Negotiating criteria for building TRUST

Nov. 20, 2014
The challenge of leading people is well known. It can be taxing, discouraging, costly, and unsettling. Those who are leaders will tell you that it is the most difficult part of their job but also the most rewarding. To lead well is a skill, and like most skills, it can be learned. Dentists, office managers, and hygienists who want success and smooth sailing are wise to invest in collaborative innovation and their leadership skills.

by Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA

The challenge of leading people is well known. It can be taxing, discouraging, costly, and unsettling. Those who are leaders will tell you that it is the most difficult part of their job but also the most rewarding. To lead well is a skill, and like most skills, it can be learned. Dentists, office managers, and hygienists who want success and smooth sailing are wise to invest in collaborative innovation and their leadership skills.

A leader in the dental office needs to know how to satisfy his or her efforts to promote the agenda in a way that won't lead to compromising the organizational good.1 However, the leader will need to do this in a diplomatic way. If the leader's attitude is "I win, you lose," the result will always be damaging. This is considered to be a zero sums game,2 whereby one party triumphs and the other fails. In this example, no collaboration, inventiveness, or alternative solutions are visited. The result is that relationships are damaged when the message sent is that the leader doesn't care about anyone else's wishes. Hardball negotiations reduce trust and harm an organization. Once trust has eroded, it's difficult to reestablish. The outcome can be devastating to the dental office or any business.

One example of eroding trust is this story about Continental Airlines.3 In 1994, Continental Airlines was dead last in every possible measurable performance metric. When Gordon Bethune, the new CEO who was the 10th CEO in 10 years, came to the helm, he realized that he needed to restore trust. He understood that regaining employee trust would lead to trust in the marketplace.

Early on, he demonstrated an innovative and risky plan. He took stacks of company policy manuals that were filled with minutiae-controlling regulations out to the parking lot and asked his staff to burn them! The smoke from the burning rules sent a signal to all staff members. Bethune said that henceforth, employees were to use common sense in solving problems, balancing what was right for the customer with what was right for the company.

The change was phenomenal. Almost instantly, Continental was meeting its budget forecasts, and it wasn't long before the company was ranked No. 1 in two of the most vital airline industry measures - time performance and baggage handling. During the 10 years Bethune led the company, Continental went from worst airline to No. 1, winning more customer satisfaction awards than any other airline in the world.

So how can the leader of a dental practice build trust? One proven way is for the leader to be a champion architect of negotiation. Trust is achieved by shaping the nature of agreement.

By cultivating the following skills, a dentist can effectively gain trust, smooth relationships, and collaboratively innovate for creative solutions.

1

Recognize that fairness matters4 - Economists often quote a game whereby the first player is given a sum of money to be divided with a second player. Both players must agree on the division in order for both to keep whatever sum of money the first player decides to give. Studies consistently show that the second person refuses any money unless the person feels there is a semblance of fairness. Of course, most people happily accept a 50/50 split. The interesting finding is that the second party will forgo any of the cash unless at least 15% of the money is offered. In this event, they both lose.

2

Cultivate objective criteria - Fundamentally, the criteria need to be objective. Are you looking at both sides of the equation? Is there unbiased input? Make sure the standards are fair and the procedures consistent. Be open to reason, yet take care not to yield to pressure.

3

Focus on interest, not position - Try to find a common ground. What objective are all parties striving for? There are likely shared interests that can be moved forward. Don't get stuck at driving only your agenda, because with collaboration it is likely that a better result can be created. By avoiding polarization, communication remains open and possibilities to a joint solution are promising.

4

Separate people from the problem - People can fixate on a problem, so change the game. Step into the other's shoes and recognize that together a solution can be found. Do not get personal. Look for ways to surprise the other party in a pleasing way, and take care to never back the other party into a corner. Like wild animals, people will come out fighting and communication will shut down. Find out why they feel a certain way. Think about basic human needs - their career, work/life balance, and more. Make a list and keep people looking forward, not in the past.

5

Invent options for mutual gain - Try to figure out a win/win solution. Looks for ways to create a joint gain. Brainstorm together from the same side. Broaden the options or bring in outside experts. Specialists can often direct resolutions that were not even thought of by the parties. Create novel solutions that meet everyone's needs. What are the shared interests? Can the scope of the agreement be broadened, or can thinking about bundles of solutions provide an answer? The more options the better. Offering choices will spark new ideas and open possibilities.

These principles can be applied to all negotiations in the dental practice, whether a staff member is asking for a salary increase, support to attend a conference, or flexibility of hours. Even contentious issues should be dealt with through the process outlined here. When the adoption of negotiating skills is implemented, confrontations and hard feelings will be avoided, and staff members will know they are valued.

In dealing with staff, the leader needs to be sure to actively listen and demonstrate flexibility. To make no effort to move in the staff's direction will likely shut them down. They will feel as if they are not valued and will disengage. Disengaged employees cost a business tremendously - monetarily, productively, and in loyalty.5 The result is a disruption in the cohesiveness of the team, which translates into an ineffective team. Even if the resolution is not to the ultimate liking of employees, they will recognize that genuine effort was made on the leader's part to be open. This alone will nurture good relationships and build valuable trust. Like Continental Airlines, with trust, the team will be energized and success for the practice will follow.

References:

1. The Art of Critical Decision Making: The Great Courses - Professor Michael A. Roberto - Disk 5 Deciding How to Decide ISBN: 159803538-X.

2. Transformational Leadership: How Leaders Change Teams, Companies, and Organizations - The Great Courses - Professor Michael A. Roberto - Disc 8 Negotiating as a Way of Life ISBN: 1-59803-745-5.

3. Terry O'Reilly - Under the Influence - CBC Radio http://www.cbc.ca/undertheinfluence/season-2/2013/06/02/trust-in-advertising-1/

4. Transformational Leadership: How Leaders Change Teams, Companies, and Organizations - The Great Courses - Professor Michael A. Roberto - Disc 8 Negotiating as a Way of Life ISBN: 1-59803-745-5.

5. Dale Carnegie - What Drives Employment Engagement and Why It Matters http://www.dalecarnegie.com/assets/1/7/driveengagement_101612_wp.pdf

Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA, is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change in dental offices. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill set to include creativity and collaborative innovation to build team mechanisms that drive success in dental practices.

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