Internship Report: CHAI, South Africa (Week 7)

Attending ESADE has been a supremely rewarding program, both academically and socially.  Each class has imparted valuable knowledge and my classmates have taught me so much through their professional experience.  Throughout my internship, I have been able to apply these lessons to my work.  However, there are some skills that can only be honed through personal experience, like negotiating.

My summer project involves collecting extensive data from government-funded agencies, which have committed expenditure dollars to different health related programs.  In order to access this information, we must first convince a barrage of politicians and diplomats why our project is important and how it will make a difference.  When they are sold on the mission, we must then have them introduce us to the development agencies that maintain the data.  Finally, we must get the employees in the development agencies to drop their regular work in order to assist us in completing this project within a compressed timeline.  Each step of this process requires convincing and negotiation as we ask for a sizeable resource commitment for a currently intangible return.

While the project is, in fact, important and useful, the critical point in these meetings comes down to using the right tone to achieve the desired outcome.  We have employed a variety of different approaches (think partner vs. adversary) but using the wrong one for a particular audience can lead to stonewalling and us being unable to meet our mandate from the Department of Health. The trick is finding the right tone for the right meeting.  In fact, the right tone might change throughout a meeting!

No course at any MBA school can adequately prepare you for adjusting negotiations on the fly.  Each person will have a unique approach, as it’s often personality driven.  You have to be perceptive and adaptable, to know when to push and when to ease off.  It’s a delicate balance and a skill that can only be perfected by doing.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”  – Muhammad Ali

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