The most recent Women’s Leadership Initiative program was on the topic of negotiation, presented by Glenda Hicks. She does a significant amount of corporate training on the topic. She started out by describing some of the traditional differences between men and women in their approaches to negotiation, but my take-away message was the differences between negotiating in higher education and other “industries.”
In higher education, leadership does not just involve direct negotiation (for contracts, partnerships, agreements, etc.), but negotiation is often related to conflict resolution. The goal is not “getting the best deal for myself,” but finding the best solution — whether the decision affects a student, a department, or an entire university. Some aspects of the negotiating process that are particularly important in academe include the following:
- Ensuring that all participants have a voice.
- Limiting those who talk too much.
- Emphasizing the responsibility of all participants to speak and to listen.
- Staying open to new solutions that, rather than being a compromise between two points of view, may represent a completely different and creative approach.
- Focusing the goal on solving the problem, not on winning or losing.
Glenda spoke about the “negotiating continuum” from adversarial to problem-solving approaches. I think the problem-solving end is what is needed in higher education. In using this, the participants have the opportunity to learn about other points of view and new ways of doing things.
And isn’t that what education is all about?