of emotions and manage them. Remind yourself that you need to know what you want to happen:Be clear with your answer to: "What result do you want to see?

What you would like to have the person to do, offer it as an invitation.
Elements of Principled Negotiation
Separate the people from the issue of problem
Focus on interests, not positions
Generate a wide variety of possibilities before deciding what to do
Insist that the result be based on some objective

Skills for effective Negotiation
  • Take time to build and maintain a climate supportive communication
  • Ask questions
  • Listen with attention and an open mind whenever others speak
  • Seek to understand
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cures
  • Be sensitive to the other's communication preferences and respond accordingly

"In real negotiation, we share information. Union negotion is today not negoation because they hold back."

General guidelines:
Be prepared for the negotiation
  • Remember that each of us perceives the world differently
  • Never box yourself or another person in a corner
  • Use your creativity and imagination
  • Learn the power of silence
  • Never give up something for nothing
  • Make it easy for the other party to agree
  • Set deadlines and outline steps to be taken (Example: "Let's take a break and come back to my office. If you don't come back, I will come back to you.")
  • Anticipate "no agreement" and be prepared for it
  • Be aware and manage your behavior
  • Adapt when you can.
  • Practice "assertive responsive" communication
  • Assert your views, needs, and interests and respond effectively to those expressed by other party

Interesting statement from Sullivan: "It's only been in the last five years that I have started to see staffs in libraries as a team, really focused on service to the constituency."

This observation seemed extremely important. Seems that libraries need to work as teams more than they did in the past, since it is less likely to have departments doing individual tasks.

Sullivan recommended that "Behavior that happens outside of the group is harmful to the team and should be addressed. Outside conversation against the team is behavior that is harmful to the group. "

Sometimes we just "accept that we disagree" but sometimes we need to understandthe underlying causes of disagreement.

Conflict and How to Deal Constructively with it:

  • Negotiating often involves conflict
  • Recognize that conflict is inevitable
  • Conflict and disagreement can be a creative force.

Steps to Constructive Resolution of Conflict:

1. Focus on the issue, not the personalities.

2. Avoid blaming and pointing fingers.

3. Manage your emotions.

4. Use empathy to understand the other party's position.

5. Take the time required to work through the issue.

Thoughts from Sullivan: "We need more play in our libraries."

"Pose the question in your library: What are we here together to do?"

"In a team, the synergy, becomes a way of working together."

"Collaborative comes out of the meaning of co-labor, working together."

"Where am I spending my time, where are you putting your effort?"

"We have a basic need to connect to other humans."

The group took some time to consider what they want to negotiate in the future.

Final thoughts:

There needs to be a place to communicate.

"Email can ruin your day." It is important to use it as a tool for facts and try to avoid emotion.

Face to face conversation is important.

If we do use email. Stop, read, and edit.

Ex: "Reference upstairs and Children's Room upstairs sharing the computer facilities is an important issue." This is a situation with which many can identify and perhaps negotiate.

This was a very valuable session and an important skill for library leaders, but the also provided a good list of suggestions for librarians, useful in many situations.

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