What is power? It is the ability to get things done by exercising leadership
and/or control over people, situations and events. Yet power is mostly based
on perception. If the leader thinks he's got it, then he's got it. If he doesn't
think he has it, even if he has, then he doesn't have it. For the project manager,
power is the perception that project goals are realistic, achievable and beneficial,
and that those working on the project will benefit as a result.
Consider the following fifteen aspects of power.
The Power of Planning
Just as the life cycle of a professionally-run project is based on the concept
of first planning and then accomplishing, the art of negotiating anything can
be viewed in the same way. The two phases in this case are "preparation" followed
by the "negotiation". By understanding these two phases the crucial components
of time and information can be used to develop a superior position. The more crucial
the negotiation, the more important it is for you to invest time in preparation.
The Power of Investment
There appears to be a direct relation between the amount of time you invest
and evident willingness to compromise. In other words, at the beginning of each
encounter approach the other side collaboratively. You have plenty of time later
to become competitive or to give an ultimatum, bearing in mind that you will only
do this near the end - after the other side has made a significant investment
of time and energy.
For example, suppose there is something difficult to negotiate, whether an
emotional issue or a hard item like the explicit price for goods or services.
Lead into it near the end of the negotiation when all other items have been disposed
of and the other side has made its investment of time.
What if the emotional issue or quantifiable item surfaces at the beginning
of the negotiation? Acknowledge it, chat about it then put it off until later,
returning to it only after the other side has spent more time. It is remarkable
how the other side's investment will cause them to become more flexible near the
end of the negotiation.
The Power of Professionalism
The project manager's negotiating ability will be increased immeasurably when
others are persuaded to identify with him or her. How can this be achieved? By
not pulling rank or overplaying authority. You can gain people's cooperation,
loyalty and respect simply by acting as a reasonable person and dealing professionally.
By identifying with project participants and approaching them on a human level
and speaking to their needs and aspirations.
The Power of Expertise
Why is it that highly qualified technical specialists are often made project
managers, even though they may not have project management know-how? That is because
technical knowledge, specialized skill and technical experience is perceived as
providing a power base for leadership, even though experience on many projects
shows that this is not necessarily true.
For the project manager this means establishing his/her background and credentials
early in any negotiation. Take advantage of the fact that in complicated negotiations,
participants often lack specialized knowledge of certain aspects of the matter
being discussed. Whenever possible, obtain that expertise by preparing ahead of
On the other hand, don't be over-impressed by the "expert" on the other side.
Keep in mind that if the other side didn't need what you have to offer, they wouldn't
be there. Try an occasional "I don't follow", or "Can you explain that in layman's
language" A dose of irreverence, plus a dash of innocence, when combined with
polite persistence and the asking of questions will often change the attitude
and behavior of a so-called expert.
The Power of Precedent
The project manager should not act as if his or her limited experience represents
universal truth. Start by testing basic assumptions. Don't get locked into time
worn ways of doing things by the argument "Don't make waves. You can't argue with
success and we've always done it this way".
To justify what is being done or asked for, refer to other situations similar
to the current one where others did so-and-so and the required result was achieved.
If it suits, but only if it suits, try using the overwhelming logic of folklore,
or popular tradition, even though such tradition may actually be illogical.
Few are willing to pursue a philosophical debate during a negotiation, it wastes
too much time.
The Power of Attitude
Perhaps the worst person to negotiate for the project manager is the project
manager himself. It is always easier to negotiate on behalf of someone else.
This is because setbacks tend to be taken personally and therefore too seriously.
It leads to excessive pressure and stress.
In contrast, an intermediary can be more relaxed and more objective. The exercise
can be handled more as a game plan, and there is always the option for the intermediary
to check back to his or her superior for further instructions. An intermediary
can often buy you time to develop a new strategy and ultimately lead you to a
more satisfactory conclusion.
The Power of the Knowledge of Needs
In all negotiations there are two things being bargained for:
- The specific issues and demands which are stated openly
- The real needs of the other side which are hidden
If you can possibly establish a reasonable guess at what the other side's needs
are, you can often forecast the outcome with remarkable certainty. Never forget
that behind every apparently ruthless or uncaring organization or negotiator
there are ordinary people desperately striving to meet their individual needs.
