Negotiation occurs at many stages and layers of organizations life and it can be frustrating. I want to highlight the existence of an approach that has the advantage to respect the rights and duties of each member of the negotiation. In spite of fighting for resources the mutual gain approach allows to create more value for all participants. The main idea and aspiration is to develop a setup which benefits the members of the negotiation.

The main principles are the following: (inspired by the Mutual Gain association website http://www.mutual-gains.com/mutual_gains_neg.html)
  1. Identify common interest – You always come to the table with at least one common interest. Find it and build your dialogue on your common interest not your differences.
  2. Consider as many options as your imagination permits – be creative and imagine all potential solutions even the ones that technology does not allow. This will allow you to find innovative way to find mutual agreement. You may in the end combined two ideas to achieve the negotiation goals.
  3. Generate criteria or standards - They are maybe pre-existent criteria and standards in your industry that can limit and help the negotiation. In case no standards or criteria exist, generate a document that will list all the authorized action within the negotiation. Clarifying the rules of the negotiation will permit a better understanding of what is acceptable or not and will avoid conflict or cultural misunderstanding.
  4. Understand all your alternatives – in a negotiation you always have a choice to accept, reject or offer modification to the proposal. In order to negotiate effectively determine your Best Alternative to the Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). What happens if the negotiation fails?
  5. Build relationship – Make sure to build a negotiation based on facts, open and clear communication (do not hesitate to ask for clarification or give more details if you feel the need to), and respect. As a consequence, the connection you created with the other person remains even if the negotiation fails. In the future, you will be able to negotiate with this person again with trust and clear communication.  


Prepare for the negotiation:

Before going to any negotiation try to answer the following questions. If you fail to answer some of them you should try to answer those questions during the negotiation.

During the negotiation your feelings may be triggered. You should allow yourself to exit the situation if your emotions are taking over your rational thinking. In case of “emergency” you can:


After the negotiation, take the time to assess your success in answering the following questions:

I suggest that you write down question to ask during the negotiation and even prepare a speech about the way you would like to process the negotiation. It is important to clarify your intentions and needs to the other side in order to allow them to do the same. The mutual gain approach is not commonly used in negotiation and may disturb people at first. When they understand its benefits they will for sure participate more actively.

Do you have any tips to share with us to achieve a successful negotiation? Write it as a comment. 




Few weeks ago, one of my blog's reader asked me if I had suggestions or tips for a new leader in an organization or team. The main question is How to figure out the new organization's (team) culture and values? A person becomes a leader when people start to follow him. This will never happen if the leader has no idea of what the organization is about.

The new leader should become a detective and try to find as much information as possible about the organization's culture and values. He should not be satisfied with reading reports on how things are done. The most important is to connect to the people in the organization. The Leader should have few questions in mind such as: Was the organization successful? Were there many changes in the last few years? What is the internal reputation of the organization?...

My first advice to any new leader is to observe what happens around him and take notes. The new leader should observe the following behaviors and processes (this list is not exhaustive however it should be a good starting point):

  • Observe everything. This may seem overwhelming  but those observations will give you a lot of soft information about the organization.
    • Observe Interactions between colleagues, supervisor and employees during work time and breaks. For example, Do colleagues eat together for lunch?
    • Observe and Question influential people in the organisation and make sure to develop a relationship with them. They may not have senior or high level position in the organization. It could be the secretary that has been working for the organization for years and knows everyone. The article on Social Networking Analysis could help you to understand what could be done. 
    • Observe Processes. How does the organization get the work done? Is it different from what you are used to? Could it be improved thanks to suggestions received?
  • Ask questions: if you do not know something and you cannot figure it out alone: ask questions. People will appreciate to help you especially if you recognize their participation in your learning.  
    • Ask people: what is their work about? How do they do it? and what could be done better? maybe this will highlight dysfunctions in the organization. This allows the new leader to improve efficiency and work life while being praised for listening and taking useful actions. 



