7 Habits: Habit 4 – Think Win/Win


Habit 4 of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is all about achieving a mutually acceptable compromise with the person you’re dealing with so you both feel that you have achieved your ideal outcome.

7 Habits [2008] : Habit 4 Think Win/Win
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I’ve recently revisited the “7 Habits of Highly Effective people” (affiliate links) 6 years after writing this post. All posts in the new series are listed here or you can read my all of my 2008 take on the 7 habits here.

This is the habit of creating effective interpersonal leadership. In order to manage our relationships with others properly we need to think “Win/Win”. This isn’t just a technique that you can apply to everyday situations and relationships, it’s a philosophy – a whole way of thinking and being.

This philosophy is based on 6 paradigms of interaction. Basically, every time we interact with others it fits into one of these categories:

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

Let’s look at each of these types of interactions as Covey describes them:

Win/Win – Mutually beneficial and co-operative. All parties come out on top

Win/Lose – “If I win, you lose.” This is very authoritarian in style and can be seen as overly competitive. It’ a win at all costs mentality which is usually instilled from childhood.

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Lose/Win – “If I lose, you win.” This is usually the attitude of people who want to keep the peace and not upset the applecart. The problem with Lose/Win is that whilst you may feel happy your friend/colleague etc. has come out on top, this can however lead to an eventual breakdown in relationships as resentment builds up.

Lose/Lose – This happens when two Win/Lose people clash, it leads to a stubborn impasse as they try to beat each other at all costs.

Win – Don’t really want anyone to lose they just want everyone to come out on top. It’s an “every man for himself” mentality.

Win/Win or No Deal – This is where, if a mutually beneficial outcome cannot be reached, then you know it’s okay to walk away with no hard feelings.

What’s the best option?

The best option really depends on what situation you are in at the time, what you want to achieve, and what the other person wants to achieve.

From Passion To Profit

If you value a relationship, you may opt for Lose/Win in order to keep the peace. If you want to increase competition (in your sales force for example) you may go for a Win/Lose strategy.

In an interdependent relationship, Win/Lose doesn’t work. If I Win I will make you feel bad which leads to a withdrawal from my emotional bank account. The same goes for Lose/Win – I stop caring about you because you don’t care – and Lose/Lose – we both make withdrawals from each other’s accounts. The only viable option is Win/Win, or Win/Win/No Deal.

How do you achieve a Win/Win situation?

There are 5 “dimensions” (as Covey calls them) to achieving a Win/Win situation, which each build up on each other to form effective interpersonal leadership:

7 Habits: 5 Dimensions of Win/Win

So character builds relationships, which leads to an agreement within an agreed system and manner of process. Note that in the diagram above an agreement is required before you decide on the system and processes. This leads back to the habit of putting first things first – if you don’t know what you want then you can’t achieve it.

Covey uses a great analogy regarding creating agreements:

Developing a Win/Win performance agreement is the central activity of management. With an agreement in place, employees can manage themselves within the framework of that agreement. The manager can then serve as a pace car in a race. He can get things going and then get out of the way. His job from then on is to remove the oil spills.

Systems need to exist in order to allow a Win/Win situation to take place. If you think Win/Win but the system rewards Win/Lose then everyone loses faith and the system collapses. Reward systems need to be aligned with the goals and beliefs of the organisations.

All systems need to be Win/Win if this is the goal of the organisation. You can’t just rely on the rewards system motivating employees to think Win/Win, you need to include planning, communication strategy, budgeting, training – every aspect of the organisation needs to be thinking the same way.

Covey also notes that if you put good people into a bad system you get bad results, the whole path to a Win/Win situation is built from the ground up on the 5 dimensions, you can’t ignore one and hope the others fall into place.

What have I learned from this habit?

I’ve learned that it’s not what I want from a situation, it’s more about what others want. We can never reach a mutually acceptable solution if we don’t know what each other wants to get out of it.

I’ve also learned that it’s okay to walk away from a situation – assuming that the other party is okay with this – you don’t lose face and it enables you to revisit the situation further down the road with no animosity.

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What am I going to do about it?

I need to ask myself and others what they want from a situation – and of course, being the proactive person I now am, I can do that!

I need to know also, to walk away from a situation when it’s starting to look like Win/Lose, Lose/Win or Lose/Lose. I need to understand that it doesn’t make me look bad, it’s a No Deal situation that will only end in resentment from one, or both parties. I think the terms is “agree to disagree”. Fingers crossed that I can keep to this one, I have to admit I’m a Win/Lose kind of girl!

Interested in this book? Buy the 7 Habits of highly effective people from Amazon today

About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running FlippingHeck.com, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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2 thoughts on “7 Habits: Habit 4 – Think Win/Win

  1. “I totally agree with you. From my opinion the character is the most important in this as if you are mature enough you will be able to solve any situation in win/win. “

  2. Excellent way of explaining, and nice paragraph to take data concerning my presentation subject, which i am going to
    present in school.

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