Towards Corporate Negotiation Intelligence®

How Professor Tieleman has embedded a pioneering negotiation model at Eandis

Over the coming three years, Eandis will be engaging with negotiation again in a Prime Foundation Partnership. Professor Katia Tieleman takes an in-depth look at the research and methodology that she uses with her team and Centre Manager Karolien Dekoster, at the Centre for Negotiation Intelligence and Dispute Settlement®. Werner Verlinden, HR Director of Eandis, provides examples.

Why is there a need for a negotiation model with its basis in science?

Katia TielemanKatia Tieleman: “Because the traditional approach is failing. In times of scarcity such as today, we run up against the limits of traditional forms of negotiation. The compromise model is in our Belgian blood, but in most cases it does not lead to a valuable solution. People usually seek a solution somewhere in the middle: either they compromise on the objectives or on the relationship. No one is satisfied, which leads to protests and strikes. We use the Negotiation Intelligence® model, or the NQ® model for short, to break free from that classic pattern and commit to value creation.

We need to get past the industrial model of negotiation, where negotiating is seen as a kind of well-defined production process with a fixed set of steps to follow. Instead, negotiation in our modern working environment is an ongoing process. After all, we start negotiating as soon as we need someone else to reach our goals. So we need to learn the right reflexes in order to recognise and apply negotiation potential in the way we react on autopilot.

At the same time, we need to realise that you cannot send changed people back into an unchanged environment. Negotiation is one of the last bastions of improvised thinking and acting in organisations. The sum total of all the negotiations that are going on every day within an organisation has an enormous impact. Nonetheless, those negotiations are hardly directed at a strategic and systemic level – which is what makes Corporate NQ® so important.”  

Katia Tieleman, Professor of Negotiation and Conflict Management: “We need to learn the right reflexes in order to recognise and apply negotiation potential in our autopilot reactions.”

How does the NQ® model work?

Katia Tieleman: “What the concepts of IQ and EQ do for leadership is what NQ® does for negotiations: in a world where everything is closely connected, NQ® qualifies and quantifies the success of negotiations. In developing the NQ® tool, we expanded upon the Harvard negotiation model that is based mainly on knowledge (best practices). I added the underlying layer of skills and the basis, which is the mindset, to close the gap between “knowing” and “doing” in today’s daily reality of conducting negotiations. The third dimension, mindset, plays a particularly important role in negotiations. That is what determines our assumption, which is usually negative in social dialogue. People start out by thinking in terms of problems and come to the table with apparently opposing interests. That immediately makes it difficult to reach a solution.

With NQ® we tackle the situation with four keys. We call the first key ‘reading the room’: thanks to a ‘why’ approach instead of the traditional ‘what’ approach, we gain better insight into what is on the table. The example I often give here is two children fighting over the last orange. According to the traditional approach, each child should get half of the orange, but maybe one of the children wanted to make something out of the peel and the other wanted the inside part so that they could drink the juice. The second key is the search for a lever for opportunities. Innovative thinking outside the box can lead to divergent solutions and create openness. The third key emphasises the importance of achieving goals, not censoring yourself and not hiding in your own shadow. The goal of negotiations is to make progress. The fourth key is about ‘not just playing the game, but shaping it’: i.e. not just improvising, but choosing the right topics and determining the correct mandates for a systemic, strategic approach.”

The four keys of Negotiation Intelligence

Can you give a few examples of the application and the extra value that the keys provide?

Werner Verlinden: “The first key enables our staff to identify all possible stakeholders and their interests in advance. Really knowing the stakeholders and understanding what their interests are will determine the position we assume during negotiations and the way we think about more creative solutions. For the second key, I could give the example of the issues surrounding the end of people’s careers. We try to open up the debate and support our staff in keeping them permanently deployable throughout their careers. By ‘increasing the size of the cake’ we create a completely different conversation and open new doors. Obviously we do always need to ensure that our proposals do not detract from existing measures and we check the legal implications before we even sit down at the negotiating table. For the third key, I have the Pension Master Plan in mind, where we do not negotiate the separate parts of the process, but only the plan as a whole. This enables us to achieve more of our goals and we do not give in to the pressure to commit quickly to part of that whole. The fourth key gives us the opportunity to wind up more quickly. We have shortened the process and take a more active role to ensure that a high-quality decision follows quickly and efficiently.”

Over the past three years, you have been working with the leaders of Eandis and the HR department. How are you now succeeding in embedding the NQ® model and extending it to other levels?

Prof. Katia Tieleman: “Thanks to the NQ® tool we have been able to revamp social dialogue at Eandis. We have organised interactive workshops and combined scientific findings with practical cases from Eandis. At the workshops, we put together a team profile: the participants found out about each other’s strengths and we identified collective blind spots. We learned the four keys and applied them together. We also paid attention to personal effectiveness by providing individual coaching. We explained negotiation processes and structures in order to optimise them and adapted them to Eandis’ strategic goals. In that way, we were able to firmly embed the NQ® negotiation modal at Eandis, and apply and develop best practices for the innovative process leading to Corporate NQ®.”

Werner Verlinden: “That’s right. Since social relationships were not just an issue for HR but for the entire management, we believed it was important for both the HR negotiators (business partners, labour relations people etc.) and the management committee to undergo this process together. This allowed us to prepare social dialogue in both the formal consultation bodies (the works council) and in specific talks in an ‘NQ® way’.
In a subsequent phase, we want to extend the model to other levels: at present a group of about forty senior managers are following the process and maybe all the managers will be included in a later phase. I believe that all leaders would benefit from this methodology. Negotiators need the requisite sensitivity to their organisation, because all negotiations influence the organisation.”

Prof. Katia Tieleman: “Corporate NQ® is a relatively new aspect of innovation. It investigates and contributes to maturity in corporate cultures and structures, and makes it possible to deal with important issues in our knowledge economy, such as strategic alliances, inter-departmental thinking, intrapreneurship and co-creation. Partnerships like the one with Eandis enable us to refine our Corporate NQ® expertise and respond to a demand that a great number of managers are currently struggling with.”

Have you achieved tangible results?

Werner Verlinden: “Certainly. Thanks to these negotiation techniques, we have made breakthroughs that would have otherwise been impossible, or at least very difficult. Over the past two years, we have signed five collective labour agreements in areas that were otherwise very difficult to discuss.”

Do you want to know more about the partnership between Eandis and Vlerick? Read ‘Negotiation Intelligence at Eandis: a professional and systemic approach to negotiation as a strategic lever.