Do You (Really) Believe in Win/Win?

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“Lead the life that will make you kindly and friendly to everyone, and you will be surprised what a happy life you will lead.”

Charles M. Schwab

When most people are asked if they believe in and want win/win, they answer with the obvious, “yes.” The challenge is that win/win is not widely supported or modeled worldwide. In the US alone, it’s evident in our statistics. We fell to 28th place for gender equality. And that’s not all; we have a wide range of win/lose statistics regarding race, age, sexual orientation, religion, politics and economic status.

Why does this matter to your business? If on some level, you believe win/win is not usually attainable, you set yourself and others up for low excellence and costly losses because the energy it takes to recover from win/lose is immeasurable. Expressing from win/lose too often defines your employee and customer relations. Win/lose is always from fear within both “winners” and “losers.” It saps innovation, creativity and connection. It creates resentment, hostility, anger and revenge within people, which ripples forth.

I assert we are so saturated in win/lose and lose/win (both are lose/lose), that we don’t usually recognize it. Recently, I heard the state of Wisconsin made it an offense to taunt opposing teams at sporting events and the radio personality telling the story made an observation that it’s impossible for parents to know how to guide their children to be caring about an opposing team when at the same time, they are doing everything they can to help their kids win. This is a great example of confusion about win/win.

What if the rewards of competition lie elsewhere? What if they are not about being against another person or group, but being witness to mastery, tested and revealed in competition? What if it’s being enthralled with joy when seeing someone use their determination, talent and passion to perform with excellence? Then deep appreciation and respect for the opposition is not only possible, it is desired.

In general it’s very difficult to imagine life without the overlay of win/lose. We practice it as we use comparisons, judgment, criticism, gossip, and anytime we make another person or ourselves wrong. Even when we participate in win/win, we find it difficult to maintain. In my work with clients, I see a pattern in which fear, hostility, anger and resentment are triggered and people either move into a lose position or a win position, neither coming from empowerment, healthy connection or a caring sense of contribution. Behavior stemming from it does not make either party involved feel lovable. What can be done?

First, just recognizing how deeply we are impacted by the belief someone has to lose is an important start. Next, approach situations and conversations considering how to maintain win/win as if it is always possible. Also, notice when you are triggered by fear and first allow yourself to be compassionate and curious about what is present in you. As you are kind and friendly to yourself first, you will find a way to be so with all involved. This requires slowing down and consciously raising your own sense of worth, while raising the worth of others. For example, drop ideas like, ‘children owe respect to their elders’ and replace it with, ‘elders and children both deserve respect’. Replace ‘the customer is always right’ with ‘customers and sellers both have a valid perspective that can be navigated and supported.’ Make purpose and values more important than pretending to care or following rules that have never fulfilled the needs of all, and recognize that whenever you are able to shift to win/win, many people benefit. And…call me if I can help!

A systems approach is the best strategy to be a competent, sustainable organization. Support strategic planning by exploring systems needed for performance excellence.

This article was published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, February 2016

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