I have been involved with our industry associations for many years now, as a board member, Past President and committee member. It is interesting work and very different to running a company … and as such gives a whole different experience.
One of the things that is the most different is the need to accommodate the needs of many, and the need to build consensus amongst a disparate group of individuals, who may all have differing agendas. Each brings their own value and their own experiences to the table, but because we are not all from the same company it will create some differences that can sometimes be hard to accommodate.
One lesson I have learned from these experiences is to focus on the similarities first … and despite the different agendas it is always amazing how many similarities there are. Once you can understand how much you agree on, it becomes easier to tackle the things that are a little contentious.
I have found the same thing when talking with people from other industry association, even when the assumption was that we were far apart in our beliefs there are always areas of common ground … and from there you can build a workable relationship.
So … the lesson is this:
If you find yourself across the table from someone and you both believe you are very far apart in your beliefs then you need to start to look for the things about which you might agree.
Once you build that mutual appreciation you can start to tackle the differences. You might want to then take a read of my blog entry called When Negotiating Focus on What REALLY Matters.
IF you start with the differences and each take “positions” then you are going to have a hard time reaching agreement.