All those observations should help the new leader to better understand and grasp the organization's culture and values. My second advice relates to the leader's behavior in the first few months. Remember that the leader leads by example and that his behavior is influenced by his beliefs and habits. So:

  • What are the leader's values, goals, mission, vision? Do they fit with what was observed? if not should the leader adapt himself or try to change the organization?
  • Clear communication.When a new leader arrive people expect change. The New leader should make sure employees know what is his plan. He should be mindful of the communication tool he uses because it has to correspond to the organization' s culture. 
  • People Talk: good and bad news are quickly spread in organizations. The leader should be aware of the influence of what he says, to whom he says it and how he says it. When people have no idea what is going on they use their imagination to fulfill their knowledge's gap. No one wants negative rumors to spread because the communication was not clear or existent.  
  • Create momentum by communicating clearly and by creating partnership with people within the organization. It is important to  make sure that employees can answer the following question: Where are we going? What are our resources? How are we going to achieve our goal?
  • Slow is better than too fast: I advice any new leader to avoid lead major changes before he understands the organization's culture and values. 
I encourage you to read the following article as it gives another perspective on what should a new leader do. http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/04/new-job-success-leadership-ceonetwork-employment.html

This article is based on the book “Change your questions, change your life” written by Adams Marilee. She explains that our behaviors are impacted by our thoughts, emotions and the circumstances we live in. We have two possible reactions which depend on the type of questions we ask ourselves (unconsciously most of the time). Those questions impact our behavior and emotional state. Understanding the impact of those questions allows to face issues with a more positive view. It empower us to make better decisions and improve our emotional state.

The first types of questions are opened ones. They have a positive impact on our behaviors and emotional state. They are called Learner questions. The other types of questions are called Judger questions because they blame either ourselves or other people for our current situation. The consequences of such questioning will badly impact our behavior and emotional state. Learner and Judger questions are listed bellow with a list of consequences.



It is preferable to be in a Learner mode as the consequences of this questioning are way better than the one from Judger. It is then interesting to know how to switch from a Judger position to a Learner one. The main question is: Are you able to evaluate in which mode you are? As written before, we may not be aware of our unconscious questioning. Self-Awareness can be challenging to develop as it requires to pause for a minute and listen to ourselves. Our bodies have unique ways to communicate with us. Some people can feel back pain, tight shoulders, or migraine when they are in the Judger mode. How do you feel in stressful situations?

If you want to use appreciative inquiry you need to listen to yourself. You have to make the conscious effort to observe yourselves and your reactions when you are in Judger mode. Once you identified your personal reaction you can switch to Learner by simply asking learners questions; such as below:


You may hope that once you acknowledge the existence of Judger it will disappear. Unfortunately, it is in the human nature to come back to Judger. In this case, we have to develop our self-awareness so that we can detect the moment when we become a Judger and ask switching questions.

Appreciative inquiry can also be used in group to resolve problems. This tool is called Q-storming as it is based on the idea of Brain-storming, It consists of asking learner questions in group regarding an issue. The questions lead the group to better understand the roots of the problem.


I interviewed Jing Tian a PhD student in the program of Human and Organizational Learning. She works in an organization that provides job training with a focus on leadership, communication and change management. When she looked at PhD programs she was advised by her coworkers to look at George Washington University where she studies now.

During the interview she expressed her interest in Social Networking Analysis which is the study of the connections between people within organizations. She explained that understanding the interconnections between people is crucial to understand organizations’ dynamics. It allows visualizing the invisible connections between people by creating a social network map.

Computer sciences and network science fields were the first to develop the network theory. The goal of network theory is to map and visualize the existing relations between objects. The connections between objects can be asymmetric and symmetric. The technology used to map those interactions was restrained to computer sciences for a long time.  Nowadays, Organizational Learning uses this theory to map social network.

The interest of Jing Tian is to use this theory and its concepts in order to apply it to human interactions within organization. Mapping those interactions allows consultant, researcher and managers to better understand the network of communication, influence, and relationships within an organization.

This theory is relevant to my focus on change management as it can help depict connections between people. A Social Networking Map can uncover unbalanced power, non-existing relationships, and dysfunctional processes. This tool can be used as an eye opener for the people within and outside the organization. People may not be aware of the informal network which is more relevant to study in the change process than the formal network established in Organizational chart. Mapping the social network allows to identify the most influential people in the organization. Once identified, influential people can be empowered to be the “porte parole” of the change process. 

If you want to learn more about Network theory I invite you to consult the following books and journals:
·         The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark S. Granovetter, American Journal of Sociology, Volume 78, Issue 6 (May 1973), 1360-1380
·         Academy of Management, http://aom.org/ and their Academy of Management Journal (AMJ) http://aom.org/amj/
·         Journal of Management and organization http://jmo.e-contentmanagement.com/

If you would like to be interviewed to talk about your subject of study and interest you can contact me at acgraber@gmail.com. This blog aims to share knowledges and experiences to improve organization life for all.