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Reader’s Review

SHAPING THE GAME: The New Leader’s Guide to Effective Negotiating

By Michael Watkins

195pp Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2006.

Hard cover Edition, $26.95.

Michael Watkins is a Professor of Practice at INSEAD and founder of Genesis Advisors, a leadership consultancy. Dr, Watkins is the author of a number of international bestsellers, including The First 90 Days (2003). He has designed and taught in graduate negotiations programs at the Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard Business School and the Program on Negotiation at the Harvard Law School. Dr. Watkins is a native of Canada and holds a PhD. in decision sciences from Harvard University.

“The basic theme of this book,” Michael Watkins tells the reader, “is that effective leaders negotiate their way to success in their new roles” (p.3). This fundamental premise established, Watkins uses this “new leader’s guide” as a base to range widely and in considerable depth through the art of negotiation (subtitle). It is an extraordinary contribution of value to all leaders.

Based upon research with hundreds of new leaders, Watkins presents a listing of four goals which should be inherent within every negotiation in which they participate (pp. 8-9). The goals are:

1. To create value to the greatest extent possible.

2. To capture an appropriate share of the value that gets created.

3. To build and sustain critical relationships.

4. To enhance your personal credibility.

“Arguably,” Watkins concludes, “this is good advice for all leaders, regardless of their situations” (p. 9). And so, this reviewer would agree and also cite this advice as typical of the value of the work.

You will discover a gold mine of clear advice on negotiation. When you have finished this book you will have a clear portrait of the structure and process of negotiation. You will have clarity and practical guidance on strategy, appreciate and focus upon negotiation authority, and learn the importance of understanding the power of influence, using active listening techniques and the enhancing your skills in framing and reframing issues. It is a comprehensive manual of the art of negotiation.

Of particular interest to leaders of organizations in which negotiation is recognized as a critical skill, is Watkins advice on how to develop, improve and spread the skill within an institution. The author is an advocate of disciplined postmortems as essential to the conclusion of each negotiation process. He is also an advocate of participating “in programs that deliver a ‘good’ mix of concepts and simulated negotiations. And in my experience,” Watkins comments, “these are few and far between” (p. 164).

To obtain more detail on each of these areas and many more topics, Michael Watkins has created a book is readable, clear and useful.

You will find an annotated and extensive Notes section, a careful Index and a Recommended Reading listing of approximately two dozen books the author suggests as a providing a valuable and wide view of the field of negotiation. I strongly applaud Mr. Watkins’ selections.

It is solid and useful material, a first-rate work on negotiation that will of interest to every reader.

Highly recommended.

John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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November 2007