There’s a crucial difference between winning a negotiation and getting what you want from a deal. It’s possible to win a negotiation and still suffer significant losses relative to what you set out to accomplish. My goal is never to win a negotiation. My goal is always to achieve my or my client’s objectives. That might seem like an intuitive definition of winning, but you’d be surprised at how often objectives get compromised and twisted in the heat of the back and forth just to get a “win.”

That’s why it’s crucial to never lose track of what you’re trying to achieve. Recently, I talked with Sylvie di Giusto, of Executive Image Consulting about the keys to successfully negotiating a raise. We got onto the topic of winning, what it really takes to win, and what winning really means.

I found that negotiating a raise was a useful case study because, on the surface, it seems purely mechanical and superficial. When we’re asking for a raise, the first thing on our minds is more money, “I want a $10,000 raise,” for example. But if you go into your salary negotiation with this narrow ask, you’ll almost certainly not win your negotiation, and it will even be difficult to identify if you’ve really succeeded. Maybe your current workload is enough to merit the pay raise and in your mind the new salary level is simply more commensurate with the value of the work you’re already doing. Your employer agrees to the raise, but now expectations have risen. Longer hours, more projects—is that a win or a breakeven at best?

That’s why Clarity – the first pillar of my CDE philosophy – is essential to identify what a successful outcome looks like ahead of time. Why do you want a raise? You can’t stop your inquiry at “I want more money.” Why do you want more money? “I have kids and I want to be able to pay for them to go to college.” Why do you want to pay for their tuition? “I never had the opportunity to go to college and I want to be able to provide that for them.”

There it is. That’s your purpose, that’s what you’re negotiating for: to send your kids to college and to provide them an opportunity that you never had. You can see how much different that answer is than “I want to make more money,” and now you’ve positioned yourself in a way that your supervisor can connect to; now the negotiation isn’t adversarial but collaborative.

To help understand the power of “why?” I’d point readers to a concept developed by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries in Japan. It’s called “5 Whys,” and it’s a technique he used throughout his legendary career to troubleshoot problems by getting down to the root cause. He observed that typically any problem, malfunction, or point of conflict could be resolved by drilling down to the root cause and that, in his experience, five rounds of repeating and answering the question “why?” would lead to the answer he needed. His technique is one that I use to this day to help me achieve the Clarity I need to succeed in negotiations.

It never ceases to amaze me how critical Clarity is to Authentic Negotiating. It’s the pillar upon which all else is built. The best part is that all of these, especially Clarity, can be learned, and with the right practice and training, anyone can become an Authentic Negotiator. First, you’ll need Clarity about your negotiating strengths and weaknesses. My Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz can get you started.

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