13 June 2019

The Impact Of Influence: 3 Negotiation And Communication Strategies For More Productive Leadership

For the by-stander glancing through the office window, it might be easy to imagine that well-timed tasks and meetings are the core ingredients that keep business teams productive. And for the on-looker in the football stadium, it might be easy to attribute the cheer of success to the intense physical endurance and thorough team practice from the previous week.


And for the on-looker in the football stadium, it might be easy to attribute the cheer of success to the intense physical endurance and thorough team practice from the previous week.

But closer questioning of any successful sports or business leader would show an often-forgotten part of the picture: any project brief or intense training timeline is only followed as effectively as it is communicated – and this requires active intervention as well as prior tuning of team members.

This means developing a ‘muscle for negotiation’ and calibrating communication styles to the personalities of team members.

And when team morale falls and barriers arise, the strategies used by a group leader can often decide whether a team can get back on track.



To new employees within a business environment, the idea of ‘negotiation’ conjures up the same scenario: dark boardrooms, awkward small-talk and tense PowerPoint presentations quickly spring to mind.

But for the seasoned project manager, the negotiation tactics used on the day to a board of potential clients are really only the tip of the iceberg: without negotiating with existing clients to approve data and testimonials, there would have been no pre-meeting white paper; and without negotiating overtime with the graphic designer, the pitch-deck may never have been completed on time to begin with.

Yes, negotiation is a crucial sales behaviour that should be imprinted into all your team members. But this should start with you as the project leader as a method of maximizing team productivity. And for team leaders within a sports context, gauging the mood of team members and negotiating further training hours can mean all the difference for the ‘big win’.

However, outside the business and sports domains, we see where ‘intuitive negotiation’ might not be enough: faced with real-life danger and fraud at a national level, government agencies are instead required to turn to carefully planned negotiation methodologies.

In the case of the FBI in the United States, detectives are trained to apply a 3-phase negotiation methodology that anticipates a combination of behaviours and incentives of the opponent on the other side of the bargain. This system (Miller, 2015) includes:

PHASE A: Establishing the environment

  • The stage of establishing rapport for the opponent

  • Creating a sense of safety for the opponent

  • Demonstrating empathetic behaviours to the opponent

PHASE B: Eliciting required information

  • Acting seemingly in agreement with the opponent

  • Re-positioning events perceived by the opponent in his or her favour

PHASE C: Identifying the solution

  • Identifying ‘black swans’ of hidden information

  • Gauge expertise of the opponent and prepare for counter bargaining

  • Establish a solution with the opponent

Although this could be interpreted as a more detailed framework to emulate in commercial sales teams, this should also be integrated by project managers to improve team output by building on existing negotiation behaviours.



But when we think back to the nervous salesperson in the boardroom, there are some scenarios where even FBI-inspired negotiation tactics do not cut the mustard: ‘here and now’ threats and opportunities require ‘here and now’ responses – this means taking the short-cut of modelling past behaviours of the team leader.

In a business scenario, this means ensuring that your team members have a trail of behaviour to follow and fall back on – not just updates to the HR manual.

Just as private sector companies should adopt the advanced negotiation methodologies designed for federal agencies, teams from all domains could also learn from methodologies designed for high-pressure sports scenarios: in the case of national sports organizations, this layer of team member conditioning is achieved using a 3-point behavioural framework. This process (Wright, 2011) includes:

PART 1: The ‘great man’ layer

In addition to screening potential team members for constructive behavioural traits according to the personalities of existing team members, this methodology also includes the ‘great man’ layer: this systematically encourages the team leader to demonstrate standards of training and behaviour in-person as a ‘behavioural reference point’ that team members can model naturally.

PART 2: Environmental conditioning

This stage of the methodology primarily focuses on the behaviours encouraged and discouraged by a team leader during the on-boarding of a new team member. This builds on the natural intuition promoted by an existing team culture – but translates this into more systematic modifications to event planning, training structure; and even social events held by the organization. Moreover, this stage also addresses proactive behaviours under a ‘dispute resolution system’ to reduce social distractions from the ultimate outcome of the season (Collins D, 2013).

PART 3: Path-goal contingencies

This stage of the methodology instead focuses on introducing a sequence of ‘culture building’ activities that are best suited to the end-of-season target. This involves raising the priority of behaviours that promote collaboration and positive mindsets; but also discouraging behaviours – negative or positive – that are not relevant to achieving the target outcome.



Whether emulating the negotiation tactics of a national federal agency or mimicking the team management methodologies designed for a high-pressure sports environment; it is no surprise that combining leadership methodologies from multiple sectors is becoming of high interest among teams reaching for the top.

But just as the tasks for a project team are only as effective as the communication methods used to carry them into practice – any negotiation tactic is only as effective as the team leader is open to integrating it.

Some call it arrogance, and some call it ‘I am from Harvard ego’: the simple fact is that many business leaders are unwilling to re-wire their own leadership behaviour.

Ultimately, just as dozens of benefits follow from a healthy morning routine – a procedural commitment to ‘re-tuning’ your own behaviours could be the final ingredient that enables the productivity of your team to thrive.


In this week’s article, we learned how leadership – whether in sports, business or government environment – can be enhanced by communication and negotiation strategies. In turn, by adopting these strategies and emulating these behaviours successfully – this presents an advantage to any sports or business team leader. Here are the core changes you can make today by using these insights:

  1. Already, you should be integrating an FBI-inspired negotiation methodology into the training of your existing sales team – but this should also carry over to the training of your project managers: ensure that PM procedures are designed to amplify collaboration between team members, and to create the social conditions that make completing deliverables early rewarded.

  2. Update your HR procedures to include ‘behavioural check-points’ to keep your project manager accountable and ensure an optimum on-boarding sequence for every new team member.

  3. To really execute and deliver on the ‘great man layer’ of the 3-point behavioural framework, this requires behavioural conditioning from the top: a continual commitment to tuning your own style of communication and negotiation behaviours by attending executive-only seminars may be the ingredient that enables healthy negotiation strategies to be embedded into your company culture as a whole.