This is how to apply collaborative leadership to negotiations

Four hands fist pumping success

Collaborative leadership is all about giving employees a voice, a chance and autonomy in decision making.  But how does this work in negotiations? Employees want clear expectations and they want to know what is expected of them. This takes explicit delegation.  This article looks at explicit delegation related to negotiations and presents three elements that could derail the process.  Taking these into account can make a real positive difference in a negotiation.  If you have employees working for you and they have to negotiate with others, this is directly on point. If you have to negotiate on behalf of your employer with others this is directly on point for you too.


Delegation in negotiations


Before initiating a negotiation, sit down with participants that will be engaging in the process and talk about goals, positions, interests, roles, ethics, values and reactions.  Start out by having a general discussion and then move into specifics.  Who might do what during the negotiation?  The general discussion can be high level and brainstorm ideas. As specifics develop, document these and make sure as much as possible that everyone is on the same page.

Here are some things to think about as the delegator:




What is the existing situation and how what are the goals associated with the negotiation?

What restrictions (time, participants, competing priorities, etc.) may interfere with the negotiation?

Realistically, how soon must this negotiation be completed?

Are there any budget or available resource restrictions inhibiting us from achieving our goals of the negotiation?

What is a specific, measurable goal, so that I will know when the negotiation is successfully completed?  How will the delegatee know the negotiation is complete?

What skills and knowledge are needed for this specific negotiation and does the team have those skills and knowledge? If not, what is needed to bring them up to speed? Does the delegatee need any additional training?

Who, among my available candidates, has the skill and knowledge I am looking for to participate in the negotiation?

Is there any other type of support necessary for this negotiation?

What are some of the checkpoints at which the delegatee and I will review progress on the negotiation?

What are the specific responsibilities that I will be transferring to the delegatee with regards to this negotiation?

Does the delegatee clearly understand the level of authority I will be giving the delegatee during the course of completing the negotiation?

What strategies will I employ in order to maintain successful ongoing communication with the delegatee?

The delegatee and I will meet for regular feedback sessions. When will these take place: after each session, at specific points, something else?

After the successful completion of this negotiation how will I recognize the delegatee (you determine how and what will take place)?

What are questions the delegatee needs to have clarified?




If you are the delegatee on a negotiating team consider some questions like these.

What is the delegated task?  Exactly what am I being asked to do? Spell it out.

Does the negotiation have a well-defined goal or goals? If so, what is it?

What demands will this negotiation place on my time and resources, and how will it affect my existing workload?

Is there any additional information, training, or support I would need to be prepared to perform this negotiation?

Are there any inherent risks? What are the downsides of handling this negotiation?

What support will I need from other team members in order to effectively carry out the negotiation?

How will my team members be made aware of my level of authority, so that they can be supportive?

Either I will inform my team mates or the delegator will inform my teammates. How will this be done and by whom needs to be clearly defined, including my authority.

When will the delegator and I meet for regular feedback sessions? After each session, at specific points, something else?

These and other items discovered during the planning process need to be brainstormed, discussed and clarified. Participants need to clearly understand the structure, roles, responsibilities and expectations.

However, even with all of these questions being asked what are pitfalls to avoid? Here are three areas for your consideration. They are giving inadequate guidance, micromanaging and being careful with incentives and goals.  Let’s look at inadequate guidance first.


Giving inadequate guidance


Hopefully with the questions addresses above there will be adequate guidance.  However, in the real-world things come up that were not expected.  When that happens, then what? When this happens there can be confusion, frustration, ambiguity and conflicts within your negotiating team and between the delegator and the delegatee.

When this happens here is a great idea from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiations

“Solution: Provide a negotiation framework. To disseminate best negotiating practices, leaders should begin by choosing a negotiation framework, such as the “Seven Elements” approach popularized by Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreements Without Giving In (Penguin Books, 2011) coauthors Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton and detailed in Fisher’s and Danny Ertel’s workbook Getting Ready to Negotiate (Penguin Books, 1995). A negotiation framework teaches team members essential skills needed for negotiation and gets them on the same page, according to Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School professor Guhan Subramanian.”

I keep a copy of this book in my office.  It is a great reference. As has been stated in previous articles prepare, practice, and de-brief. Set up the negotiating team for success. Have candid discussions after the fact too in order to learn from the experience and apply what was learned to make improvements for future events.


Don’t micromanage


The mantra for successful managers and leaders is:

  • Catch employees doing something right (something specific) at least once a week and recognize them for this,
  • Get employees the resources they need from their perspective and don’t micromanage,
  • Give employees a chance to shine.

The key related to this discussion is to not micromanage the negotiation team. Often the delegator may have an overly optimistic perspective on his or her understanding and may underestimate the other side.  Be careful here. Autocratic leaders will have a tendency to take control. This should be recognized and avoided. One of the best recommendations for this type of leader is to stay away and keep his or her mouth shut.  Let the team work.  After addressing all of the items above, give them a chance to carry out their task. Trust them. The milestone briefings along the way and the debrief later can address lessons learned. Make this a positive perspective with feedforward to develop their confidence. Be there to help.  This needs to be an underlying theme.


Be careful with incentives and goals


We get what we measure. Be very careful with respect to negotiations.  By emphasizing results with specific measurable’s, you may meet those measurable’s. However, you may have also negotiated something that you had not foreseen. You could motivate unethical or even fraudulent behavior.  Similar to the questions to ask during planning, consider principles, values and ethical concerns to give guidance to participants ahead of time.

Besides monetary or other incentives, remember that cultivating good relationships, really listening, and educating judiciously during a negotiation may offer additional opportunities.  These opportunities may not have been foreseen during the planning process. As such any incentives presented ahead of time may not have been able to capture these benefits. Incentives should also address not only the short-term perspective but also the potential for long term benefits.




There you have it.  Address your role and the delegatee’s role in a negotiation. Have a planning meeting. Consider role playing. Brainstorm.  Consider goals, positions, interests, roles, ethics, values and potential reactions or participants ahead of time. Develop contingencies and what if scenarios. Set up the team with adequate guidance to set them up for success. Don’t micromanage. Be there to help. De-brief along the way at specific points along the way and at the end.  Provide feedforward for improvement. Be careful how you incentivize the delegatee.  You want to set the stage with expectations to encourage honest, ethical behavior consistent with your values. In the end, debrief the process.  What was learned from the experience?  Apply lessons learned in future negotiations.


About the author


Mike is a mediator/negotiator/facilitator and professional speaker. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]