- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On July 31, 2015
This post is the fourth in a series summarizing the book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m breaking the book down into 7 posts, one blog post per habit, and publishing one per week.
Today I’m onto habit #4, “Think win/win.” This is the first habit in the book that deals with the interactions between people. The first three habits in the book all deal with your own (internal) “paradigms.”
Stephen Covey says “win/win” is not a technique but rather a philosophy.
6 paradigms of human interaction
Covey defines the six paradigms of human interaction as:
- Win/win: The frame of mind that constantly seeks mutual benefit. Any interaction between people looks for agreements and solutions that they both feel good about.
- Win/lose: This is the thinking of competition. The thinking is: For me to win you must lose. There is a fixed size “pie” and I want my share…so you must get less than me.
- Lose/win: This is the other way of thinking about a fixed size “pie”. This is the way of people who are often quick to please and appease. They think: I want you to be happy so I need to lose so you can win.
- Lose/lose: Lose/lose happens when both parties are stubborn or egotistical. They cannot find a way to agree. Sometimes they would rather both lose than have the other guy win.
- Win: This is the mentality of someone who does not even think about other people. He simply wants to win. He does not waste time on worrying about how others end up—that’s their lookout.
- No deal: “No deal” means we agree to disagree. We discuss a topic but we simply cannot come up with an agreement. We can’t find a deal. We can’t work together. We walk away and move on.
Which is the best approach?
The best approach depends on the circumstances, says Covey. He gives the example of sports where the game is designed so one team wins and the other must lose. In this case your team must play “win/lose.”
He also mentions circumstances like a true emergency where you have to tightly focus on making sure someone is OK. In this situation you operate in “win” mode, tuning out anything that may distract you from the critical task in front of you.
But in general Covey suggests we are part of an interdependent reality and in this situation the best choice is nearly always “win/win.”
You need character to achieve win/win
Win/win is not that easy to achieve in practice. You need three key character traits to consitently pull off “win/win”: integrity, maturity and an abundance mentality.
- Integrity: Covey says we need to know our values and personal mission to act with integrity. Without knowing ourselves well we will not act consistently. Any inconsistency will be picked up by others and will reduce their trust in us.
- Maturity: Maturity is the balance between confidence and consideration. You need to use both carefully to get to a win/win agreement.
- Abundance mentality: You have to believe the “pie can be made bigger” and we will both get plenty. If not, you will be fighting to get your share and this will lead to a win/lose or lose/win outcome.
Covey talks of “emotional bank accounts” meaning that we need to build up trust with another person by fulfilling our commitments to them over time. Each time we fufill a commitment we “deposit” in our emotional bank account with the other person, building up a “credit.” It is easiest to reach a win/win agreement with someone where you both have positive emotional bank accounts with each other. In this situation there is a lot of trust in the discussion. If you both also believe in the concept of win/win, reaching agreement should be fairly straightforward.
On the other hand, dealing with people who believe in the win/lose paradigm and who don’t know you well (so you have an empty “emotional bank account” with them) is hard. In this case he suggests you have to lean on your personal values heavily and really listen deeply to the other person in order for them to start to trust you and see that a win/win agreement with you would be beneficial to them.
Systems to support win/win
The win/win approach can only survive in an environment that supports it. If an organization rewards people for taking a win/lose approach, win/win agreements will be hard to come by. If you constantly reward your team for competing against each other, do not be surprised if cooperation across the company is low.
You can read the other posts in this series here:
- Highly Effective Habit #1
- Highly Effective Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind
- Highly Effective Habit #3: First things first