The world is watching the Tokyo Olympic Games from a social distance. Australia is celebrating the honour of hosting the Brisbane 2032 Games. But consider the incredible amount of infrastructure development and project management that goes towards hosting a successful Games and the negotiations behind the scenes.
The Olympics are known for budget blow-outs and project management fails, particularly when it comes to infrastructure. A recent analysis found that every Games since 1960 exceeded their budget by up to 720%. As the delayed Tokyo Olympics begin, it’s US$10 billion over budget from the projected cost only two years ago.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games stand out as an example of project management failure. They were also one of the most expensive Games of all time. Construction was poorly planned, hotels and key infrastructure were not completed in time, and there wasn’t a plan for how venues would be used after the Games.
Negotiation touches every aspect of project management for an event of this significance. While few engineers will have a chance to work on a project like the Olympic Games, you might find yourself in a project management role for a project where negotiation and influencing skills will be essential.
Succeeding in a project team
Project-based teams can be found in every engineering discipline. If you’re working on a large project, you’ll meet stakeholders who come and go at different stages of the project’s lifecycle. Contractors, managers, and operators have specialised skills they bring to their role. Their personality and personal situation affects their motivation and priorities. All these factors lead to the need for strong negotiating and influencing skills.
Make your voice heard
Working in project teams is an inescapable part of an engineers’ careers. Even at a junior level you may need to manage an aspect of a project, like procurement. Learning the art of negotiation can help you progress your career when you’re successful in:
- engaging with suppliers, subcontractors and other stakeholders
- asking for opportunities
- dealing with competing interests
Two key underlying factors in any successful negotiation are good preparation and team rapport. No matter your role, addressing these two factors will improve project outcomes.
1. Thorough preparation pays dividends
Before the first project meeting, invest significant time in understanding the people behind the project. Know the deliverables, risks, strengths and weaknesses of stakeholders. Then, define what project success looks like to you and to other team members.
The people involved will make or break the project. Some understanding of individual motivations and personalities is vital to gain a clear view of the team’s goals. Even asking ‘what does success look like for you?’ may deliver surprising answers. Gaining the ‘helicopter view’ and having all the facts at your fingertips will give you the advantage in negotiating towards the best outcome for everyone involved.
2. Building rapport leads to influence
Engineers are often factually oriented people who prefer hard data. You may prefer to deal with a 100-page spreadsheet than a meeting room filled with people pushing competing agendas.
But no matter your position in the team, you can learn effective ways to build trust with team members. Trust leads to influence. So even if you think you don’t have a voice or seat at the table, using a tool like the ‘head/heart/hands approach’ can build rapport that allows your opinion to be heard. It works like this:
- Head—uses a thought-based and rational approach backed up by hard data.
- Heart—appeals to values by telling stories and highlighting personal connections. Explaining, for example, why Australian products are best for this project or how the local community will benefit.
- Hands—offering a helping hand where you see a need. For example, a team member might appreciate help with calculations or organising project meetings.
Negotiating and influencing—your essential toolkit
The head/heart/hands approach is just one technique taught by Alison Jardie in the upcoming Negotiation Skills and Influencing Strategies course. Alison is a professional coach, psychologist and leadership expert with over 20 years' experience working in people development. Alison has given hundreds of engineers the tools and techniques to build trust and rapport—even from a junior position on a project.
Alison confirms, ‘You may have more power than you think to build trust and rapport. Even graduates can find ways of building trust by being reliable, bringing solid information to the table and listening well.’ Understanding how to tailor your approach is important, so Alison includes plenty of practical strategies.
Successful learning outcomes and increased confidence in negotiating are proof that soft skills like interpersonal communication can be quantified and applied—even by those who generally shy away from confrontation or bargaining.
This hands-on course takes a conflict management approach. As Alison explains, ‘A negotiation can’t be stopped, so it’s necessary to move past conflict in order to progress—it can be confronting and might take longer, but overall there will be a better buy-in from all parties.’
Gold-medal worthy negotiation skills are within reach
Strong negotiation and influencing skills are undeniably powerful in the corporate landscape and engineering industry in particular.
Register now and gain the skills necessary to drive successful formal and informal negotiations, and communicate with stakeholders with influence and impact in your role.
The next intake is now available for enrolment through Engineering Education Australia.
Find out more.