The MBA Thought Leadership Society recently ran a very informative session on the subject of becoming a better negotiator.
Stephen Boyle is a lecturer at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, where he delivers courses in negotiation, influence and decision making on executive development, MBA, and other postgraduate degree programmes.
Over the course of the session Stephen touched on a range of topics to make one a better negotiator, from the benefits of viewing the process as a collaborative one over competitive, to always having a BANTA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement) whenever engaging in negotiation oneself. He further focused attendees’ minds on identifying their interest or purpose in engaging in any negotiation, their targets (with a reminder to be ambitious) and priorities. As an extension, he helped participants view compromise in negotiations as trade off between various packages and discussed the value in putting yourself in the other side’s shoes when identifying compromises that would work for both, thus leading to greater value for both parties and developing more positive relationships. Finally, he noted the importance of the people factor in any negotiations, and advised students that while generating a positive relationship is vital, to not put it above your own long term interests.
After Stephen’s presentation he spent significant time answering students’ questions, indicative of the great level of interest his talk provoked. Questions ranged from topics such as “the difference between persuasion and negotiation” to “the proper level of information sharing at the beginning of negotiations”. The questions themselves went on for as long as the presentation itself, and would have likely continued if allowed.
The presentation was clearly an event enjoyed by all and we of the Thought Leadership Society look forward to our next speaker session.
For many, the past 12 months have felt like a bit of a whirlwind. We went from what we thought was a 2-week lockdown, through copious amounts of zoom calls, to what people are now calling COVID fatigue. Like many others I have gone through substantial change this year. Wherever possible I have tried to embrace it with open arms, even when it didn’t come naturally: such as when I faced the maths section of the executive assessment exam.
The past 7 years and a big chunk of my professional career were spent working in the Middle East, where I had worked hard to build a reputation as a person who delivered results in sales & business development. In July of 2020, five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world stood still for a moment. I received an email to say my role was impacted by the global headcount reduction at my company. If anyone has ever been impacted by redundancies before, you will know it is not the most pleasant experience to go through. There is still stigma around the word and many do not like to talk about it. Many self-critical thoughts raced through my mind: Could I have done more? Am I good enough? Did they not like me? It was a very strange and isolating time. I was reminded by a friend recently that redundancy doesn’t mean you are redundant but more importantly its the role that is redundant.
Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
After letting the dust settle for a few days, I thought to myself, ‘how can I turn this event into an opportunity to grow?’ I narrowed it down to four areas: apply for a new role? travel the world? (Hard to do with a ban on most travel.) Set up my own business? or do an MBA? I’ve wanted to do an MBA for a long time. In my Microsoft Internship, I remember sitting with a colleague who was mid-way through their MBA and being positively impacted by their energy and excitement for the MBA course. The way they articulated and understood the bigger picture intrigued me. Following that conversation, I firmly placed the desire to do an MBA onto my things I would like to do in the future list.
If I am being very honest, I was a little naïve to the process of getting into an MBA programme. So, when I realized I not only had to do an entrance exam but there was also a section heavily weighted on maths, I was a little concerned. It had been so long since I had encountered any of these types of math. With six weeks to prepare for the executive assessment, I had a small moment of doubt. Had I left it too late to get up-to-speed and achieve the standard required in such a short time?
If I didn’t pass the entry exams, I knew that the decision to return home could be the wrong decision and the year I had set-aside to complete the MBA could be an ambiguous time. I also knew that to wait another year before joining the MBA class was not a realistic option.
Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.
So, with no time to lose, I began receiving Math tutoring 3 times a week for 3 weeks until I returned to Ireland. During this same period, I was preparing to leave Dubai. Rental agreements needed to be closed, belongings that could not be re-patriated needed to be disposed of and banking and visa requirements all needed attention. Most importantly, I needed to say goodbye to friends and colleagues. These 3 weeks were hectic and challenging on many fronts.
