Win/Win and believing in a third way

Winwin and the third way (1)

Think “Win-Win” isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration. – Stephen Covey

All great managers aim to get the best out of negotiations for all parties, to get what Covey famously called a win/win. A win/win is when both sides walk away from situation having gained, when both sides are happy enough with the outcome. The importance of striving to get a win/win is applicable to almost any scenario at work, be it: negotiations with a supplier, feedback with a staff member or disciplining a student as a teacher. For each scenario to work well, both parties needs a win. However the key thing to understand about win/win is the “win” isn’t about both sides getting what they wanted, it is rather about them getting what they needed.

Win/Win isn’t about both sides getting what they wanted it is about them getting what they needed.

Covey in his famous negotiation quadrant argued that each negotiation has 5 possible outcomes. The most disastrous of the lot is that both sides lose. Usually a lose/lose is the result of neither side making the needed compromises to pacify the other and the two parties being equally entrenched in their views and positions, the ongoing troubles in Palestine is a sad example of this. Win/Lose and Lose/Win are examples of when one side gets what they want but they enforce an unhappy conclusion on the other party. The winner, usually the one with more power or more forceful in their views, may think they have got a win, but the problem with this scenario is that if the other party has walked away with nothing the relationship is likely to break down at some later point taking away the benefit of any “win” in the long term sense. Win/lose goes in contrary to the idea of the balanced emotional bank, as one side is withdrawing too heavily. “No deal”, when an option, Covey argues is usually better than lose/lose, and often better than one side winning, as at least the parties agree working together is not in their interest and seek new collaborations.


Any real great leader delivers consistently win/win conclusions, finding the third way.  A third way from a leaderships perspective is achieving your “objective” but modifying your “method” of getting to it, so it is more palatable and acceptable to the other party. The method you end up with is likely not initially suggested by either party, but a involves a mixing of both interest group’s ideas. Win/Win satisfies both the short term and the long as it ensures both parties walk away with enough of what they need right now and that the foundations of future collaboration are maintained. Win/Win requires both parties to sacrifice parts of what they wanted in favor of getting an agreement and is reached through high levels of consideration and trust. It most of all, as said, requires the vision and foresight to believe that an alternative acceptable path is possible. Most win/win situations require leaders to show strength of character, both being consistent in their believes but also compassionate in their implementation of them.

Leaders with strength of character more often seek win/win in negotiations.

The benefits of finding win/win in negotiations and having a third way mindset are endless. First of all people believe in leaders who genuinely represent and respect them and win/win outcomes are a sure way of working towards this. For example if in a staff negotiation you pushed just for what you needed, your employee feels you don’t care about their interests but likewise if you gave in too easily to what they pushed for likely you wouldn’t deliver as a leader so they wouldn’t respect you either. Win/win is palatable to all involved parties, not just those involved in the negotiation but also those who observe it. When those observing see you are able to reach a happy outcome for both sides, they believe collaborating with you is in their interest, even if their initial stance or view were opposed to yours. Win/win is also a way to further learning and development. Leaders who seek only to “Win” learn nothing from the other party but those managers who have capacity to give the other side a win too, learn from and about the other party, knowledge that will come in useful in future situations. Most of all win/win is normally morally the correct path to seek and leaders who are followed more are usually the ones who have a high regarded value system.

Win/win leaders have more followers.


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