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Habit 4 — Think Win/Win

You can’t change the fruit without changing the root.

Habit 4 now steps from effective independence (relationship with self based on habits 1,2, and 3) to interdependence—your relationships with others. When you step from independence (relationship with self) to interdependence (relationship with others), you are stepping into a position of influence and leadership, and the habit of highly effective leadership and influence is to think win/win. This is not a technique; it’s a complete way of being. There are other ways that you may recognise in yourself and/or in others. Covey describes these in the following way:

“Win/win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and mutually satisfying. With a win/win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.” This is about cooperation, not competition.

“Win/lose says if I win, you lose. In leadership style, it’s authoritarian—I get my way, you don’t get yours. Win/lose people are prone to use position, power, title, possessions or personality to get their way. This can be deeply scripted from birth.” From parents for example, who favour one child over another, and give love on a conditional basis when the love has to be earned. This gives the message that the person is not intrinsically valuable or lovable, but only in comparison to something external (another person or expectation). Win/lose is dysfunctional to co-operation.”

“Lose/win says ‘I lose, you win, go ahead, step on me, everyone else does.’ Lose/win has no standards, no demands, no expectations, no vision. Lose/win people have little courage to express feelings and are easily intimidated by the ego strength of others. In negotiation it’s giving up, and in leadership it’s permissive. Often these people repress feelings, which comes up later as anger, cynicism, and even rage. They often have self esteem issues which results in relationship issues with others.”

“Lose/lose is when two win/lose people get together—both determined, stubborn and ego driven, the result will be lose/lose. Both will want to get back at each other and become vindictive. Lose/lose is also the philosophy of a highly dependent person without inner direction, who is miserable and thinks everyone else should be too.”

“Win people don’t necessarily want someone else to lose. It’s irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want. A person with a win mentality thinks in terms of securing his own ends and leaving it to others to secure theirs.”

“Win/win or no deal is an even higher expression of win/win. If we can’t find a solution that would benefit both, we agree to disagree agreeably—no deal. Our values and goals are different, and we have no expectations of each other. This is a very liberating position as you have no need to push your own agenda. You can be open. You can really try to understand the deeper issues underlying the positions.”

The principle of win/win is based on a strong character ethic. Covey talks about three essential traits that build character. The first is integrity. This is about knowing your deep values and making decisions around those values on a daily basis. The second is maturity, a combination of courage and consideration. It’s the ability to express feelings and opinions with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others. The third is an abundance mentality, the view that the world is abundant and we can all be equally abundant in it. The opposite would be a “scarcity mentality,” the view that the world isn’t abundant, and if you have more, then I will have less, which results in unhealthy competitive behaviour. The abundance mentality comes from a deep and secure sense of self. It’s about opening up options and possibilities.

From the character of integrity, maturity, and abundance comes the ability to build strong relationships, and then from the win/win relationships come the win/win agreements. For win/win to truly work in an organization, there need to be systems and processes that support a win/win, collaborative mentality rather than one that fosters unhealthy competition.

Actions to take