The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Recap: "Letting Others Have It Your Way: The Art and Science of Negotiation" with Brian Mandell

Article Type 

This ongoing series explores sessions of the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows (RLF) program. RLF provides fellows with resources in leadership theories and practical skills. Selected their Junior Spring, these Seniors take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises as they gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities necessary for leaders and successful leadership styles.

This past week's Rockefeller Leadership Fellows retreat set a high standard for this year’s program. We were joined at Lake Morey resort for perennial RLF speaker Brian Mandell, Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project. After arriving at the resort on Friday night, Sadhana Hall, Deputy Director of the Rockefeller Center, directed the fellows in brainstorming and reflecting upon the characteristics of an effective presentation. Following this, Brian Mandell drew from his extensive negotiation and professional experience to begin to address our upcoming professional lives. Our first day was capped off with a fellow talent show that included dancing, poetry, acting, and a psychic reading from our members.

Day two was supposed to be all about negotiation. First, however, we had to lay a foundation by assessing ourselves. Our strengths, weaknesses, styles, and preferences must be on our minds in order to negotiate well. We were briefly introduced to key negotiation thought processes and strategies, and then we pushed out of the nest into two mock negotiations. The first, which was between the agent of an aging soccer star and the general manager of a storied team, contained our negotiations to one-on-one. This format allowed for exceptional creativity to best meet the transactional and relationship needs of both parties while limiting the number of voices in the mix.

The second negotiation tested our ability to juggle multiple considerations at once, six parties with five competing interests, all fighting over the construction of a high-capacity shipping port. Through this complicated set of interests, we learned the significance of managing the negotiation process, or setting the table ahead of time by clearing potential stumbling blocks before the formal negotiation actually begins. Ultimately, one party was mathematically forced out of the deal, causing anxiety amongst the fellows who, after a fantastic weekend together, wanted nothing other than to cooperate. We are eager to employ the skills and expand the relationships we built over the 2014 retreat throughout the year.

-Written by John Howard '15, 2014-2015 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences