Five Minute Refresher – Being More Effective at Work by Winning a Mandate | Professor Freeman

You find you have too much responsibility and not enough authority. What do you do? One solution is to go out and win a mandate. That is, win the authority you need by negotiating for it. ^^

For example, the manager of a new cell phone service in New Hampshire finds he doesn’t have permission from headquarters to give his key employees raises, to fire a troublemaker, or to negotiate freely with the local town council. He could soldier on as best he could, but increasingly he finds his employees’ morale is low, performance lagging, and talks with the town are floundering. What to do?

Negotiate With HQ (!?)He realizes he needs to win a mandate, and for that he realizes he must negotiate with HQ. So he asks to meet with his superiors, and then prepares an I FORESAW IT plan* beforehand. He treats the meeting as if it were a negotiation for authority to give large raises, fire problem employees without specific approval, and broader latitude to negotiate with the town. By thinking about his superiors’ interests- one of the first tasks in creating the plan- he lays the groundwork for showing them why the authority he wants will help them. “I know you want the project done on time and under budget. If you give me authority to do X, Y, and Z, we’ll significantly improve my ability to do that for you. Here’s why I say so…”

TTT To The Rescue. The climax of his planning efforts comes when he reaches the last letter of the I FORESAW IT mnemonic, which is where he crafts a Topics, Targets, and Tradeoffs grid. (For more information on Topics, Targets, and Tradeoffs grids, See for details. Click on “I FORESAW IT.”) The grid helps him spot (1) topics he can raise, (2) bargain ranges, or ‘targets’ for each topic (so he knows how much authority to seek and settle for); (3) his priorities (so he knows what to seek most and what to give on); and (4) the best creative options he can propose.

With his plan in hand, he can wisely decide who to speak with, what to say, what to ask and listen for, what to ask for, and what to settle for. He doesn’t need to whine, demand, or beg- he’s ready to have a thoughtful, productive conversation. By negotiating with the right people at HQ, he stands a good chance of winning their enthusiastic support for the latitude he needs to do his job more effectively.

Conversely, failing to do so he may hasten his departure from the firm. (In fact, the manager on whom this example is based did fail to negotiate for a mandate, and lost his job a few months later.) You can please your superiors and be more effective at work by taking a thoughtfully, proactive negotiating approach.

But What If..?By the way- what if you can’t win more authority from your superiors? Then you need to negotiate that much more effectively with others, using creativity, research, and other negotiating techniques to help you achieve by persuasion what you lack authority to do alone.


*I FORESAW IT is a mnemonic that lists ten questions a negotiator should ask and answer before a negotiation. For details, go to the Home page, move the mouse to the heading “Articles,” and you will see a subheading for “I FORESAW IT” where you can read how it works. You can also find a copy of a handy I FORESAW IT template by clicking on the I FORESAW IT tab on the left side of the Home page.