INSEAD Participant Interview

Becoming a Better Negotiator

Michela De Carli

Past participant of the Negotiation Dynamics Programme
July 2015

"You feel you come away with all the knowledge and the fundamentals to succeed. Having this knowledge helps you manage surprises and the unexpected. You leave the programme with the confidence to not only answer any potential question that may be thrown at you, but also to ask the right questions."

Can you please introduce yourself?

I have over 15 years’ professional experience, mainly in supply chain management and in particular, procurement and global strategic sourcing. Most of this experience has been gained in multi-national companies, including 12 years in the pharmaceutical industry with Pfizer and Zoetis. 

I also have successful commercial experience, including leading the global business unit for B2B sales.

Common to all roles is that negotiations and managing complex relationships have played a critical part.

How does Horacio, the programme director, approach teaching negotiations?

Horacio is a charismatic leader who is a pleasure to listen to. His teaching approach is extremely effective. My experience of executive education programmes is that you usually have lots of notes to take and lots of case studies to go through. It can be quite heavy and really a lot of one-way communication, from the teacher, to the class.

With Negotiation Dynamics, it’s different. Horacio adopts a much more practical approach. He engages and interacts with those on the programme. There was a lot of room for discussion. At the same time, there is time to listen and to take ideas. It’s very powerful.

You have worked in very multi-cultural environments. How does the programme help with this?

The cultural aspect is one of the key things to consider when preparing negotiations. You need to know everyone around the table. You need to understand how to communicate. You need to build trust and open communication channels. This was one of the parts that Horacio stressed: know the other party.

Would you say the programme gives you more confidence?

There was a lot of emphasis on how to prepare for negotiations and how this is a key factor for success. With this in mind, the programme provides you with the tools and practical guidelines for successful, deep preparation.

Because it was covered extensively, it creates confidence. You feel you come away with all the knowledge and the fundamentals to succeed. Having this knowledge helps you manage surprises and the unexpected. You leave the programme with the confidence to not only answer any potential question that may be thrown at you, but also to ask the right questions.

Would you say the programme is accessible to those with zero negotiation experience?

Because the programme is about becoming a better negotiator and a better decision-maker, it makes it ideal for any executive, no matter the experience or job function. We all have to negotiate and take decisions at some point. This makes what you learn on Negotiation Dynamics extremely valuable.

Additionally, the approach taken by Horacio makes the content of the programme accessible to even those who have no experience of negotiation.

How is Negotiation Dynamics different to other executive education programmes you have taken part in?

Firstly, I have done several executive education programmes and Negotiation Dynamics has been my favourite. It is different because it’s a programme from which you leave and are ready to implement what you have learned from day one when you return home. It’s highly practical and useful and easy to roll out to your organisation. It really gives you the fundamentals you need to approach negotiation differently.

It’s also different because it helps give you a clearer vision of where you want to be in your career. For example, I decide to focus more exclusively on negotiations and partnership management.

How does the programme change the way you think about negotiations?

When looking at negotiations, it’s very easy to take a self-centric point of view. In other words, you think about the best outcome for yourself. What is your best solution, your deal breaker?  What do you want to achieve? What the programme does is give you a broader perspective. It forces you to think about the other party(ies) in the negotiation. It helps open you up to other avenues; other solutions. To be more open minded. You think more about both sides and the best outcome(s) for both parties. This helps lend legitimacy to the discussions.

What makes a successful negotiation?

I think there are a couple of elements that contribute a successful negotiation. Firstly, a successful negotiation is one in which there is a process that creates value for both parties and from which both parties emerge happy.

Secondly, a successful negotiation doesn’t just look at the short-term goals. It takes a long-term view of things: the strategic goals for your company and your business. It’s not uncommon for parties to place the emphasis on profit maximisation. The only thing they keep in mind is cost and price: the financial aspects. This is often not the recipe for success.

What Horacio does is encourage you to take a different approach. He helps you see the bigger picture. The programme is about getting away from short-term goals, to long-term gains, particularly in terms of professional relationships and the value negotiations can bring to your organisation. He encourages you to view negotiations as more of a partnership, than a win-lose scenario: you want to achieve a deal; you want to take a piece of the pie. Don’t aim for the biggest part. Your negotiations will fail. Aim for equal parts and the deal will be a great one. What is even better is to try to grow the pie, inventing options for mutual gain. This will help you move from a good deal to a great deal.

What has been your lasting impression of the programme?

Horacio gives you a clear approach to go home with and be a successful negotiator. He teaches in such a way that negotiation becomes a mindset and he gives you ways in which to apply it to every aspect of your professional and personal life. After all, as Horacio says, negotiation is something that is present in everyday life – from the personal to the professional. He teaches you to embrace negotiation and gives you a different approach and a different perspective that will make a difference.

Horacio takes the basics of negotiation: the financials, reviewing agreements, looking at potential deals and alternatives, setting targets, and turns them on their head. It’s a quantum leap which moves you to the ultimate intelligence and expertise. He obliges you to look at things in a different way.

How would you describe Negotiation Dynamics to someone?

It’s a programme that I would recommend for any executive. It cuts across functions and industries. It’s a fundamental programme that goes beyond any traditional programme and beyond negotiations themselves. It’s a mindset, an eye opener. It’s a quantum leap that will help you view negotiations in a different light and make a real difference in both your professional and personal life. It really is a competitive advantage that you are giving yourself and your business.

Interested in the programme? If you have further questions, have a look at our Negotiation Dynamics web pages or contact Mark Hoggarth, the programme advisor on +33 (0)1 60 72 40 38 or at mark.hoggarth@insead.edu.

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