Michael Wheeler

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Michael A. Wheeler

Leading Authority on Negotiation Theory and Practice; Master of Establishing and Building Trust and Conflict Resolution; Author, Ground-Breaking Book “Art of Negotiation”; Professor, Harvard Business School

Biography

Negotiation is essential in business, but too many executives come to the table without a proper framework for bargaining. Those who look to succeed by driving hard bargains – eschewing compromise and ignoring potential areas of cooperation – may ultimately only drive potential partners away. Those who assume both sides can amiably find a win-win situation may be blindsided by an unscrupulous foe. Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Michael Wheeler, who combines a background in business negotiation with the art of diplomacy, works to help senior executives devise the right strategy for the right moment. Through flexibility, strategic agility and quick-on-your-feet tactics, Wheeler gives negotiators the ability to strike the best possible deal for their companies.

Empathy, persuasion and spotting dishonesty or bluffing are unique and distinct skills to possess, and Professor Wheeler offers a powerful perspective on applying these abilities to negotiation. As a consultant for leading corporations, non-profits, trade organizations and government agencies in the United States and abroad, Wheeler fuses hard business acumen with a diplomat’s ability to establish and foster mutual trust and build consensus to further his clients’ goals and drive greater profitability and brand prestige.

Professor Wheeler warns that one-size-fits-all strategies (whether win-win or hardball) simply don’t work in today’s complex and fast-changing world, and illustrates for audiences how to navigate unpredictable, intense situations, be decisive and confident under pressure, and maintain trusting, long-term business relationships. For example, when entering negotiations, we seldom know precisely how much room there is for agreement: a little, a lot – or maybe none at all. Likewise, we may not know if counterparts will be trustworthy or devious, cooperative or aggressive. This “fog of negotiation,” as Wheeler calls it, can’t be wished away. But great negotiators don’t just go with the flow and hope for the best. Far from it! They recognize that creative improvisation is both an art and a discipline – a dynamic process of learning, adapting and influencing, all in real time.

Chair emeritus of the Consensus Building Institute, a not-for-profit organization that facilitates resolution of public policy disputes throughout the world, Wheeler is an esteemed expert on conflict resolution among some of the globe’s most intractable political dilemmas. He brings to his work a sense that a mutual understanding of goals and values – combined with realistic evaluations of one’s counterparts – is the best foundation on which to build agreement.

A prolific author, Wheeler has written (or co-authored) eleven books, including “The Art of Negotiation” (Simon & Schuster, 2013), “What’s Fair? Ethics for Negotiators” (Jossey-Bass, 2010) and “Environmental Dispute Resolution” (Springer, 1984), which was honored by the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. He has also written scores of articles for academic journals and general publications, including The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and Harvard Business Review, while his work has also been featured in Financial Times and The Washington Post. Wheeler’s negotiation blog on LinkedIn’s Influencer platform has more than 220,000 followers. An ever-evolving academic, Wheeler also teaches leaders the skills for negotiating in the digital age: his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best-practice app is available for iOS and Android devices, and is now web-based for classroom use.

Professor Wheeler is a strong believer in the value of learning by doing and seeing. Even with large audiences, his presentations include stimulating exercises to demonstrate negotiation dynamics. Since joining the HBS faculty in 1993, he has taught negotiation to thousands of MBA and Executive program students. In 2001, he was appointed to an endowed chair. He received the Greenhill Award for Service in 2004. A gifted teacher, Wheeler has also served on the faculties of Harvard Law School, the Kennedy School of Government, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Colorado Law School and the Politecnico di Torino in Italy.

Professor Wheeler holds degrees from Amherst College, Boston University and Harvard Law School. He is a member of the Massachusetts bar and has been a panelist for the American Arbitration Association, serving as a mediator or arbitrator in business and regulatory disputes.

