Team Negotiations: Why You Must Build Agreements Internally and Externally

Each of us has had to negotiate as part of a team before, even if we didn’t think in terms of negotiations at the time.

This could be a matter of a husband and wife negotiating with an external party such as a neighborhood association, or perhaps three siblings working together to reach an agreement with an attorney in settling a question of inheritance.

That a negotiation takes place between your group and an external party is clear. What many people often miss, however, is the internal negotiation that takes place among team members before that external negotiation.

Understanding that an internal negotiation takes place, however, is crucial because these agreements lay the foundation upon which the external agreement is built. The hypothetical question of inheritance above depends upon the agreements first built among those three siblings.

And the dynamics at work are more nuanced than they initially appear.


Budgets and Decision-Makers

During the internal negotiation, each person could potentially hold decision-making power. Perhaps one person wields the most influence or has the final say over an agreement, but understand that each person involved could potentially have to be a decision-maker.

The Camp System requires that a valid M&P be in place at this stage and that you help the others in the internal negotiation discover and build their own visions so they can begin to make decisions.

When we don’t treat these internal negotiations as true negotiations, though, we tend not to impose any kind of system at all, and it all becomes very haphazard. This haphazardness ultimately wreaks havoc on our budgets — our time budgets, our emotional budgets — which ends up taxing the latter external negotiation.

Here are 3 things you can do to ensure your internal negotiations are approached as systematically and rigorously as the later external negotiations:


1. Treat everyone on your team as a respected adversary.

Often, these internal negotiations take place among familiar people: Friends, family members, colleagues you’ve known for years, etc. That familiarity makes it harder to imagine them as anything but the person you’ve come to know over the years. That’s a kind of bias.

Depending on the relationship, what happens within the framework of that bias is we don’t try to build agreements with whom we’re already familiar. We instead resort to attempts at direct control by giving orders (“Amy, when he says that, I want you to say this”), by pleading or by being manipulative.

As a result, the agreements that arise tend not to be profitable or ethical or very stable. That’s why it is important to give your teammates the same respect you will afford the third-party negotiators at the next stage.


2. Blank slate.

Blank slating is another remedy for the same familiarity bias mentioned above. We think we know our friends and family members and close colleagues like the backs of our hands. In reality, though, we cannot presume to know what each person wants.

Instead, we have to let go of assumptions and expectations by blank slating, then discover each team members’ visions by asking good questions.


3. Develop your own valid mission and purpose.

This might feel like showing up to a family dinner in formal wear, but a valid mission and purpose guides good decision-making. Develop your own M&P early so that you don’t waste time or emotional resources in your internal negotiations.

As a secondary benefit, going through the motion of developing your M&P will help you shift into the mindset that you are in fact negotiating with familiar people, so the preparation, the execution and the debriefing will naturally follow.


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