Having arrived back in Ireland, I still was not feeling fully confident in the math section of the executive assessment. I tried the mock online and I knew I needed to find more help. I secured lessons with a professor: 2 hours of teaching per day, for 5 days, every morning, right up to the exam.
Why am I telling you all this you might be wondering?
The executive assessment exam for me was an early lesson in overcoming my limiting beliefs. I had to keep an open mind, tackle my weaknesses front-on, know when to ask for help, and map out a clear process to enable me to succeed. These same skills continued to help me throughout the first semester of the MBA, which, thanks to the complications of COVID-19, was not the easiest start. I have thoroughly settled into and am enjoying the course. I have been able to build relationships with my fellow students and lecturers and hope to strengthen these even further as time goes on.
Funnily enough, and to my surprise, some of the subjects I have found the most interesting are maths-based: management accounting, financial statement analysis, and economics. Overcoming my limiting beliefs allowed me to go into subjects with an open mind, ask questions, and remain curious.
As I reflect over the past few months I remember an article that I wrote back in April, one month into the pandemic. I had just started watching Game of Thrones. In this scene, one of the characters (Ygritte) is sharpening and fine-tuning her bow & arrows amid a great storm. Her friend Tormund looks to her and says, ‘we could be here for a while; there is no need to rush with making arrows, come for a drink.’ Her response: “Good, the longer we wait, the more arrows I’ll have.” This is what stood out to me in Game of Thrones and this is what I hope the pandemic (our own storm) is for me. I hope to take what I learned in conquering the maths section of the GMAT and, at the end of my MBA, come back out to the market with my skills sharpened.
Career success is not about being employed but being employable. Change is the only constant in life and does not have to define us. A true test of character is how we react when it does.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re curious about doing an MBA at UCD Smurfit School. You may even have signed up for the MBA Open Event on 30 January at 9:30 a.m. Irish time. And you may be very pleased to know that 2021 will see the first intake class of UCD Smurfit’s Modular EMBA. With only two days’ attendance required each month, the new modular Executive MBA from UCD Smurfit School is the flexible choice for those with busy professional and personal schedules.
We are also pleased to partner with her.ie to offer a full-tuition scholarship to the Modular EMBA. You can learn more about the scholarship, as well as hear from an alumna of the Midweek EMBA, in the article and podcast linked here.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale
Resolutions are overrated, and we all know it. Even if you enjoy making lofty goals for the new year, simply declaring a resolution is not the same as making a plan to get there. But you know what? You don’t have to do that, either. This year, make a resolution that is small and simple.
After the year of 2020, we still do not know what 2021 will bring. Over our Christmas break, I took a lot of time to reflect. This time last year I was in Fiji, sunning myself and not a care in the world. Fast forward a year, I am 1/3 through my MBA, life as we know it consists of endless amounts of Zoom calls, social distance walks and standing out in the cold drinking coffee. If you had said that to me last January, in the sunny Islands of Fiji, I would have laughed. I am certainly not laughing now. I have grown accustomed to staying connected with friends while keeping my distance.
In line with my attempts to be healthy, be more motivated to do those home workouts and not roll my eyes at another Zoom session, my new years resolution is to be more connected. With a new MBA trimester, I have new teammates in my study group to get to know, and I am curious to work with different individuals and to learn from them and establish new connections. Yes to networking with new people, as MBA students, new people are encouraged and recommended; but also yes to being more connected with those around me.
Having isolated due to COVID for a daunting 14 days over the Christmas, I do admit the time passes. Days are all one, and as I finish isolation I honestly am surprised how fast it went. Not saying you’ll get your life accomplishments completed, nor will you learn a language. But the quarantine gave me time to reconnect with myself, friends, family and some of my MBA colleagues.
I was so grateful and overwhelmed by the calls, texts and kind gestures of food dropped off to my house. The kindness, generosity from old friends, new friends (MBA colleagues) and family members was incredible. This year I aim to make time to call those I love, make more of an effort to get to know my MBA colleagues (coffee zooms!) and be more present with the people in my life.
