Building power occupies the minds of most negotiators but seldom do they take (or have) the time to really invest in building what we like to call their ‘equity’ at the table.
Building power is a tricky thing, and something not to be abused given the risk of alienating your most important audience, your organization’s membership. Power in the hands of a responsible leader can result in important achievements, but in the hands of someone improperly motivated, power can be harmful to your organization’s long-term reputation.
There are five general components to power development – information; personal; organizational; relationships; and context. For today, we will consider information based power.
Information is the easiest form of power to develop, and the most valuable asset that you have in the immediate environment of the negotiation. Detailed research allows you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your bargaining positions, and more importantly, to evaluate those demands being advanced by the other side. To maximize the value of your research, you must understand the information intimately – allowing you to respond to arguments “in the moment” (a critical power-balance factor).
Building your information base is not something you turn to in the weeks leading up to the start of negotiations – it is a continuous exercise. You must look outside of the traditional sources of information, like comparator collective agreements. Your information gathering should range from newspaper clippings to government reports.
In the end, having the information at your fingertips will give you confidence in your positions (a critical factor for new negotiators), and you will present yourself as a ‘subject expert’ whether the other side accepts that or not. Making that type of impression on others is the result of your efforts at developing your ‘information’ power base.