Michael D. Watkins

Dr. Michael Watkins is the world's leading expert on accelerating & author of the international best-seller "The First 90 Days: Critical Success for New Leaders at All Levels"

Michael D. Watkins Fee Range
$20,001 to $50,000
(Inquire for virtual fee)

Travels From
Massachusetts, United States

Michael D. Watkins Speaker Biography

Leading Authority on Accelerating Transitions

Dr. Michael Watkins is the world’s leading expert on accelerating transitions. Michael is the Chairman of an executive on-boarding and transition acceleration company. Previously he was a professor at IMD in Switzerland, INSEAD in France, the Harvard Business School, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Dr. Michael Watkins is a widely-published expert on leadership. He has designed award-winning programs in accelerating transitions, Future Enterprise Leadership™ development, negotiation, and corporate diplomacy.

Michael is author of the international bestseller The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at all Levels. Considered ‘the on-boarding bible,’ more than 200,000 copies have been sold in over 20 languages. Watkins coined the term ‘Predictable Surprise’ in his book Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming and How to Prevent Them, which won the 2006 Kulp-Wright Book Award and was named a Strategy + Business best business book of 2004. His latest book is Your Next Move: The Leader’s Guide to Successfully Navigating Major Career Transitions (Harvard Business Press).

A prolific writer, Dr. Watkins is the author or co-author of many books on leadership and negotiation, including: The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at All Levels (Harvard Business School Press), Shaping the Game: The New Leader’s Guide to Effective Negotiating (Harvard Business School Press), Case Studies in US Trade Negotiation, Vol.1: Making the Rule, and Vol.2:Resolving Disputes (Institute for International Economics). Additional titles include, Breakthrough Business Negotiation: A Toolbox for Managers, which won the CPR Institute Negotiation Book Prize in 2002, Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World’s Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts (2001), Winning the Influence Game: What Every Business Leader Should Know About Government (2000), and Right from the Start: Taking Charge in a New Leadership Role (1999). He is Harvard Business School Publishing’s content expert for Leadership Transitions, the award-winning e-learning system, and also has written numerous articles on leadership and negotiation for Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Leadership Quarterly, Executive Update, and Negotiation Journal.

From 2004-2006, Dr. Watkins was a Professor of Practice in Organizational Behavior at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, where he taught leadership and negotiation in INSEAD’s Advanced Management Program.

In 2003, Dr. Watkins founded Genesis Advisers, the leading transition acceleration consultancy. Genesis helps organizations move beyond the antiquated “sink or swim” approach to executive transitions, toward a model where successful, accelerated leadership transitions are the norm. The Genesis model for onboarding is used though the Fortune 500 and various branches of the Federal Government.

From 1996 to 2003, Dr. Watkins was an Associate Professor at the Harvard Business School where he did research on negotiation and leadership.  He taught Corporate Diplomacy, a course on what business leaders could learn from diplomats about how to strategically shape the environments of their organizations. He also studied complex business negotiations, such as mergers and joint ventures, and examined how effective businesses influenced government rule-making and dealt with challenges from NGOs. This work led him to author Breakthrough Business Negotiation and to co-author Winning the Influence Game (with Mickey Edward and Usha Thakrar) and Predictable Surprises (with Max Bazerman).  He also taught extensively in HBS executive programs in the Middle East and Africa.

At the same time, Dr. Watkins began to explore how to accelerate leaders’ transitions into challenging new roles, an outgrowth of his work on change leadership. After co-authoring (with Dan Ciampa) Right From the Start in 1999, he entered into a research partnership with Johnson & Johnson to explore organization-wide approaches to accelerating leadership transitions. He created two new leadership transition acceleration programs and a new acceleration coaching initiative for J&J.  He continues to teach J&J’s most highly rated leadership program, the Transition Leadership Forum in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and has over 1000 “alumni” in that company.

Between 1991 and 1996, Dr. Watkins was a member of the faculty of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  While there, he did research and taught courses on change leadership and negotiation. He taught extensively in degree and executive programs, including KSG-sponsored programs for newly-elected mayors in Argentina and Peru. He also consulted to the Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget on change management, and taught in the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School’s Senior Executive Negotiation Program. 

While at the Kennedy School, Dr. Watkins began to teach negotiation to senior leaders in the national security community. This stimulated his research on international diplomacy, which focused on how leading diplomats negotiate in high-stakes situations. The result was a widely-praised series of case studies on James Baker’s efforts to build of the first Gulf-war coalition, Robert Gallucci’s negotiations on behalf of the U.S. with North Korea, US and UN humanitarian operations in Somalia, Richard Holbrooke and the Dayton negotiations in Bosnia, and Shimon Peres’ efforts to initiate the Oslo Peace process. Dr. Watkins’ studies of the Middle East conflict led to an affiliation with Shimon Peres’ Institute of Peace in Tel Aviv, where he taught conflict management techniques to up-and-coming political leaders from Egypt, Israel, Jordon, and the Palestinian Authority. These experiences also led him to coauthor (with Susan Rosegrant) Breakthrough International Negotiation, which combines the diplomacy case studies and analysis, and which won the CPR Institute’s Prize for best book in the field of negotiation in 2001.

A native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Watkins received a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.  Following graduation, he worked as a project engineer on alternative energy projects, and commissioned and tested an experimental wind-diesel hybrid generator in Northern Ontario.  He then did graduate work in law and business at the University of Western Ontario, prior to completing his Ph.D. in Decision Sciences at Harvard University under the tutelage of his mentor, Howard Raiffa.  Dr. Watkins’ early research focused on negotiation in new product development teams, and he did extensive research and consulting at Ford of Europe in the U.K. and Germany.

Michael D. Watkins Speaking Topics

Your Next Move: Navigating High-Stakes Changes

You’ve got big ideas and ambitions, and have done well…so far. But are you really ready for what’s next? Michael prepares you for the 8 classic transitions—including an internal promotion, managing former peers, on-boarding, and an international move—that you will face along the road to becoming a senior leader. He also discusses the challenge of organizational change and the impact of company-wide acceleration programs.

Hero or Steward: Matching Leadership Style to Organizational Change

The most successful leaders adapt their leadership style as conditions change in their organizations. You may be facing the “hidden transitions” that are part of normal growth and downsizing—or coping with a merger, reorganization, or new leadership. Michael explains the critical relevance of leadership style, and how you can master the art of adaptive and inspirational leadership for ongoing success.

Your Next 90 Days: Thriving in a world of continuous transitions

Welcome to your next challenge! Be it the First 90 Days, or the next business challenge, you need to take the time to assess yourself and the situation you are facing to maximize your results. Make an investment in your success and plan Your Next 90 Days. Based on the international bestseller, The First 90 Days, recognized as one of the top 100 business books of all time.

Michael D. Watkins Books

First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
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Your Next Move: The Leader’s Guide to Successfully Navigating Major Career Transitions
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Recent Books

First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
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Your Next Move: The Leader’s Guide to Successfully Navigating Major Career Transitions
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