I’m leaving my personal isolation for a society-wide one: everything is closed and we should be restricting our movements for the better of everyone, particularly our healthcare staff. What can we do?
Use the time as it passes. Make that coffee date on zoom, get our your calendars and book it in. Thinking of making a phone call, pick up the phone and make the call. Even a text message can make a huge difference to the person receiving it.Be it a dream, a catch up, a networking meeting or a check in. The time will pass by and hopefully we will be out of lock down soon, so do it now. The time will pass, as will restrictions and lockdowns, and hopefully in a few months we will be able to have a physical coffee chat in the warmth!
The globally-ranked Smurfit MBA provides an unequalled opportunity to unlock and develop your leadership potential, accelerate your career and build your global network. On Saturday 30th January 2021, UCD Smurfit School will host a unique virtual event for prospective MBA participants. The MBA Open Event is an opportunity for you to gain a real insight into the UCD Smurfit MBA.
Date: Saturday 30th January 2021
Time: 9.30am – 12pm (local Irish Time)
Attendees will have the chance to learn about our MBA Programme options including the new Modular Executive MBA, attend an MBA taste lecture and join an MBA Thought Leadership Session. Our Admissions team will give guidance on how to complete your application and outline the range of MBA Scholarships available. If you are considering an MBA, then this is an opportunity not to be missed.
“You can do anything, but not everything” (David Allen) was a quote I used to see regularly when working in Toronto hospitals. It was meant to inspire serenity and perspective. The ENTJ in me thought differently. If I could do anything, then surely I could do everything? Full disclosure here, I subscribe to the Ernest Gallo philosophy of “we don’t want most of the business, we want all of it”.
“You can do anything, but not everything.” The key words missing at the end of that sentence, for me, are: “at once”.
As I built my surgical career, my various roles often had me working 140 hours per week (including overnight calls). My pagers and phones rang incessantly with jobs to be done. Every department’s request was urgent. Everyone higher up in the organisation bestowed advice about the dangers of slipping up. Something had to give: I had to learn how to triage.
The word triage itself derives from the French word “trier”, and was originally applied to a process of sorting, probably around 1792, by Baron Dominique Jean Larrey, Surgeon in Chief to Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. The original triage systems were based on prioritizing mass-casualty patients in battlefield settings into immediate, urgent, and non-urgent. With the development of organised medical systems in the western world, the late 19th/early 20th century witnessed the emergence of triage within overcrowded emergency departments in the US, UK, and Europe. Triage at this time consisted of a brief clinical assessment that determined the time and sequence in which the patient should be seen, using their limited resources. Modern emergency departments must juggle the issues of increasing demand, increasing financial pressures, staff limitations, burnout, technological and medical advancement, and an ability to save the lives of patients who previously would not have survived. Emergency services now use a modified traffic light system, adaptable to different patient cohorts (children; elderly; surgical; cancer; psychiatric), for triage:
Green:Low risk. Non-urgent Amber: Moderate risk. Semi-urgent Red: High risk. Urgent/Critical Black: Nothing can be done. Comfort measures only
As I progressed through my surgical career, I quickly adapted to triaging each job I was given. Those jobs that could wait–even for a couple of hours–would do so. You live in your very own Maslow’s hierarchy, but the needs are external, not internal. Getting two calls for critical tasks such as an urgent call to theatre, and to the emergency department at the same time? Nightmare.
I found quickly that good quality communication, and the development of a strong professional network whom I could call on in a crisis worked well. I did my homework on not just the medical staff, but nursing, administrative staff, porters, office staff, cleaners, telephone operators, and even canteen staff. You take the time to get to know people, and let them get to know you, and suddenly, everything seems a little more cohesive, more efficient, and more tolerable. Also no harm in having your favourite panini and coffee pre-made while you whizz past the canteen on yet another important job. When it comes to urgent tasks, you will invariably fail on some. But how you make people around you feel? That stuff sticks. People. Matter.
You will note that I haven’t mentioned the importance of trying to juggle a family life as well. My wife spent much of those years in a role akin to a single parent, holding down her own job and studies. My life could be summed up using a modified version of Porter’s Five Forces:
Thus it is with the MBA. It is an intensive program by any standard, and having prior exposure to covered topics does not grant immunity. With assignments, and reading, and presentations, and exams, and potentially even day jobs, the concept of triage is as relevant to this endeavour as it is to any branch of medicine/surgery.
Our direct resources in this case are limited, and include time, freshness, vigour, communication, and motivation. One needs to apply these as required, and to risk-stratify assignments and tasks.
Here we move from the Napoleonic wars at the start of the blog to Comrade Napoleon in the George Orwell novel Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. There are only so many hours in the day, only so many brain cells available at one time, only so far your “favour network” can stretch.
Do I take bloods on the imminent surgical patient, or the strictly timed bloods on the transplant ward at the other end of the hospital? Sounds easy, get the patient to theatre, and get a telling off from the transplant consultant. What about leaving the operating theatre mid-operation to deal with an emergency that no-one else can deal with? What do you say to each family? You may consider this to be a systems issue, and perhaps it is, but the important thing is to be able to live in the grey. To quickly make decisions that need to be made, and accept the consequences.
Some things can and must wait, and indeed sometimes there’s nothing that can be done. You must control the controlables, accept that there are things that you cannot control, and develop communication networks to help to try to bridge the gulf between the two. Remember: You can do anything, but not everything at once.
If you told me two years ago that I would be a full-time MBA student at Smurfit, I would have said you were crazy. Sure, I’d been tinkering with the idea of an MBA for some time, but I have also thought about who I would mention in my thank you speech should I ever win an Oscar. There is a big difference between thinking and doing.
This time last year, I was approaching a decade of working in journalism: a decade of demanding work, difficult stories, rotating shift work and tight deadlines. Like all milestones, the end of that decade prompted some introspection. I was forced to ask myself some tough questions–which I knew would have complicated answers. I was confident in my work, but also, I realised, I was comfortable. And comfort is the enemy of progress.
Over the locked-down summer, I wrapped up seven years of my day job at Independent.ie, and fully immersed myself in the business school application process. To my absolute joy, I received a generous scholarship given to one female candidate across the Full-Time and Executive MBAs. It remains one of the proudest achievements in my life and gave me a vote of confidence that perhaps I had yet to find in myself–a sign that I was doing the right thing.
By September, I was officially a student again. The last time I was a student, I was 21 finishing a Master’s in International Journalism. Things look different this time around: I’m older; I’m wiser; I’m a remote student. Before Level 4 and 5 restrictions forced universities to implement a virtual delivery, we were given two precious weeks of time on the Smurfit campus. It was the closest thing to normal I have experienced all year.
As my colleagues have attested in their earlier blogs, those first two weeks of in-person classes were priceless. It laid the foundation for friendships, allowed a more nuanced understanding of lecturers, gave us time to navigate the campus, and we also got a free hoodie.
I’ll be honest: anyone who says Zoom is just as good as the real thing is lying to you. But if there is anything this year has taught us, it is that there are so many things beyond our control, and this is just one of them. This year has been a life lesson in letting go of the unimportant things and focusing on the big picture. And for me, having an MBA plays a starring role in that picture.
In September, my world suddenly became much bigger. Within weeks of matriculating, I was connecting to IE Business School in Madrid as part of the GNAM programme for a week-long crash course focusing on Europe’s economic recovery after Covid. Instead of debating and celebrating after lectures with tapas and Rioja in the Spanish capital, I was joining from my home office/box room. This semester, I’m working in a study group in which one classmate is still at home in India. I have developed friendships with people whom I haven’t seen in person for more than two months. My world has opened up more than ever before and it’s all happening from a small room in my small house.
