Three ways women can boost their success in business

LBS expert urges women to use their skills to negotiate better deals

Kathleen OConnor1

Women should use their skills to negotiate better deals for themselves in business, a London Business School expert has claimed.

Writing for HR Magazine, Kathleen O’Connor, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School, visiting from the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, urged women to use their skills to negotiate better deals for themselves, their teams and their divisions. O’Connor advises women to deliberately build networks they can use to become more valuable partners in the business while also achieving personal success. 

Dr O’Connor says: “For some women the prospect of either networking or negotiating can feel inauthentic. Others fear their efforts will be met with a loud and unpleasant ‘no’.” 

So how can women boost their chances of success? Dr O’Connor says there are three ways women can negotiate better deals for themselves in business. 

First, says Dr O’Connor: “Women should manage their networks deliberately. 

“Each of us has a network: a set of relationships, some strong and others weak. These weaker ties are critical for connecting us with helpful resources – expertise, advice and information about opportunities.

“Technology has taken some of the effort out of network building. LinkedIn and Facebook make it easier than ever to connect with dormant weak ties. If building a network feels inauthentic it helps to focus on what you can give, for example your time or expertise, rather than on what you need.”

Second, says Dr O’Connor: “Women should take an effective approach towards negotiating.” 

Referring to the ‘SHIFT’ acronym:
- Separate interests from positions
- Hear the other side
- Invest in the relationship
- Frame the negotiation as a problem to be solved
- Think creatively about solutions
“Following this”, says Dr O’Connor, “can help both men and women become more effective negotiators.” 

The advice to women doesn’t stop there though.

“Women do better when they take a communal approach in their negotiations, explicitly linking their requests with the benefits to their negotiating partner and the business more broadly.”

Finally, Dr O’Connor says: “Women should learn to hear ‘no’ as ‘not yet’.

“Fear of having requests rejected can prevent women from taking the initiative. In their book Women Don’t Ask, Linda Babcock and Sarah Levascher argue that hearing ‘no’ may be especially difficult for women, and could be a barrier to asking at all.”

“One way around this”, concludes Dr O’Connor, “is to reframe a no as a ‘not yet', and remain hopeful that the answer could change.”