Long before Julien Jobard became chief financial officer (CFO) for EFA Group, he began his career working in mergers and acquisitions at an investment bank. There, he endured a series of difficult negotiations that shaped his style as a negotiator, but didn’t necessarily optimize it. After admiring the negotiation skills of his CEO—a past participant of the Strategic Negotiations program at Harvard Business School (HBS) Executive Education—Jobard decided to attend the same program. He describes how the experience helped him to become a better negotiator.

Q. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO APPLY FOR THIS PROGRAM?

When I joined EFA Group last year, I noticed that my CEO's approach to negotiation was very different from mine. He would keep calm regardless of the situation, and knew exactly what he wanted or could get from a deal. Instead of focusing on winning or losing, he sought to understand what value could come from a deal and how to create it. He shared how attending Strategic Negotiations with a colleague had been such a transformative experience for them. I realized that the program could also help me strengthen my negotiation skills and gain confidence during deals, so I applied.

Q. DID THE PROGRAM CHANGE HOW YOU APPROACH NEGOTIATIONS?

Yes, definitely. My approach to negotiations is now much more systematic. The tools and frameworks I acquired have given me more confidence at the bargaining table. During a negotiation, I can clearly visualize the different steps in a deal and know where I stand in the process. I have a better and more realistic idea of what I'd like to get from the process, and no longer fear the other party. During a discussion, I focus on trying to understand how a deal could bring value to both parties. I also tend to look for next steps instead of assuming that the negotiation is over once and for all.

In addition, I'm amazed by how the program helps me on a daily basis as the CFO of my company. Now, I'm able to help both teams and individuals improve their approach to addressing internal issues or preparing for simple negotiation processes.

Q. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM LEARNING EXPERIENCE?

The professors were passionate. They loved being with the participants and were fully dedicated to making learning happen through class discussions. The case studies provided a great interactive learning experience, and the debriefs between participants after the sessions were also valuable and enriching. It was interesting to get insights from the protagonist interviews, which helped us understand the motives and rationale behind decisions and gave us a 360-degree perspective of the cases.

Q. AFTER ATTENDING THIS PROGRAM WITH ONE OF YOUR COLLEAGUES, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT TO OTHER COMPANIES?

Yes. The content of the program is very practical and easy to apply—but it's also very intense and fast paced. If companies are willing to nominate several of their employees for the program, I would recommend selecting people who can use concepts from the program in their day-to-day work.

Q. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT WAS A KEY TAKEAWAY FROM THE PROGRAM?

The program helps you remain confident and be more resilient during negotiations. It also helps you recognize that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose—and that's fine. It's important to learn from the failures.

Q. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE STARTING THE PROGRAM?

To get the most out of the program, it's essential to focus on it 100 percent. This type of learning is intensive. I didn't reply to any emails for the whole week—and I'm glad that my CEO permitted me to do so. It allowed me to get the most out of the program and fully engage with other participants.

Source; https://www.exed.hbs.edu/testimonials/strategic-negotiations-julien-jobard