There aren’t many people who could say their opponents shed a tear at their funeral; however, that is reportedly what happened at the services for the late Edward Kennedy.

As with most current events, I found myself curious for the lesson(s) behind the story.

While researching Kennedy’s workplace skills, I chose to read the words of politicians, journalists, and commentators who were clearly not in agreement with most of his views. What did they have to say?

Two themes were repeated—the ability to hire and retain a superb staff (how many of us can boast we had a future Supreme Court judge on our team?) and a knack for the compromise.

I decided to look further into the compromise component asking the question.

How to win and compromise?

Compromise is an idea many of us do not like to consider. It’s often seen as a second choice, an implied failure, maybe even un-American. Winners don’t relent. Winners win. Or do they? I can think of times, especially early in my career, when I held on to a plan with an all or nothing mindset and ultimately lost all of it because of my refusal to compromise. I should have learned from the Senator from Massachusetts.

So how did others who also spent most of their careers interacting with Senator Kennedy see and rate his ability to compromise. Here are a few points made by friend and foe alike.

Kennedy knew how to:

Be known as a person open to alternatives and options. Early in this century, Republicans serving in Congress were asked whom they believed was the easiest to compromise with. Whom did they name? The man they also saw as being the farthest left of their views, Kennedy.
Become known as the person from whom to learn. New legislators, regardless of affiliation, were always told, “Learn from the way Teddy did it.” What that meant was put your head down, listen, work hard, and know what you’re talking about before your ask others to see your side.
Be seen as unselfish and standing for your constituents. Take strong stands that reflect the needs of those you represent rather than what you want or believe.
Understand other people’s needs. Appreciate that your colleagues have responsibilities, which may be very different from yours. Acknowledge their commitments.
Give everyone a seat at the table. Be open to listening to all perspective and concerns. Invite disagreement.
Understand the natural draw of the center. Acknowledge that most decisions are rarely radical and that a shift right or left, up or down, lighter or more intense, is not a defeat but a step toward the goal.
Partner with your adversary. Find common ground and publically display your abilities to work together. It floors the angry soloists.
Build coalitions for power. Get people with differing objectives to see the power in numbers. Minorities can become the majority if they come together.
Let others know where there is no wiggle room. If you absolutely cannot, will not, move on a certain point, make it clear, and remain consistent.
Treat compromise as craft. It can be learned and it must be practiced. Let it be known that you know how to create a deal, help others do it with you.
See change as incremental. People swallow in bits and come to accept new ideas a little at a time. Americans, by the nature of our government structure, are accustomed to things happening in a rather predictable sequence with a hierarchy. Honor their pace.
Associate the solution with the person closest to the problem. If the issue is money, have the finance people layout the challenges. Ask the workers on the line how to decrease accidents.
Wear the opposition out. If you are passionate about something, details and more details, and stories and tireless energy, will wear out most opponents. Often the person who gets their way is the last man (women) standing.
Use emotion strategically. Appear somewhat detached emotionally for most of the debate. The heartstrings, sound bites, and pleas have their place; however, used too often or inappropriately they are self-defeating. The bigger the crowd the more energy the delivery needs to be.
Take your opponent’s side. Prove them wrong, misguided, or truly not committed, while making their argument. Many people will fold only because they are not as prepared as you are.

Compromise became Ted Kennedy’s weapon and the key to his productivity. Most acknowledge he initiated or drafted more legislation than any other Senator, in the history of the union, in his forty years on the job. What people did not realize is that most of his successes were achieved through compromise and collaboration. I can also guarantee you he had mentors, coaches, and advisors throughout to enhance his skills and bolster his weaknesses. No charge in that, just a fact.

So how can you apply these compromise skills to your work? Whether you are negotiating for more dollars, talent, space, a change in policy, procedure, or wanting to get the job offer, most of these techniques and mindsets can be easily and quickly learned and applied. Then it just takes a lifetime of practice.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.