Professor Wells gives MBA students valuable negotiating tips
Since negotiation skills are essential for a career in business, we interviewed Mary Ellen Wells, an associate professor in the business department at Alvernia University, where she specializes in law and negotiation courses at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels. Professor Wells is admitted to practice law in the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
In business, there is a strong emphasis on soft, or people, skills such as communication, interpersonal and relationship-building skills. Being a good negotiator allows individuals to build, maintain, and improve relationships, which is important to being a successful manager. Negotiation encompasses soft skills and hard skills, which are technical and procedural.
“Negotiation is a group of skills, some hard, some soft,” explains Mary Ellen Wells, JD, LLM, associate professor of business at Alvernia. “It requires an ability to communicate well, which is often thought of as a soft skill, as well as some hard skills such as content knowledge.”
Wells says the essential goal of negotiation is for the parties to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement.
“A successful negotiation often is the result of broad option generation which opens the parties’ eyes to additional means for achieving goals,” she states. “Parties in a successful negotiation move away from the initial ‘positions’ they often hold when entering into a negotiation and transition to bargaining for the underlying interests they were actually trying to achieve in the first place.”
Preparation is key to successful negotiation. Parties can plan ahead by identifying what the main interests are and possible solutions.
“Before beginning the negotiation, each party should decide for themselves what he or she will do if the negotiation is not successful,” Wells offers. “That way, rather than accept a resolution that is not beneficial for them, they already know what their alternative will be.”
A good starting point for negotiation is for both parties to generate a variety of options for resolution of the issue, Wells emphasizes. This requires patience and listening skills more than negotiation skills at the outset. Creativity, open-mindedness and a willingness to trust are also beneficial skills for negotiation.
“If the parties think outside the box and look not just at the position they initially believe that they want to be in, they often find a greater zone of common interests than initially contemplated,” Wells says.
In order to accommodate the needs of working professionals, the MBA program at Alvernia University is offered online and on-campus.