Now that I’m nearly three months into the MBA, I realise I have never once been comfortable. Every day, I am challenged – by the curriculum, by lecturers, by my classmates, by coronavirus (!) – and that perpetual cycle of learning and development is one I had always been chasing before now. Can I pick just one highlight so far? No. But I can say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
‘In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity‘ — Sun-Tzu
How has have been this year for you? For me, it’s great, pretty good or awesome, depending on the day. I have a habit of looking on the bright side of life. Although this year has been challenging, I’m reverting to that positive-outlook habit and I realize how rewarding it has been in terms of learning.
So, what did we learn?
1. Superheroes are real. Avengers might wear capes in the Marvel Universe, but in reality, they wear scrubs as frontline workers have quite literally saved our lives during the pandemic.
2. Priorities change. We’ve spent so long in the rat race that we forgot about the importance of our health and most of us are learning new ways to stay physically and mentally strong in quarantine.
3. Family can make your day or drive you crazy.
4. 2020 is not the best year if you’re a travel blogger, but it is a year for hope.
As I’m writing this, we just learned that Kamala Harris has become the first female Vice President of the United States, an inspiration for many young girls across the globe for many generations to come. I write this from Raipur, India, where I have been connected to global events – including undertaking my MBA at UCD Smurfit.
The UCD Smurfit MBA gave me an opportunity to meet and interact with 36 talented individuals from very diverse backgrounds. Originally, I had planned to join my class in September, then another lockdown hit my locale, so it was pushed to October. Then, Ireland was placed in Level 5 restrictions. Now, it’s November and I will be connecting to Ireland virtually from India for the foreseeable future.
Even though I have worked with global virtual teams for many years, and I know how difficult it can be to build trust among your team members–especially when you have not met them in person–nothing prepares you for long-term virtual collaboration for an ever-changing curriculum across time zones.
However, the best part of my MBA so far has been my MBA team. All four of us belong to completely different backgrounds and have varied experiences from which we can learn. One thing we all have in common though is empathy and a mutual respect for each other.
Back in September, which feels like a lifetime ago, we were first up to present. At the time, Smurfit lectures were still being held in person and my virtual attendance meant we had to get creative. I created a video for my part of the presentation and my team showcased it during the presentation.
Working with my MBA group, I have learned that as a team you can practically achieve anything you want and we might be the most organized group in our cohort (although I am biased!).
The lecturers at Smurfit have been amazing during this period of transition. Even though we are in a difficult situation, they have done well in delivering lectures remotely and making their session interactive. In just two months, I have learned a lot about different themes ranging from finance, strategy, marketing, economics to marketing.
An MBA is never about reading from books but is always about sharing experiences and learning from those experiences. Right now, this is the most unique experience anyone can offer me. In just two months, I have learned so much about team collaboration and bonding.
By the time I am done with all this chaos I will be ready for the next opportunity, or maybe in the midst of this chaos I will get my next opportunity.
Last year around this time I was out on seas sailing on a ship with the thought of pursuing an MBA. Squeezing time out of the busy routines on board, I remember digging deep into Smurfit blog and reading Richard Morris’ piece on his experience of GNAM at Yale! A year later, I couldn’t be any more excited to have got a chance to go through the same experience. Smurfit school is a part of GNAM – Global Network for Advanced Management.
Along with 5 other classmates, I was fortunate enough to virtually attend a module on ‘Behavioral Science of Management’ at Yale School of Management. On Monday morning we started with a session by Professor Nathan Novemsky on ‘Aggregating Opinions and Group Decision Making’. The insightful session’s key takeaway: When eliciting information from a group of people, it is important to make sure that: 1. There is diversity. 2. There is independence. 3. There is an incentive and opportunity for all knowledgeable people to contribute (all information is extracted).
