Are you looking for more effective ways to negotiate? Ellie Nieves is the founder and president of Leadership Strategies for Women, LLC, where she creates career-enhancing strategies for women around the country with her coaching programs and seminars. She recently sat down with us to discuss her experiences in negotiating throughout her career and how women can empower themselves to get what they deserve.
Sarah Grieco/AMA: What is your experience negotiating as a woman? Are there gender differences?
Ellie Nieves: Yes, there definitely are differences in how men and women approach negotiations. For example, women typically like to nurture relationships and build bonds with people they trust. But, negotiations don’t always lend themselves to creating those environments where trust and relationships are nurtured. Men have an easier time engaging informally with others–particularly in business settings. Some women also have the tendency to get emotionally attached to a certain result, which will keep them at the negotiating table. Men typically have an easier time walking away if a negotiation does not go in the desired direction.
How do you say “no” when asked to take on more than you can handle?
Sometimes, we need to step back and evaluate what’s on our plate to ensure that we are not biting off more than we can chew. In evaluating, we need to ask questions like:
- Is this task/project my responsibility, or should someone else be managing it?
- How important is it to get this done, and by when must it be done?
- Is the task/project in line with my goals?
Once we take an honest assessment of where we are and where we want to go, it is easier to say “no” to those things that are not in line with our priorities.
Are there differences between negotiating salaries versus new initiatives?
Every negotiation comes with its own set of dynamics. It varies depending on who your counterpart is and what is at stake. However, it should be standard practice to prepare prior to walking into a negotiation. Do the necessary research to support your position. But, also look at the situation from your counterpart’s perspective, and know the strengths and weaknesses of his/her position as well.
What do you do if you’re the only female at the table? How can you arm yourself from potential attacks?
First, we must not think of our gender as a disadvantage. As women, we bring strong relationship-building skills and unique perspectives to the table. We must use these strengths strategically when we sit at the bargaining table. We arm ourselves against potential attacks by being prepared. I cannot stress the importance of preparation enough. Being prepared will give you the substantive edge you need when you exchange information with your counterpart. But, most importantly, it will give you the confidence you need to push back when necessary.
Was there a significant learning experience you still look back on?
I learned the importance of negotiation earlier on in my career. I worked for one of my employers on a number of successful key projects, and I wanted to take my career to the next level. I made an appointment with my manager and made my case. Initially, he was hesitant. But, I explained why I should be promoted, I shared examples of my successes, and talked about what I could bring to the table in a new role. He did not agree immediately. But, we agreed to revisit the subject. My performance and persistence eventually paid off, and I was promoted.
What is the importance of having a mentor?
Having a mentor is important because we all need someone who can share the benefit of his/her experience with us. Another value of having a mentor is that they are also powerful role models. There is nothing like being able to observe someone who is already successful at what they do, so that we can gain an “insider” perspective on how to achieve our goals.
What advice can you give other women to feel empowered and confident before walking into a negotiation?
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation is fundamental to achieving success in negotiations and giving you the confidence you need to take on any challenges that you face.
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