In doing extensive research for my new book, Leading from the Middle: A Playbook for Managers to Influence Up, Down, & Across the Organization, one of the first skills that mid-level managers mentioned as being required to excel at their jobs was the ability to foster compromise. It makes sense given the variety of opposing interests up, down, and across an organization and how the middle manager, in the middle of it all, must broker the peace to move things forward.
Indeed, studies show that being able to foster compromise is one of the most important skills leaders can develop if they want to climb the ladder. So how do you do so?
With what I call The Golden Rules of Compromise.
1. Establish common bonds. In a negotiation study between MBA students at two business schools, some groups were told “Time is money. Get straight down to business.” Fifty-five percent in this group struck an agreement.
The other groups were told, “Before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other and identify a similarity you share in common.” Ninety percent in this group came to an agreement (with outcomes worth on average eighteen percent more to both parties).
The study showed the power of two sides establishing common bonds before trying to strike a compromise.
You can facilitate this between two parties by providing that bond—reminding all of the common objectives, goals, or common enemy (the competitor, for example). You can also mirror the study and ask both sides to engage in a personal sharing session before you discuss the topic requiring compromise.
2. Create “That’s right” moments. This is a trick of former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss. It’s about making sure both sides understand and articulate the other’s wants, desires, goals, and fears. When one side articulates these things regarding the other, it triggers the “That’s right” response. Defenses start going down with each affirmation, and compromise starts warming up.
3. Cut off catastrophizing.
As discussion continues, don’t allow either side to begin overstating what they’d really lose if they were to compromise. Ask them that opinions, of their own situation and that of the other, be grounded, not unfounded.
4. Help both sides understand the Law of Concessions.
This states that in achieving effective compromise, both sides, by definition, must make concessions. Establish this law up front to ensure that both sides start from a place of good faith. The idea is to establish that a cooperative framework is in place versus a combative one. In so doing, you’re asking all involved to be mindful of an open mind.
5. Encourage animated, but not heated, debate.
Compromise is hard work, sure to stir emotions. That’s good, because you want truth and passion to come out so both sides get the full picture of the other’s situation. Just keep the passionate discussion at an animated level (energetic and excited), intervening when it starts moving to heated (overly aggressive and tinged with anger).
There’s a saying that “compromise is king.” Well, now you can rule at it, with these 5 strategies.
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