One of the habits presented in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Think win/win.” Our usual work world is usually focused on win/lose, where someone has to get the short end of the stick. Essentially, what Covey is proposing here is that each team should seek out a solution that works to the benefit of each party involved, and that a win/win solution will usually exist. Thinking with this strategy requires a lot of teamwork and mutual trust, which is hard to generate.
To help you build a win/win frame of mind for yourself and your team, Covey provides five essential parts, which we’ll detail down below.
First and foremost, you must be comfortable enough to talk to others on a win/win basis. If you are worried about losing, if you think there isn’t enough success to go around, if you are threatened by another person, you are not in a mental state to think win/win. You must approach each situation with maturity, knowing that there is always a win/win solution on the table. The way you model this mindset is the spark that will ignite this way of thinking amongst your whole team.
High-trust relationships are necessary for win-win conversations. If other people think you’re only in it for yourself, their distrust and fear will automatically turn the result into a win/lose or lose/lose situation. This takes proactive thought to develop relationships beforehand but will be worth it when the need to resolve a problem arises.
This is what makes win/win work for everyone. Each person must believe that the solution you’ve arrived at, or at least the overall goal, is something that benefits and works for everyone. Not reaching an agreement means that someone is not thinking win/win, meaning that there will be problems and resentment in the long run.
More than just individuals thinking win/win, your business and relationships should also contain systems that promote a win/win mindset. This means measuring success, backup plans, and attitudes of all involved should all be made to support a win/win mindset. If any of the company’s systems contribute to a system of internal competition or mistrust, they should be changed. Make space for people to fail, and allow others to learn from their mistakes. Even a win/lose situation can be made win/win with enough support.
Telling people to think win/win isn’t enough. There need to be processes in place to practice win/win principles on both large and small scales. Covey recommends exposing your team to stories that have win/win situations throughout, like Les Miserables. Having regular discussions, reward systems, and standardized workflow are other ways you can add win/win to your processes.
With all five of these elements in place, your team will be enabled to think win/win. The more often you practice win/win thinking, the better your company culture and external relationships will be.