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John Reitman

By John Reitman

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Negotiating: The art of the deal

Matt Kregel (left) and Ralph Kepple go through a negotiating exercise at the 2013 edition of the Syngenta Business Institute.It's not exactly the same as Congress deciding the fate of the country, but the annual ritual of budget negotiations can be just as important to the future viability of any club.
 
"I'm not talking about two nations here, but we are talking about competing for resources with another manager within your organization, and you have to figure out who gets those resources and how you have to allocate them," said Amy Wallis, professor of practice in organizational behavior at Wake Forest University during this year's Syngenta Business Institute. "You have an employee who wants to change their work schedule and you have to decide if that is feasible and everything that is going to be impacted by that decision.
 
"These are the kinds of negotiations we engage in on a day-to-day basis."
 
Held in December at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., SBI is a four-day professional business development program that provides about two-dozen superintendent attendees with graduate school-level business education in a compressed and interactive format.
 
Developed in conjunction with the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, the program supplements superintendents' management skills with a curriculum that includes financial management, personnel management, effective communications and negotiating skills delivered in an interactive series of seminars and workshops conducted by members of Wake's MBA faculty.
 
The program included sessions on financial management, managing across generations and leading teams and individuals.
 
Negotiations processes that the group identified as the kind that typically involve superintendents include negotiating with managers about budgets, the golf shop about frost delays and vendors over product pricing.
 
"This truly is an eye-opening experience," said Matt Kregel of The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis. "Negotiating has been one of my weaknesses. The techniques we've heard about can be implemented as soon as we get home."
 
According to Wallis, many negotiations go awry because people from one or both sides enter the process without understanding what makes such processes successful.
 
"We tend to think of negotiations as a zero-sum game," she said. "Everything I get is something you lose. Everything you get is something taken from me. I am competing to get the most of that pie.
 
"That is how most of us think about negotiations. What we find out is that when we cooperate others tend to cooperate as well. We need to learn how to leverage that."
 

What we find out is that when we cooperate others tend to cooperate as well..."

 
Wallis used an arm wrestling exercise to demonstrate how negotiations commonly work, which often is a confrontational relationship, and how the process can be a win-win for both sides.
 
She instructed members of the group to pin their arm wrestling partner as many times as possible. As attendees struggled to pin each other in the exercise, Wallis demonstrated how by each person allowing themselves to be pinned, both people got what they wanted.
 
"We tend to define success as I have more than you do so I won," Wallis said. "Is there a different definition of success that is not about winning or losing, but about both of us getting what we need?
 
"What happens to develop a win-win situation? We have to learn how to let go. We have to trust, have to be willing to concede, i am willing to let you take this point because i am go to trust that next you are going to be willing to let me take the point."
 

We have to learn how to let go. We have to trust, have to be willing to concede,.."

 
Sometimes, it requires creativity for the negotiations process to be successful.
 
"I didn't get a business degree, I got an agronomy degree," said Ralph Kepple, CGCS at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. "I took some business classes. The part on negotiating was eye opening. You see what happens when you break trust."
 
Three things to consider for a successful negotiations process include: substance, or what is being negotiated; process, or how the negotiation will take place and relationships between those involved in the process.
 
This requires some self reflection to determine if one tends to approach interpersonal conflict from competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating or avoidance perspectives.
 
"We have to be mindful to processes, and if we are going to change them," Wallis said. "If we don't think about the processes beforehand, what assumptions do we walk in with? We walk in with the assumption that this is going to be combative, somebody's going to win, somebody's going to lose. I have to get as much as I can out of this and make sure the other guy or gal doesn't get as much as they want."
 
"The other thing we need to take into consideration is the relationship. Most of the time you are engaged in a negotiation, it probably is with someone you are going to have an ongoing relationship with."
 
Wallis pointed to an example provided by an attendee who says he spends all year fostering a positive relationship with his club's controller to help smooth over the budget negotiations process.
 
Investing in relationships makes sense, Wallis said. 
 
"That way, when you do eventually need something you've got that good will in the bank so people are inclined to help you," Wallis said.
 
"Folks who spend most of the year making other people mad probably are not going to be as successful in a negotiation as someone who invests in helping people get their job done well."

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