Michael Wheeler is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Biography

Negotiation is essential in business, but too many executives come to the table without a proper framework for bargaining. Those who look to succeed by driving hard bargains – eschewing compromise and ignoring potential areas of cooperation – may ultimately only drive potential partners away. Those who assume both sides can amiably find a win-win situation may be blindsided by an unscrupulous foe. Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Michael Wheeler, who combines a background in business negotiation with the art of diplomacy, works to help senior executives devise the right strategy for the right moment. Through flexibility, strategic agility and quick-on-your-feet tactics, Wheeler gives negotiators the ability to strike the best possible deal for their companies.

Empathy, persuasion and spotting dishonesty or bluffing are unique and distinct skills to possess, and Professor Wheeler offers a powerful perspective on applying these abilities to negotiation. As a consultant for leading corporations, non-profits, trade organizations and government agencies in the United States and abroad, Wheeler fuses hard business acumen with a diplomat’s ability to establish and foster mutual trust and build consensus to further his clients’ goals and drive greater profitability and brand prestige.

Professor Wheeler warns that one-size-fits-all strategies (whether win-win or hardball) simply don’t work in today’s complex and fast-changing world, and illustrates for audiences how to navigate unpredictable, intense situations, be decisive and confident under pressure, and maintain trusting, long-term business relationships. For example, when entering negotiations, we seldom know precisely how much room there is for agreement: a little, a lot – or maybe none at all. Likewise, we may not know if counterparts will be trustworthy or devious, cooperative or aggressive. This “fog of negotiation,” as Wheeler calls it, can’t be wished away. But great negotiators don’t just go with the flow and hope for the best. Far from it! They recognize that creative improvisation is both an art and a discipline – a dynamic process of learning, adapting and influencing, all in real time.

Chair emeritus of the Consensus Building Institute, a not-for-profit organization that facilitates resolution of public policy disputes throughout the world, Wheeler is an esteemed expert on conflict resolution among some of the globe’s most intractable political dilemmas. He brings to his work a sense that a mutual understanding of goals and values – combined with realistic evaluations of one’s counterparts – is the best foundation on which to build agreement.

A prolific author, Wheeler has written (or co-authored) eleven books, including “The Art of Negotiation” (Simon & Schuster, 2013), “What’s Fair? Ethics for Negotiators” (Jossey-Bass, 2010) and “Environmental Dispute Resolution” (Springer, 1984), which was honored by the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. He has also written scores of articles for academic journals and general publications, including The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and Harvard Business Review, while his work has also been featured in Financial Times and The Washington Post. Wheeler’s negotiation blog on LinkedIn’s Influencer platform has more than 220,000 followers. An ever-evolving academic, Wheeler also teaches leaders the skills for negotiating in the digital age: his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best-practice app is available for iOS and Android devices, and is now web-based for classroom use.

Professor Wheeler is a strong believer in the value of learning by doing and seeing. Even with large audiences, his presentations include stimulating exercises to demonstrate negotiation dynamics. Since joining the HBS faculty in 1993, he has taught negotiation to thousands of MBA and Executive program students. In 2001, he was appointed to an endowed chair. He received the Greenhill Award for Service in 2004. A gifted teacher, Wheeler has also served on the faculties of Harvard Law School, the Kennedy School of Government, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Colorado Law School and the Politecnico di Torino in Italy.

Professor Wheeler holds degrees from Amherst College, Boston University and Harvard Law School. He is a member of the Massachusetts bar and has been a panelist for the American Arbitration Association, serving as a mediator or arbitrator in business and regulatory disputes.

Michael Wheeler is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Trust: How to Earn It, Lose It, And (Maybe) Win It Back

Trust is the binding force that makes partnerships work. That’s true in business and our personal lives. Parties who trust each other can pool their resources, build for the future and share the fruits of collaboration. When trust is absent – or lost – opportunities are squandered. Professor Michael Wheeler shows, through cases and interactive exercises, how establishing trust is a two-way street. It’s challenging twice over: it requires a willingness to risk that other parties may not keep their promises – plus making clear you’ll honor your commitments to them. Both tasks require sound judgment and keen persuasive skills. Wheeler’s short video test – an engaging and challenging exercise that analyzes people’s ability to spot deception – demonstrates common mistakes that people make in judging whether others are being truthful with them. He also explains how, after misunderstandings or missteps, well-intended apologies often make things even worse. Notwithstanding such challenges, Wheeler offers with insight and integrity powerful examples of how trust can be fostered among colleagues with whom you work every day, and as well as with strangers (customers, vendors and stakeholders) whom you may never meet in person.

