How To: Leverage the Win-Win Mentality

Kobi Simmat explains how to leverage Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and transform an ordinary organisation into an extraordinary one.

“To go for win-win, you not only have to be nice, you have to be courageous” - Stephen R. Covey

I’ve been reading Stephen R. Covey’s masterpiece of self-help and organisational advice, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which, despite its age (it was originally published in 1989) remains one of the most relevant books published in the space. This has become a thread of content here on our blog as we explore how each of the principles can be applied in a wider sense to organisations; you can read the first, second and third of the features here before continuing on with this piece.

Now, for today’s piece, we’re going to cover the fourth of Covey’s seven habits: thinking win-win. It’s important for your organisation to win, no doubt- what at what cost? If you’re succeeding on the back of transactions that make your customers or stakeholders feel violated, you may as well go back to the drawing board. From personal experience, I’ve seen a number of organisations that forgo their responsibility to make the customer feel valued in a transaction in the name of short-term profit- and that’s exactly what it was… short term profit. They were unable to get these customers to come back, and word of mouth referrals ensured that the reservoir of future customers was drying up.

Covey’s understanding of win-win thinking extends further than just your transactions with clients, it’s applicable to almost every aspect of your internal operations, too. You want your staff to feel as though they’re on a win-win basis with the management and executive team, which ties into the key themes of gratitude and creating a safe, collaborative working environment; quite often, the best ideas I’ve seen pitched are not from the executive team.

Let’s quickly go over Covey’s model of the six types of interactions, and then tie it all together in terms of implementing win-win thinking in your organisation.

Covey’s six models of human interaction

Win-win: where both sides of the transaction benefit. The agreement is mutually beneficial for everyone involved, and both sides of the transaction feel valued, and ideally, happy with the transaction in question.

Win-Lose: The “if I win, you lose” mentality, which is a terrible way to go about business. Covey argues that people exhibiting the win-lose model are more likely to leverage power, credentials and personality to get their way inside an organisation’s decision making, arguing that it’s a good move for the organisation as a whole, even if the customer ‘loses’ in the transaction.

Lose-Win: People that would sooner accept defeat than stand up for their beliefs; the “I lose, you win” mentality. Covey says that lose-win individuals deep down want to please more than anything, and find strength from collective membership of the group and acceptance. This is somewhat essential in team building, as people need to be prepared to put their egos to the side, but ultimately isn’t the best model to go about decision making, as cards can be left unturned on the table.

Lose-Lose: Covey writes that this is most often the product of getting two sides together that are equally as stubborn, egotistical or determined. In the absence of compromise, it’s difficult to find solutions or get these parties to accept a ‘middle ground’ where both organisations could potentially benefit.

Win: This is most easily understood as those that are determined to get what they want; they aren’t explicitly looking for the other party to lose, but they won’t accept anything less than a victory for their side.

Win-Win or No Deal: Covey argues that if you and the other party fail to reach an agreement that will benefit both parties, there’s no point in striking a deal in the first place. This is an important takeaway for modern businesses, as we’re often so goal-driven to sign deals that we’ll disregard whether or not both parties win from the transaction. The best situation, Covey argues, is to create win-win scenarios at every possible instance- be it inside your organisation or with external parties.

“It’s important for your organisation to win, no doubt- but at what cost?” - Kobi Simmat

To leave a client feeling as though they’ve lost is one of the worst possible outcomes, and it’s important to remember that this extends further than just signing a new client. Win-win situations means that both parties are happy, and there’s no chance for bitterness or resentment as the two parties move forward; this, of course, will negatively impact your future relationships, no matter how innocuous the ‘lose’ for the other party seemed at the time. Covey argues that the win-win or no deal option is an essential part of the process, where organisations and individuals alike should be prepared to reject a proposal or transaction entirely if they don’t feel as though there’s an inherent win for their party.

Covey argues that a key part of implementing this in any organisation is to maintain your abundance-thinking; the belief that there’s a lot more customers, tenders or projects out there for everyone if this particular deal goes south. The opposite end of the spectrum - the scarcity mentality - will usually result in zero-sum thinking of absolutes, which can, in the long run, be detrimental to an organisation’s reputation. This should be driven by the leadership team, who should be focussed on results, not methods, and focussed on problems, not people, Covey argues.

In wrapping all this up, towards the end of the chapter, Stephen Covey poses a few exercises for the reader to ponder. First, think about an interaction in the future- maybe with a client, or your manager. Before you head into that meeting, consider what constitutes a win for both your side of the argument, and theirs; this empathy can be a key part of what makes an employee extremely effective at their job. Secondly, point out three important relationships in your personal and working life, and write a list of things to give to this person rather than take from the relationship.

Lastly, Covey asks you to look at your own behaviour and interactions, and identify which line of thinking you’re currently subscribed to. If you’re the type of person that needs to sign the deal, regardless of who wins and loses, this might be time to start taking win-win thinking into consideration to improve the relationship you have - and your organisation has - with the client.

The end result of win-win thinking is a victory for each party, which ensures positive feedback as well as a productive working relationship. When it’s mutually beneficial, there’s all the room in the world to keep transforming this relationship into a powerhouse for both your organisation, and the other party involved.

Thanks again for your time, and I’ll see you in the next piece.

Kobi Simmat.

References: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen R. Covey, 1989, Simon & Schuster, New York

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