Clarify Your Musts and Wants – Whether in World Politics, Business or Personal

Background imageWith the news filled with the Iran nuclear deal, Greek debt crisis, and Donald Trump’s bid for the GOP nomination, I thought it was about time to add my two cents. Not from a political perspective, but rather from the position of “What do these three activities have in common?” From my perspective, the common denominator is negotiation. The first two are quite easy to understand in this light; country representatives are sitting across the table from each other determining the best deal for their people based on nuclear weapon control or economic livelihood. The third is not much of a stretch, and has been broadcast and written about as one of Mr. Trump’s quintessential skills. Elect him because he clearly understands how to negotiate and, according to him, “Who would you rather have negotiating with China? Trump negotiating with China or (Jeb) Bush negotiating with China?”

Most of us are not negotiating for world peace or billions of dollars. Rather it’s for more practical benefits such as: a pay raise, division of family labor, buy-in from a colleague or partner, buying a house, etc. The interesting point is that, regardless of what type of deal you are negotiating, one that will affect billions of people or just your personal time and energy demands, the basic first step is always the same. You have to establish your own personal (or business) MUSTS and WANTS before moving forward into the negotiation fray.

The concept of MUSTS and WANTS, as I am sharing, was described by Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe in their book The New Rational Manager. MUST objectives are mandatory, and they must be achieved in order to achieve a successful negotiation or decision. They are not necessarily the most important objective, rather the minimum requirement that has to be achieved regardless of the decision or negotiation. In the final analysis of negotiation, the MUST is your “Don’t tread on me” point that you will not concede on. As an example, a friend and her husband were determining who would divvy up chores in their household. Her MUST – ensure tasks that would directly affect their credit rating be done in a timely and consistent manner. His MUST – the ability to accomplish assigned tasks on a flexible schedule. Two very different MUSTS, and when known by them became very easy to negotiate. From a financial perspective, she was assigned all chores dealing with payment of bills, while he was assigned non-time sensitive duties like entering the bills in QuickBooks or setting up systems to track where the money was spent.

The second concept is that of WANTS. These are personal or business objectives that are important, but not mandatory. They are the nice to haves, and typically have to be prioritized in terms of how important they are to each of the negotiating parties. As you work through your negotiation, you attempt to achieve your WANTS, understanding that the other person also has their prioritized listing of WANTS. The goal is for both parties to maximize their MUSTS, and to satisfy as many WANTS as possible during the negotiation.

So the next time you are preparing to talk with your boss about a salary raise – clarify what are your MUSTS and your WANTS. As an example, your MUST might be that you want a salary adjustment of 5%. Your WANTS could be 1) increased flextime, 2) receive salary adjustment in varying time frames (i.e., 6 months, 1 year, etc). Start the discussion with understanding what is important to your boss. See if you can figure out their WANTS and MUSTS. Once you know theirs, share where you are in agreement with them. Focus on the WANTS, in priority order. Always remembering that your MUST has to be met, even if the timeframes are somewhat flexible. And of course, for a salary raise, be sure to do your homework. Know the typical salary range for your position, and what you are currently being paid within that range. Bring hard evidence that illustrates your performance excellence, and examples to illustrate. Participate in a few role-play scenarios with fellow colleagues, a friend or significant other so that you can walk into that meeting with confidence and a sense of purpose.

All of us are negotiators in some aspect of our daily lives. Why not level the playing field by knowing your MUSTS and WANTS?

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