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How executive MBA students are learning to negotiate

Due to Brexit, the ability to negotiate is now more important than ever. Since Great Britain decided to leave the European Union, long and difficult negotiations will be needed to conclude new commercial treaties. Does the UK have enough skilled people to conduct them?

Negotiation skills have always been crucial to business. Still, what can be considered good negotiation both on the international and company levels? How do aspiring MBAs learn these skills?

Put Yourself Into Other People’s Shoes

Estimated professors from various business schools believe that the core of effective negotiation is empathy, or the skill to imagine yourself in somebody else’s place. This brings context onto the table and can be used in any kind of negotiations, whether they are for governments, deals between two companies etc.

Negotiation skills are especially useful for executive-level managers, and consequently, for those studying at EMBA programs. According to Catherine Tanneau, a HEC Paris professor, negotiation skills are crucial for leaders. Most EMBA programs pay special attention to teaching their students negotiation. For instance, the National University of Singapore has a special course dedicated to power, politics and persuasion, and HEC Paris brings negotiation up in most of their classes.

How EMBAs Learn to Negotiate

At Chicago Booth School of Business, EMBA students can learn not only leadership, but also important negotiation skills. The special course focused on negotiation has role-playing and simulations in its curriculum. It’s the safest place for future executives to practice and hone their leadership and negotiation abilities.

Many students at such programs learn something new about themselves, despite having several years of management experience. Some of them, like Jesse Otis who studied at Chicago Booth, find out that they had been too accommodating and soft during negotiations. Others learn the best time for making offers and concluding deals.

Specifics of Teaching EMBAs

Naturally, teaching MBAs and EMBAs are two completely different experiences. Primarily, EMBAs tend to be much older than MBAs (late thirties-early forties compared with late twenties-early thirties). That’s why EMBAs, with their considerable management experience, don’t need to cover the basics of negotiations – they have to learn the sophisticated details of perfect business deals. Usually, EMBAs are not looking to drastically change their professional lives, and can share all kinds of unusual, even intense experience. For instance, Cambridge Judge Business School had people who negotiated a pipeline construction with the Chinese and people who negotiated in hostage situations.

Another good thing about EMBAs is that they are usually not only very experienced, but also very diverse. Being from 50 different countries allows you to learn from others and acquire skills you wouldn’t get anywhere else. Additionally, many negotiations simulations are written in the context of more or less exotic countries, like China or Pacific islands. Anyway, there is no standard negotiations procedure: every deal is unique and has to be figured out separately.

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