Sheila Heen


About Sheila Heen - Best-selling Author & Harvard Law School Faculty:

Sheila Heen is a New York Times business best-selling author, founder of  Triad Consulting Group and faculty at Harvard Law School. Heen’s corporate clients  include  MetLife,  BAE  Systems,  HSBC,  the  Federal  Reserve  Bank, Novartis,  AT&T,  Pixar,  Workday  and  numerous  family  businesses. She often works  with executive  teams,  helping  them  to  work  through  conflict,  repair  working  relationships  and  make sound  decisions together.  In  the  public  sector  she  has  also  provided  training  for  the  New England  Organ  Bank,  the  Singapore  Supreme  Court,  the  White  House  and  theologians struggling with disagreement over the nature of  truth and God. 

Heen  has  spent  the  last  20  years  with  the  Harvard  Negotiation  Project,  developing  negotiation theory  and  practice.  She  specializes  in  particularly  difficult  negotiations  –  where  emotions  run high   and   relationships   become   strained. Heen is co-author of the New  York Times bestsellers Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most and  Thanks  for  the  Feedback:  The  Science  and  Art  of   Receiving  Feedback  Well  (Even  When It’s  Off-Base,  Unfair,  Poorly  Delivered  and  Frankly,  You’re  Not  in  the  Mood). She has been featured on “Oprah,” CNBC “Power Lunch,” NPR, and was among the top rated speakers at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit. 

Heen  is  a  graduate  of   Occidental  College  and  Harvard  Law  School.  She  is  schooled  in negotiation daily by her three children.

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What Sheila Heen Talks About:

Thanks for the Feedback (Even When It’s Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood)
High performance, collaboration and innovation rely on honest, continuous feedback.  Yet every organization and every leader on earth struggles with performance feedback in one way or another.  Honest feedback isn’t given, or if it is it is met with defensiveness or demotivation.  The usual solution – teaching managers how to give feedback more effectively – has failed to solve the problem. Sheila turns conventional wisdom on its head and demonstrates why the smart money is on teaching leaders how to receive feedback well themselves and becoming role models for what they value and expect from those around them.  Sheila’s warmth and authenticity helps even seasoned executives recognize our own (normal, human) triggered reactions to feedback — “that’s just wrong|” “who asked you?” “I’m not the real problem here” — and she offers practical advice for turning even unskilled, crazy-making feedback into genuine learning. And once you get leaders motivated and eager to learn — willing to engage with others to see their blind spots and look at their own areas for growth — you get a modeling effect that quickly catches fire.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
Leaders, managers, colleagues, and direct reports face difficult conversations every day, and as leaders become more senior, they spend more and more of their time tackling difficult conversations.  They are the conflicts between functions or geographies, with key alliance partners or your biggest clients – the complex messes that get kicked upstairs because no one below has clear answers.  Handling these conversations efficiently is no longer just a good idea – it’s integral to the success of each leader, their division, and ultimately, the entire organization.  Failure comes at high cost – conflicts that fester consume energy, sap creativity, and destroy teamwork.

Based on twenty years of work at the Harvard Negotiation Project, this session provides a framework for understanding why some of our most important conversations are so hard, examines the common mistakes we all make, and offers a step-by-step method for handling them with less anxiety and better results.  Tailored to the day-to-day challenges leaders face, this session offers insight and strategies for looking beneath the surface to understand disagreement, increase accountability, and manage your own reactions when under stress.

Speaking Up
Speaking up clearly and effectively is a critical skill for leaders and team members alike. When people can’t speak up to raise a concern or disagree with the decision in the meeting itself, you have to attend the meeting-after-the-meeting to find out whether you have actual alignment, or covert opposition.  These all-too-common dynamics can compromise safety, divide teams, waste time and energy, result in poor decision-making, or in decisions not being made at all.  

And yet, even highly accomplished professionals struggle with the decision to speak up, to communicate decisions clearly, or engage disagreement effectively. Meaningful improvement on this front must go beyond motivation, an exhortation to “be assertive” or “encourage your team to speak their mind.”  It must start by understanding why even confident, well-respected professionals hesitate.  Smart leaders worry about creating tension, slowing progress, creating defensiveness, violating cultural norms, or being perceived as a trouble-maker or not a team player.  And what if they’re wrong about their concerns? 

In this session, we examine four common roadblocks to our ability to speak up and offer a menu of options to help each leader create an atmosphere where they and others speak up in ways that will be heard and move the conversations forward.

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