Art of Negotiation: Improvising Agreement in a Chaotic World

Drawing from his highly praised book “The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World,” Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler challenges one-size-fits-all approaches to negotiations that just don’t match real world realities. Plain and simple, negotiation can’t be scripted. That’s why great negotiators are natural improvisers. They understand that robust strategy and quick-on-your-feet tactics are essential.  Unexpected opportunities will pop up as the process unfolds. So will obstacles.

Through a combination of case studies, negotiation simulations and other interactive elements, Professor Wheeler teaches enhanced decision-making and negotiating skills that can be shared across an entire organization. Drawing on compelling examples from business, diplomacy and even the arts to illuminate the agile mindset techniques that allow master negotiators to break impasse and craft agreement, he provides a comprehensive view of negotiation – from openings to closings, and critical moments along the way, including when to say to say “yes” and how to say “no” without killing a deal.

High-stakes business negotiations challenge your wits, confidence, and capacity to reason clearly under intense pressure. Leveraging the latest negotiation research and theory, Professor Wheeler helps participants prepare for complex negotiations, anticipate and overcome obstacles, and think on their feet for fast decisions in the “real world.”

 

Emotionally Intelligent Negotiation

An expert on the role of emotion – both negative and positive – Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler takes issue with the popular notion that “separating the people from the problem” is key to success. In the real world, people often are the problem.

In this practical and provocative presentation, Professor Wheeler explores the three dimensions of emotional intelligence in negotiation:

  • self-awareness, the ability to recognize your own hot buttons so you stay poised even in high stress moments;
  • capacity to understand others’ emotions and the drivers behind them (Wheeler exposes dangerous misconceptions about body language and nonverbal communication); and
  • proactively encouraging other parties to lower defenses and curtail hostility, fostering more constructive relationships.

The session includes stop-start analysis of short videos that illustrate different bargaining styles and techniques, and concludes with a six-step preparation exercise to be emotionally ready for every time you negotiate.

Negotiating Your Vision: Leadership, Innovation and Persuasion

Explaining your vision to colleagues and employees is one thing; getting others to embrace that vision is another, especially when it will disrupt business as usual. Winning other people’s support requires a special kind of negotiation. It’s not about haggling or horse-trading. Instead it entails deep understanding of people’s concerns coupled with the ability to inspire others.

In this stimulating presentation, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler draws examples from a broad range of contexts – entertainment, the arts, and history – to demonstrate how convincing others to embrace your vision isn’t about carrots and sticks, nor is it really about psychological gambits or personal charm. Rather, as Wheeler demonstrates, it’s about character, persistence, passion and unwavering commitment.

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Recommendations

“Michael Wheeler is a presenter who is both engaging and provocative in the most positive sense of that word. His negotiation advice is fresh, original and highly practical. He sparks lively discussion that stimulates participants to sharpen their strategic and interpersonal skills. In the programs that I organize, people rate him among the very best.”

— Gustavo Luis Valasquez, President, Cambridge International Consulting

“I recently had the opportunity to host an event where Michael Wheeler led an engaging and highly interactive negotiation workshop for a team of lawyers and paralegals. All of the attendees enjoyed themselves, and far more importantly, honed their negotiation skills. It was one of the highlights of the event.”

— Chris Nicastro, Vice President and General Counsel, Bridgestone Americas

“Mike Wheeler delivered an interactive, stimulating negotiation workshop to our mid- to higher-level managers. It captured everyone’s attention (and fun, as well.) Key points were illustrated through true-to-life competitive exercises. Strategizing on how to give and take value in negotiation supports long term sustainable relationships that are invaluable for successful businesses.”

— Andrew Fowler, Chief Operating Officer, res-Americas

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Wheeler, Michael

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