Why negotiation skills matter for Army officers
By Class of 2016 Cadet Zachary Panto
West Point Negotiation Project
WEST POINT, N.Y. (June 5, 2014) — In April, the Army instituted new officer evaluation reports built around leadership doctrine outlined in the Army’s leadership manual, ADRP 6-22.
Among the changes were format and rating procedure, but there has also been a change in evaluation content. The Army is now explicitly grading officers on their ability to negotiate.
The new Periodic Development Report for cadets and OER for company grade officers list the competency, “extends influence beyond the chain of command,” the manual’s definition of what includes the ability to negotiate.
The field grade officers’ evaluation requires that raters assess proficiency in persuasion, communication and building trust in negotiations. The strategic level OER explicitly states officers must be able to negotiate within and beyond national boundaries to build strategic consensus.
These changes are nested in the Army’s emphasis on the mission command philosophy. Mission command is defined as “the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations (ADP 6-0).”
To effectively implement mission command, ADRP 6-22 states leaders must be collaborative problem solvers, effective communicators and able to extend their influence beyond their chain of command though negotiation and mediation.
Another indicator of a shift in the way the Army expects its leaders to accomplish the missions assigned to them is the implementation of the “engagement” warfighting function. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command published guidance regarding the new WFF in February.
Engagement requires leaders who understand the human aspects of an operational environment and can use those aspects to build positive relationships with partners, locals and other agencies to generate solutions to the increasingly complex problems.
Given these new expectations, the ability to negotiate is becoming a core leader competency.
“Cadets prepare to lead those directly in their charge, only to graduate and discover that they use about 25 percent of their influence effort directing people who work for them and 75 percent of it working things out with people who do not,” Maj. Neil Hollenbeck, West Point Negotiation Project officer-in-charge, said.
“The difference between a merely effective lieutenant and an exceptionally effective one becomes his or her ability to negotiate. The more we are asked to work with other military services, government agencies, foreign allies, etc., the more true this becomes.”
ADRP 6-22 defines negotiation as a problem-solving process in which two or more parties discuss and seek to satisfy their interests on various issues through joint decisions. Such a broad definition has lent itself to widespread application. The competency is as relevant to peer platoon leaders negotiating shared use of a rifle range as to commanders conducting multinational military operations.
First Lt. James Oswald, USMA Class of 2012, studied negotiation as a cadet.
“Your greatest problems arise as a platoon leader when you have to go to someone else for help, advice or resources,” Oswald said. “Knowing the interests and needs of others makes it easier to coordinate with them. Being creative opens up doors.”
Class of 2015 Cadet Gene Fogh negotiates with the Afghan police captain, role-played by Maj. Steve Flanagan, as part of the final simulation exercise for the Negotiations for Leaders class.
Capt. Sophie Hilaire, USMA Class of 2009, emphasized negotiation as a critical skill set during a recent deployment in Afghanistan.
“I was the S-4 for a provincial reconstruction team,” she said. “We were the last rotation for that unit and I was responsible for turning in 11 years’ worth of equipment, but I had to find a way to do it without compromising the unit’s mission capabilities ... I had to go to my supervisor several times in order to negotiate the timeline I needed.”
Hilarie said certain negotiation concepts were critical when leading subordinates.
“I think some people in the military may not consider negotiating with their subordinates, they may just view it as the type of relationship where they give orders and expect results,” Hilaire said. “But I put just as much thought into dropping news on my subordinates as I do to my boss. Especially when you work so closely with someone, it is important to hear his or her side of the situation and take all sides into consideration before blindly giving orders.”
Faculty and cadets are leading the way in negotiation education for the Army. Starting in 2006, the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership began offering a course entitled, “Negotiation for Leaders,” teaching theory developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project.
As a response to positive feedback from graduates who took the course as cadets, the West Point Negotiation Project was founded in 2009, to more broadly impact the Corps of Cadets and serve as a resource for the wider Army.
WPNP faculty and assisting cadets run an annual military negotiation workshop, advise proponents of Army doctrine, and send mobile training teams to operational units. In the last two years, the WPNP has helped train leaders from a deploying brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, military members of provincial reconstruction teams who were mobilizing for deployment to Afghanistan and U.S. Navy SEALs in the Naval Special Warfare Platoon Leaders Course.
U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. addresses attendees during the West Point Negotiation Workshop. Participants included cadets and midshipmen from West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy and local ROTC chapters.