Practical Negotiation Skills with Mrs Achere Cole

Mrs Achere Cole

Mrs Achere Cole – Deputy Director / Head of Operations of the LMDC

In today’s EVA episode, I was pleased to welcome Mrs Achere Cole, the Deputy Director and Head of Operations of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) and Secretary to the Governing Council of LMDC. She holds a master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and a second master’s degree in law from the University of Lagos. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2003 and is a CEDR UK Accredited mediator. 
Mrs Achere has national and regional experience in building ADR mechanisms and capacity. She consulted for the Judiciary of Kenya and the International Development Law Organisation on a project to support the Sustaining Judiciary Transformation Blueprint of Kenya’s Judiciary. She was an External Evaluator for a Court Annexed Pilot Project that was commissioned by the Kenya office of the IDLO and International Commission of Jurists, the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the High Court of Kenya for the family and commercial divisions of Milamani Law Courts in Nairobi, Kenya.
She was part of the pioneer staff that midwifed the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse’s establishment under the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG). She was a trainer, assessor and mentor for a Justice for All (British Council) project on “increasing access to mediation and legal services for poor people”. She has also provided training for Mediators and Staff of the Kaduna and Abia Multi-Door Courthouses under a World Bank assisted project to expand ADR institutions in Nigeria. Mrs Achere was part of the team that trained 37 staff of the Kano Multi-Door Courthouse to enable the KMDC to start Operations under the Security, Justice and Growth Programme of the British Council.  She was Head of Human Resources and Administration of Capital Partners Limited and was Workforce Assessment Team Lead as part of a team of consultants responsible for the Bank PHB Retail Strategy Implementation Project and is a trained election observer by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre, Ghana.
Mrs Achere teaches Mediation and Communication courses at the LMDC and is also a Restorative Justice Trainer. She is a proficient and interventionist Mediator in fields that cut across commercial contracts, family, criminal and employment disputes.
We critically discussed the following questions:  
A.  Why Negotiation? 
B.  What are the benefits of Negotiation?
C.  What are the skills necessary for anyone to engage in Negotiation?
D.  What is your advice for potential users of Negotiation and people who want to pursue a career in Negotiation or as a Negotiator?

Why Negotiation?
Negotiation is the first step in dispute resolution. It can be defined as the interaction between two people whereby they have an opportunity to resolve their dispute, preferably in an interest-based fashion. For instance, organisations can work with one another and resolve their dispute themselves and even individuals, which is the essence of negotiation before moving on to other dispute resolution mechanisms that involve a third (3rd) party. Hence, it has the potential to put the parties interests together and settle between themselves privately before they involve any third party neutral.
What are the Benefits of Negotiation?
It is private and a flexible form of dispute resolution so can be done under any circumstances. What that means is that it can be done anywhere; It can be done using a system that has been designed by the parties. It is not rigid and has a greater possibility for a successful outcome except when the parties adopt a positional-based approach instead of an interest-based approach. This possibility of a successful greater outcome leads to a win-win solution in which both sides are happy to get results that are beneficial to their interest.
Additionally,  it provides parties with the opportunity to design an agreement that will serve their interest. For instance, they can design whatever solutions they want and document them, and that becomes the contract between the parties in which, of course, can be enforced in the court of law, and that design comes from either party. It enhances the relationship between the parties, which is really important in today’s society, and much less expensive in comparison to other mechanisms of dispute resolution.
Disadvantages of Negotiation
When two parties come together to resolve a dispute and one party does not understand interest-based position versus positional based negotiation, they tend to negotiate in a positional fashion which may lead to a breakdown of negotiation (interest-based v positional based negotiation). This means that one party is keen on insisting on a particular outcome and not interested in the other party’s interest or discussing it. This is one of the many disadvantages of Negotiation.
The skills necessary for anyone to engage in Negotiation 
Preparation: The most skill required is preparation; that is the need for a negotiator to prepare for the meeting, study the history of the relationship, what kind of negotiation they are involved in and what kind of dispute.
Problem analysis:  Another important skill required by a negotiator is how to analyse the problem or issues raised in the dispute. Thus, the need to stand out of the dispute and look at it as an observer or with a fresh eye and analyse the problem. To see what really caused the dispute and determine the interest of both sides and what are the possible interest and what are the possible solutions is critical.
Active Listening: This is an equally important skill set to gain as a negotiator. Most times, people listen with the intention of responding to what the other person is saying. It is essential to learn to listen as a negotiator, and that is why it is called active listening, taking out any thoughts about what the parties are going to say or meant to say. Instead of doing that, the negotiator needs to listen to understand and summarize or rephrase what they have just said to ensure that you understood what they have said that will make or show the parties know that they were heard. Finally, the essence of active listening is that the party feels that the negotiator has listened, and that is a skill set which a negotiator needs to learn and develop.


Advice for Potential users and people who want to pursue a career as a Negotiator or in Negotiation?

We pointed out that the need for adequate training cannot be overemphasized. To reiterate, the importance of getting appropriate skills – like active listening, questioning skills, decision making and problem analyses are essential tools that are all built into the negotiation training.
In furtherance, potential users or users should not go into a meeting with a positional based approach rather go in with an interest-based fashion or approach to their negotiation.
This work was able to provide a holistic view of Negotiation and its intricacies. We hope potential users would take on board the vital points raised herein and put them to good use by opting for ADR, particularly Negotiation as the case may be.
To listen to the full version of Episode 16 of EVA, click here.
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