The Negotiator Magazine

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1. Strategic training and practice are key. Most Olympic athletes spend thousands of hours training and practicing before they ever hit the Olympic stage. World-class athletes know the value of training and practice.

The best negotiators also know the value of training and practice. In effect, they do their strategic homework on both the substantive issues involved as well as the process elements. Winging it in a significant negotiation is a recipe for disaster.

Of course, some individuals just are naturally incredible negotiators. Just like some top athletes were born with their skills.

But the best of the best negotiators and athletes combine their natural ability -- or instincts -- with substantial training and practice to fine-tune their skills.

One missed gate in a ski race or one missed move in a negotiation can be enough to destroy your chances for success.

2. Set specific goals. I will bet that almost every Olympic athlete has defined a set of specific goals for themselves in their sport.

Why? Because research in sports psychology supports the value of goal-setting. Studies there have shown that setting goals improves performance.

Research in other disciplines also has reached this same conclusion. You see it in politics, where some politicians set their sights from grade school on. And you see it in business and negotiation.

In each area, research shows that you increase the likelihood of achieving your goals if you start by systematically setting them.

So, set your goals at the start of the negotiation. Then design a strategic way to accomplish them.

3. Discipline and perseverance make a difference. I often am amazed at the single-minded discipline and perseverance that many top athletes bring to their sport.

Two days after skier Lindsey Kildow was airlifted to a hospital after a brutal crash, she was back on the slopes.

In negotiation, these same personal traits bring substantial value to the table. Perseverance. Focus. Discipline. Internal toughness.

All will help you achieve success in a variety of negotiation environments.

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June 2006