The 7 Habits of Highly effective people – Habit 4 : Think win/win

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HandsMidway in the journey through the 7 habits of Stephen Covey’s best-selling « The 7 habits of Highly Effective People », we take a look at the fourth habit: “Think Win/Win”.

The fourth habit: Think win/win

Having realised how much power we actually have over our own lives (Habit 1: Be proactive), considering then what we truly wish to achieve throughout our lifetime (Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind), and then taking action (Habit 3: Putting first things first), we now come to a point where interacting with other proactive, mission focused and organised people will exponentially increase effectiveness.

The 6 paradigms of human interaction:

Covey states that in order to manage our relationships with others effectively, we need to think “Win/Win”. Beyond being a technique, it is a philosophy. According to the author there are 6 paradigms of human interaction:

  • Win
  • Win/Lose
  • Lose/Win
  • Lose/Lose
  • Win/Win or No Deal
  • Win/Win

What’s wrong with a simple Win, or at worse a Win/Lose?

  • Win: people working in the Win paradigm wish to win at all costs, other people don’t matter. It’s an “every man for himself” mentality.
  • Win/Lose: the Win/Lose mentality is dysfunctional, often overly competitive and requires the use of power, position, possessions or personality to get one’s way, i.e. your boss uses his authority to impose a potentially stressful deadline on you.

Who could possibly want to work from a Lose/Lose or a Lose/Win point of view?

  • Lose/Win people prefer to keep the peace by giving in or giving up rather than disturbing the relationship. In the long run a build-up of resentment can easily lead to an eventual breakdown of the relationship.
  • Lose/Lose is the philosophy of highly dependent people, and results from the encounter of two Win/Lose individuals. Covey illustrates this case by a divorce in which the husband is ordered by the judge to sell his assets and turn over half of the earnings to his ex-wife. In compliance, he sells his car, worth $10.000, for $50 and gives $25 to his ex-wife.

When does a Win/Win or No Deal situation occur?

7-habits-of-highly-effective-people-stephen-coveyWin/Win or No Deal is the case where, if a mutually beneficial situation can’t be reached, then both parties “agree to disagree” and both walk away with no hard feelings. This is a typically realistic option at the beginning of a relationship or enterprise.

Why is Win/Win the ideal solution?

As mentioned above, when two proactive, mission focused and organised people meet, effectiveness can be increased far beyond what we can achieve alone. Win/Win is a synergistic situation where both parties can mutually benefit. Win/Win takes a certain amount of investment to favour its occurrence. The first step is to recognise what the status of our human interaction is at a given time. We must not only ask ourselves what we want but also what the other party wants from a given situation,  bearing in mind that it’s ok to walk away if a common agreement is not found (Win/Win or No Deal).

Balancing Courage and Consideration

Covey notes our natural tendency to think in dichotomies, in either/or terms. We tend to think that if we’re nice, we’re not tough.

“But Win/Win is nice…and tough. It’s twice as tough as Win/Lose, to go for Win/Win, you not only have to be nice, you have to be courageous. You not only have to be empathic, you have to be confident”. 

  • Being high on courage and low on consideration is thinking Win/Lose. It’s having the courage of our convictions, but not being considerate about others’ convictions.
  • Being high on consideration and low on courage is thinking Lose/Win. It’s being so considerate of someone else’s convictions and desires that we won’t have the courage to express and realise our own.

The author states that to achieve the balance between courage and consideration is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to Win/Win.

Application suggestions:

Think about an upcoming interaction in which you will be attempting to reach an agreement or negotiate a solution. Commit to maintain a balance between courage (your Win) and consideration (the other parties’ Win).

You can find further application suggestions in his original book: The 7 habits of highly effective people: powerful lesson in personal change.

Next week habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

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