Tuesday’s session, hosted by Professor Gal Zauberman, revolved around the concept of how companies use perks and novelties to improve consumer experiences. Remember seeing chocolate in the hotel room, which uplifts the mood almost instantly? Yes, Gal spoke about it in great detail and kept us hooked. The following afternoon Professor Zoë Chance’s lecture on ‘Key to Influence and Persuasion’ glued us all to the screen. Zoë talked about the time when she worked for Mattel (think Barbies) to understand the behavior of kids playing with Barbie dolls and how consumer behavior is important to make business decisions.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we had super engaging lectures delivered by Professor Shane Fredrick and Professor Nick Barberies. Prof. Shane’s lecture kickstarted with the classic ‘bat and ball question’: if a baseball bat and a ball cost $1.10 together, and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost? Prof. Nick then weaved the trick question to ‘Dual Systems and Choice Architecture’ and elaborated about the subject in great detail. On the other hand, Prof. Nick’s session focused on behavioral finance; in particular, on applications of cognitive psychology to understanding investor trading behavior and the pricing of financial assets.
Amidst all these lectures, Yale’s team included a fun element: a trivia games session that served as a good platform to network with participants from other schools.
The highlight of Yale’s GNAM was the session on Friday by Professor Daylian Cain on ‘Negotiating Mindsets’. When it is all about price (win vs. lose), how aggressive should you be in negotiations? When should you stop pushing for more? The group of participants was divided into buyers and sellers, and both parties had to close a deal on a wooden bench for a certain price. I was matched up by participants from UC Berkeley and IE Business School and it was a fun 10 min negotiation. $1200 settlement for polished wood isn’t so bad (at least for a seller)–is it? Prof. Cain collected data of various offers and counteroffers, turned the data into infographics, and detailed on what we can learn from the personalized patterns of concessions. Oh yes! By the end of the class, we did learn to negotiate like a pro.
We bid adieu to our mates from all parts of the globe on the following evening. It had been an experience full to the brim with loads of opportunities to network, learn, engage, and negotiate better. We Smurfiteers did make the most of it even though it was held virtually!
We have had a bit of a rough go as of late and, quite frankly, things are not looking up as we round out 2020. A global pandemic is once again forcing us into our homes, cutting us off from the people and things that we hold dear. Brexit threatens to destabilize the Eurozone, both economically and otherwise. The outcome of the United States’ presidential election could change so many things in regards to how the free Western world lives its life. Yet in all of this, there are still amazing things about the time that we are living through.
After yet another day on Zoom, this time for GNAM week, I decided to take a bicycle ride down to the strand in Sandymount. I have found that, whenever possible, sitting for a while by the ocean acts as a sort of reset button. I am able to check out from being constantly connected and process all of the input that is relentlessly being thrown my way. As I set my bicycle down and found a bench to call home for a few moments, a rainbow appeared over Dublin Bay. I took a picture, reflected on what was in front of me and realized this: There are opportunities wherever you look; it is up to you to see them.
Through all of the chatter and noise in this unprecedented time, there are a plethora of opportunities to seek beauty, spark curiosity, and connect with the people around us. We are in a beautiful, historic city with so much to offer, even if we are not able to take advantage of everything at the present time. The Smurfit campus is a stone’s throw away from both a global city centre and the Dublin mountains. We are a short, relatively inexpensive airplane ride away from the entirety of Western Europe. Most importantly, we are now connected with 36 other people who are from a diverse set of backgrounds, from around the globe. It is easy to look at the negative regarding our current situation, but the reality is that there will be a post-COVID era. We will all go back to work, the pub, and whatever else we feel like getting ourselves into.
And that is exactly where we all need to focus as the days get shorter and the temperature falls. When things open up for good, what restaurants do you want to try? What things around town are you going to do? Who do you want to go out for drinks with? Where are you going to book your summer holiday? A time when we can laugh together seems so far off into the future, but it actually isn’t. By the end of this lockdown, we will be at Christmas. After that, straight into the spring semester, and before you realize, it will be Easter.
We have the opportunity to leverage this experience to our benefit, no matter what the external circumstances are surrounding the experience. It is going to be up to us to find the ways in which we can best do that; we just might have to look a bit harder.