I have been reading an interesting history of a slice of diplomacy from the Second World War. President Roosevelt used personal representatives–often informally–to help him understand and coordinate with our allies. This led me to thinking about choosing the right representatives as lead negotiators for an organization.
As Michael Fullilove tells it in his book Rendezvous with Destiny, Roosevelt sent five men as his personal representatives: Sumner Welles, Bill Donovan, Harry Hopkins, Wendell Willkie, and Averell Harriman. These were all people the President knew, but they were not all his friends. One–Willkie–had run against him for President in 1940. They each performed well and provided great service to the United States.
Was Roosevelt lucky or was he good at choosing these representatives? Probably both. Here are some of the traits shared by the five. First, they were loyal to the President even when they did not fully agree with his policies. Second, they were deeply knowledgeable about American policy and politics. Third, they were hard-working and energetic. Fourth, they each could skillfully build and maintain relationships.
These are traits we would like to see in those who represent us in negotiations. We have written about other important attributes of a good negotiator (click here to download).
Loyalty: Effective representatives are those who understand the mission and are committed to pursuing it. If they disagree they should be able to tell us and we should be willing to listen.
Deep Knowledge: Representatives should understand the technical details as well as the negotiation or regulatory process.
Hard Work and Energy: Representatives who are able and willing to put in the time and personal resources necessary to perform the task at hand are most likely to be successful.
Relationships: Successful representatives go beyond merely presenting our side of the argument. They listen to the other side, build trust, and empathize.
Click here to read some other skills.