What people say they want in their demands may not in fact satisfy their actual
The Power of Commitment
Make the power of commitment in others work in three ways:
- Take advantage of committed support to disperse the overall risk
- Reduce individual stress level by sharing risk and anxiety with team associates
- Demonstrate shoulder to shoulder team dedication and transmit awesome power
vibrations in the face of opposition
So, obtaining the commitment of others to the project is crucial. You can form
partnerships and alliances by offering a piece of the action, so that it is their
action as well. Involvement begets commitment and commitment begets power.
The Power of Risk Taking
When negotiating, be prepared to take risks by mixing courage with common sense.
Not to do so may result in being out-negotiated. That means avoid becoming emotionally
attached to a position wherein the other party can manipulate you with ease. Intelligent
risk taking involves a knowledge of the odds plus a philosophical willingness
to walk away and absorb a manageable loss without worry.
The Power of Competition
Successful negotiators develop options. By creating competition, what you have
to offer moves up in value. The more people who want to participate competitively
in a project, the further the budget will go. This applies not only to products
or services, but also to ideas. The more competition that is generated for creative
ideas in support of the project, from whatever source, the more commitment there
is likely to be towards the project and the more successful it will turn out.
The Power of Rewarding or Punishing
The perception that one party can help physically, financially or psychologically
gives that party muscle in a relationship. The actual reality of the situation
is immaterial, it is the perception that counts. Here are two things to remember:
- No one will come to the negotiating table in any significant way unless they
are convinced that their adversary might help them or hurt them.
- In this adversarial relationship, never diffuse this perception of power,
unless something is obtained in return. This might be a concession or a repositioning
on their part that is truly beneficial.
The Power of Legitimacy
Another source of power for the project manager is the power of legitimacy.
In Western society, people are conditioned to regard the printed word, documents
and printouts as having authority. Most people tend not to question them. By all
means use the power of legitimacy but you should challenge that power when it
is to your advantage to do so.
The Power of Morality
Inhabitants of the Western world are imprinted with similar ethical and moral
standards, learned from school, church or simply from family situations. Concepts
of fairness tend to be very much alike and few walk through life without believing
that what they are doing is for the good of mankind. That's why by laying morality
on people in an unqualified way often works.
By throwing oneself on their mercy, without defense or pretense, there is a
chance that they may succumb. Why? Because they can relate and are hesitant
to take advantage of someone who is truly defenseless. If they do take advantage,
ask if that was fair and reasonable. That sort of question shakes up even the
most worldly and self seeking.
Will this type of appeal work with people who have different values and other
cultures? Not necessarily. Will it work with those whose imprinting is entirely
different? No. People who are programmed in ways alien to us, often cannot comprehend
Western concepts of forgiveness, cheek turning and extended olive branches. What
they may understand much better is power, opportunism and revenge.
The Power of Persistence
Most people are not persistent enough when negotiating. They present something
to the other side and if the other side doesn't buy it right away, they shrug
and move on to something else. Many times, persistence eventually pays off.
The Power of Persuasion
Many project managers, especially those with technical backgrounds, rely too
heavily on reasoning capacity to achieve their goals. Engineers and scientists
learn to believe that logic must prevail. Yet logic by itself rarely influences
people and, most often, simply does not work. If you want to persuade people to
believe, do, or buy something, consider these three factors:
- Develop analogies that relate to their experience
- Produce evidence that is so overwhelming that it cannot be disputed
- Make a convincing case that what is being sought will meet their existing
needs and desires
Of these three factors, the third is by far the most important. Why? Because
even if overwhelming evidence is presented and understood, if the conclusion proves
to be depressing to the listener, he or she will remain unconvinced. The facts
and logic may be unassailable, but without connection to needs and desires their
acceptance will be only a remote possibility.
If you want to persuade people, then show them the immediate relevance
and value of what you are saying and
Do it by presenting the information in terms of fulfilling their
needs and desires.
FICE, FEIC, FCSCE, FPMI