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Michael A. Wheeler  

Leading Authority on Negotiation Theory and Practice; Author of Ground-breaking Book "Art of Negotiation"; Harvard Business School Professor

Michael Wheeler is the MBA Class of 1952 Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School where teaches both Negotiation and The Moral Leader, as well as a variety of executive courses. In previous years he served as faculty chair of the first year MBA program and headed the required Negotiation course. He has also taught Leadership, Values, and Decision Making, and, as Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, Mediation & Consensus Building. At HBS he has received the Greenhill Award for his contributions to the School's mission.

Wheeler’s current research focuses on negotiation dynamics, dispute resolution, organizational design, and ethics. He is the editor of the Negotiation Journal and co-director of the Negotiation Pedagogy initiative at the inter-university Program on Negotiation.

Wheeler is the author or co-author of nine books, including most recently, What’s Fair? Ethics for Negotiators (with Carrie Menkel-Meadow), Business Fundamentals in Negotiation, and On Teaching Negotiation. His text Environmental Dispute Resolution (with Lawrence Bacow) won the CPR-ADR’s annual award as the best book on negotiation. He has written numerous articles in both scholarly journals (among them, the Yale Journal of Regulation, the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, and The Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies) and the public press, including The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times.

He has also written scores of negotiation exercises, cases, notes, and self-assessment tools. These materials cover subjects ranging from nonverbal communication and complexity theory, to the parallels between negotiation strategy and both jazz and war-fighting. He has written extensive case studies of negotiation system design, documenting GE’s “early dispute resolution initiative” and Guinness’s process for approving acquisitions and joint ventures. With colleagues Gerald Zaltman and Kimberlyn Leary, he is investigating emotions and unconscious attitudes that people bring to the bargaining table. With Clark Freshman he is also exploring nonverbal communication and lie detection in negotiation.

Wheeler taught at MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 1981 to 1993, where he was Director of Research at MIT's Center for Real Estate Development. Previously he was Director of Education and Research at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Professor of Law at New England Law School. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Colorado and the Politecnico di Torino, Italy. He has appeared extensively on public television in Boston and elsewhere.

He holds degrees from Amherst College, Boston University, and Harvard Law School, and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1969. He has been a panelist for the American Arbitration Association, and has served as a mediator or arbitrator in a variety of business and regulatory disputes. He has advised corporate clients, trade organizations, and government agencies on negotiation issues in the United States and abroad.

Speech Topics


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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