Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

From peer to supervisor – Part 8: negotiating for resources as a team leader

Posted in HR and personnel, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 25, 2010

Everyone negotiates on the job. This is simply one of the core requirements for working with peers on a team, and for working successfully in a group or system. It does not matter whether you are working in an unstructured community of equals or in a highly structured and regimented system with clear lines of authority and oversight. You still have to negotiate to gain access to the resources you need and to get yourself heard.

This is my eighth posting in a series on making the transition to management with earlier installments available in the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 105, 108, 110, 111 and 113 to 115. My goal in this posting is to discuss some of the issues that arise when you find you are not just negotiating on your own behalf as you would in a job search or as a single employee.

I have offered more general information on negotiations with simpler negotiations on your own behalf in mind, noting that they offers value here too (see the Guide as above, postings 69 through 71 and also see 14, 15, 20 and 102, and supplemental posting 8 as listed at the bottom of the page.) Here my focus in when you find yourself negotiating on behalf of others as well, as a team leader. I will add that this can be a real challenge and a significant learning curve issue in becoming an effective manager. My intent here is to more or less systematically cover a process and to present an approach for doing this as a day to day activity.

Before you can negotiate outside of your team to secure the resources that your team members will need you have to work with and negotiate with the members of your team, and to understand their needs and requirements and so you can develop a prioritized want list that you can negotiate out from.

• You want to keep everyone on your team busy and productive and working to complete high priority tasks and task components. This means working with your team both individually and collectively to organize what they are working on and when, so as to meet overall team goals and requirements that have been assigned to you. This means assembling a first cut wish list of resource requirements for your team and determining where you need more of some specific resource to avoid workplace bottlenecks.
• You should take this first cut list and look for ways to achieve all the key functional capabilities while controlling for cost and availability issues. Here, very expensive resources that would in principle be readily available, and very inexpensive (in principle) resources that cannot be made available in a sufficiently short time frame to be of help effectively group together as of the same category – unrealistic.
• Plan out your presentation as to your team’s needs and how meeting them would specifically advance reaching team goals and priorities, and overall business needs.
• Negotiate with your supervisor and with interested stakeholders who could help you advance your cause by expressing their needs and how you can help them meet them.
• IMPORTANT: Developing a stakeholder constituency of support may be essential for securing the resources that you and your team needs, and certainly when overall resources are limited. But you do not want to convey a message that you are simply being manipulative and that you are trying to bypass your supervisor. That means keeping everything focused on meeting your supervisor’s goals and priorities, for the portion of them that you and your team are responsible for.
• IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that you will still be working with your same-level peers after any particular resource negotiations are concluded and you do not want to burn bridges. So always negotiate in positive terms and for your team in achieving its goals. Never take an “us versus them” approach and argue a case that your goals and priorities are more important and some other team’s are less important or unnecessary – even if you think that to be the case.
• Politics always enters into negotiations and especially when you are negotiating on behalf of constituents – here your team members. And you do not always know what pressures and forces may be in play as those higher up on the table of organization make their funding and resource allocation decisions. And people have long memories. You may very well need to help of people you are currently competing for resources with, and on important future tasks or projects.

In my earlier postings on negotiations I write of working with the people you negotiate with to meet mutually satisfactory, or at least acceptable terms, and as if you were sitting at the same side of the negotiating table with them. I add here, negotiate to build and to strengthen bridges and not to burn them as there will always be next negotiations and more after them, and negotiating roles and positions can, do and will change. Negotiate now, for now but also for the future.

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