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The Art of Diplomacy

The Women’s Foodservice Forum and the IFA partnered to host a one of its kind Leadership Breakfast during the IFA’s 52nd Annual Conference on Feb. 12 by focusing on a unique and timely topic: “The Power of Influence and the Art of Diplomacy.” The questions might be raised: How often have women failed to analyze the underbelly and feel for the negotiation before engaging in it? How often have women left a negotiating opportunity on the table with neither party believing a win was accomplished? WFF recognized the importance of this skill because it is a core leadership competency for female leaders to achieve best-in-class status.

I moderated the panel, which included the Honorable Frances Cook, former U.S. Ambassador (the first female ambassador) to the Mideast and international consultant of The Ballard Group; OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Joseph Kadow; and Cosi, Inc. CEO and President Carin Stutz. Stutz is also chairwoman of the Women’s Foodservice Forum’s Board. The panelists spoke and engaged the audience with candor about their experiences and lessons learned.

Former Ambassador Cook shared her experience of spending time with foreign parties who were both silent and angry about a move the U.S. government had made without direct notice of its intentions, a situation potentially explosive and embarrassing to both sides. Kadow showed why he is the trusted voice of OSI by explaining difficult news to critical OSI employees that was well received because of his read of the audience with honesty and clarity. Stuz, a new CEO, showed why she is always engaging and thrives so well on the front lines: because she was able to gain alignment early on with her company’s staunchest critic and now staunch advisor.
To negotiate more effectively in a highly competitive environment, you must apply skills of influence and diplomacy by:

1. Incorporating your own style, but also taking into account to modify your style by diagnosing and understanding the current positioning of the issue, the history of the parties and current status of the dispositions of those at the table. Determine what is not being said and what is being understood.

2. Come prepared to emphasize the good points agreed upon, the likely environment for agreement and approach the issues with flexibility to understand what the others want so you can stay focused on what you want. Sometimes silence and listening to the other side gains you entrance into their thoughts and helps you show both all the points of alignment and the points of needed alignment.

Other Key Points to Consider

• Go on a “walk about” to get to know people within your organization and seek to learn about the team members. Dig deep into the organization. Where appropriate, go on a “walk about” in the other party’s organization and learn who they are, how they are perceived and how real their desired goals are.

• Do not be the first person to speak. Always hold some things back so you can add something later.

• Do not mistake kindness for stupidity. Do not mistake assertiveness for unfriendliness or lack of potential for alignment. 

Joyce Mazero is a partner at Haynes and Boone, LLP and former WFF Board of Directors member. She can be reached at joyce.mazero@haynesboone.com or 214-651-5336.

 

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