What does it take to negotiate well, and why is it so important at work? Masego Khutsoane, Founder and Independent Consultant at Black Lining and Former Head of Procurement at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange responds.
What are you speaking about at Women in Tech Africa?
The topic that I will be addressing at the summit will be on "The Art of Negotiation", it will tackle what strategies to apply when negotiating and how to negotiate.
What will attendees learn from listening to your talk?
There is a famous saying that says "In business as in life you do not get what you deserve, but what you negotiate". Life is about give and take, then compromise - this is evident in everyday business transactions. Having negotiated IT software and hardware contracts, professional fees contracts, HR contracts and marketing contracts in corporate for almost two decades, the delegates will walk away with practical tools and nuggets to ensure they lead win-win negotiations.
Can you tell us about what you do at Black Lining?
Black Lining has been in existence since June 2015, it has mainly engaged with SMMEs (Small, Micro and Medium enterprises) from an Enterprise Supplier Development advisory perspective. This year saw the company being relaunched to focus on providing procurement consulting services to organisations searching for opportunities to reduce operational inefficiencies and increase their potential for success when sourcing products and/or services, whilst ensuring adherence to regulatory requirements.
Technology is at the forefront of all our engagements to ensure either a competitive edge or introduce one in the value chain. We also offer procurement mentorship to procurement professionals and clients. Black Lining seeks to inspire, engage and transform the procurement landscape.
How did you develop your own negotiation skills?
I developed my negotiation skills from my formative years, while engaged in play with the neighbourhood kids. I managed to influence what they called me. In this instance "Ausi Masego", a term primarily reserved for older or more mature ladies in the township. All this was in an effort to allow them exclusive use of my toys.
What made it more interesting was its effectiveness, which sparked an interest in how to influence people. Fast forward to my latter years, I studied Information systems and by fate ended up working in strategic sourcing, which requires smarts and tools to negotiate with both internal and external stakeholders. I learned strategies and tactics in mastering negotiations formally through my vocation.
What makes a good negotiator?
A good negotiator almost always has people skills. Their best tactic is to establish a relationship from the onset. This helps create an atmosphere to start at level ground. "Feeling" itself is an essential part of negotiation. Usually people respond to how the negotiation starts. The ability to relate and understand the other person's point of view is important.
Honesty, integrity and dignity are palpable qualities and the foundation upon which constructive negotiations are built. Be prepared and organised, as well as clear on what you want, what is negotiable and non-negotiable. Essentially one needs to know how to use time as a tool, to break if and when necessary as well as unearth the opponents real strategy.
Have you noticed a gender gap in negotiation and if so, how is it being tackled?
Most if not all negotiations I have been involved in are almost always run by men. Although women have only recently started occupying c-suite offices, the deeply ingrained societal gender norms have dictated that women be more accommodating, concerned about the welfare of others and building relationships, rather than be assertive, competitive or profit oriented.
"Most if not all negotiations I have been involved in are almost always run by men"
Studies have shown that women are not comfortable negotiating forcefully on their own, given the backlash they would receive following such a negotiation or the negative perception that is automatically assumed. The best way to tackle the gender gap is having policies that directly address gender disparities across the board. Most corporates in SA have these inclusive policies, time will reveal if they are box ticking exercises or effective.
Why is effective communication in the workplace so important?
To ensure alignment, synergy and to ensure a healthy working environment. Effective communication leads to understanding, which ultimately ensures that the objective of the company are being met, without compromise.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?
Have a clear strategy and plan on who you want to be and why; this will ensure that you never lose sight of what you want. Be flexible in your approach but do not compromise on your ultimate goal. Learn to negotiate through non-verbal cues, oral and written communication.
The opportunities are endless and tech is ready to embrace our femininity and uniqueness, you need to embrace possibly spearheading these new changes, fighting the stereotypes with a smile and armed with knowledge. Always be teachable and do not neglect to network.
About the speaker
Masego is a versatile procurement thought leader, IT operations executive, speaker, self starter with more than 17 years experience in the procurement and sourcing industry. Masego enjoyed an accelerated success in her career earlier on, by becoming a deputy director at the tender age of 23 and having a multitude of leadership roles under her belt from thereon. She has held roles in companies including JSE, SARB, Woolworths Financial Services, ABSA, SASSA and the Department of Minerals and Energy.
She is a capable professional with the ability, drive and determination needed to succeed, create opportunities and drive value driven strategies. In her career and life, Masego demonstrates early actions, wins and tangible deliverables to role stakeholders through the provision of tried and tested, advanced capabilities that extend and strengthen the quality of deliverables and projects that she embarks on. Her practical approach and can do attitude has won her difficult stakeholders and seen her able to manoeuvre challenging environments.
Masego has implemented and rolled out policies and processes in four separate companies. She is passionate about seeing women being empowered in the IT, Sourcing and procurement industry and assisting companies realise value based sourcing.
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