So Many Losers (“I Win, You Lose!”) – Where Are The Actual Practioneers Of “I Win, You Win, We All Win?”
I’ve been thinking about losing.
There are so many books about winning that winning seems to be the preferred default position.
But, I think, the way it is practiced in far too many instances, it is the “I win, you lose” approach to winning. And this is a very bad thing.
Business is still dominated by men, and as Deborah Tannen pointed out so long ago, men view conversations as a competition, with winners and losers. (sorry – I read it too long ago; don’t remember the precise book…).
Sales, negotiations, transactions, are still so often viewed as “win-lose,” in spite of the best efforts of Steven Covey and a legion of others to build a “win-win” culture.
When people think about negotiation they tend to think about win-lose – in other words, somebody’s going to win, and somebody’s going to lose. Many people go so far as to associate negotiation with the ability to “get them before they get you.” That’s not what The One Minute Negotiator is all about. One of the key messages from this book is that you can complete a negotiation without victimizing others. – or becoming a victim – in the process. Rather than fighting over a finite pie, you can use the skills taught in this book to actually create a bigger pie.
I hope he is right. I know it is possible, in many instances, in an ideal world. But… have you paid attention to our current climate? Take the idea of “bipartisanship,” which is, in its essence, a “win-win” approach. There are many who argue that even an attempt at bipartisanship is a “sell out.” Where can “win-win” even get a foothold in such a climate?
I am slowly coming to believe this – what happens in business shapes all of society. If people lie on their resumes (and 40% do, according to some studies), then people will lie everywhere. If people want to own the competition, and produce a string of “losers” in the process, then “win-lose” becomes the practice in almost every arena
We need some folks in busies to recommit to the actual practice of “win-win” – don’t you think?
What about you? Have you adopted the “win-win,” stance, or do you fall back to the “I win, you lose” approach to negotiation, and life? Help us out here – we need all the “let’s win together” thinking we can muster…
This morning in Dallas, many of us are wishing the labor dispute in the NFL would shift from the players to the coaches. We would be quite happy if the Cowboys coaching staff went on strike, to then be replaced by some people with more sense, and then let our team get back to playing like a Cowboys team that looks disciplined and smart. We can dream, can’t we?
But, back to the real world of labor disputes — apparently we are in for a potential tough one in the NFL. Last Thursday night, when the Saints and Vikings began their game with an act of union solidarity (each player from both teams stepped onto the field, each lifting the index finger as “one,” demonstrating that the players are “one” in this matter), I decided I needed to figure out what the issues are all about. So, after a search, I found this lengthy treatment: Fans’ guide to NFL labor battle by Michael Silver. It is a long article, in a Q & A format. Well-written, it definitely helped me understand the terrain of the dispute.
Here’s the last paragraph of the article:
How do we solve this mess?
We’re glad you asked (and glad you’re still with us after all these questions). As with most labor disputes, this is a gap that can be bridged through creativity and compromise – and, ultimately, it will come down to money and perception. The first thing that has to happen for a deal to be forged is that each side has to move past the rancorous rhetoric and intense emotion that is likely to worsen over the coming months. Certainly, this is a volatile issue that involves principle and impacts the careers and lives of numerous individuals and their families – but in the end it’s a business dispute between two entities that have it pretty good in a strained economy. If the owners and players test fan loyalties by robbing them of an entire season – or, in a worst-case scenario, dragging the dispute past the fall of 2012 – both could end up as losers. Conversely, there is a way to resolve their differences in a win-win scenario that involves growing the pie, rewarding the owners for their investment risks and keeping total player revenues relatively stable. By adding two regular season games and establishing a rookie pool, a new CBA can theoretically create enough additional revenues that owners can get some of what they want (more money credited off the top) and veterans won’t have to take less. For this to happen, the NFLPA needs to abandon its focus on its percentage of revenues – a holdover from the Upshaw regime – and focus on total dollars. Owners, meanwhile, have to get past the perception that they were duped into taking a poor deal in 2006 and try to leverage a deal with the union that seems more like a partnership than a vengeful comeuppance. All of this can be accomplished by rational, well-meaning negotiators who have pro football’s – and its adoring public’s – best interests at heart. “People on both sides have to study the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” says one league source. “Ultimately, in order to settle this standoff, everybody has to feel that they’ve won, or at least saved face, and that they were part of the process.” Until then, players, owners and those of us who love football will be experiencing labor pains on an uncomfortably frequent basis.
This thought, from the end of the article, was the especially good one: “People on both sides have to study the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” says one league source. “Ultimately, in order to settle this standoff, everybody has to feel that they’ve won, or at least saved face, and that they were part of the process.” It is a classic statement in defense of the “win-win” approach. (championed by Covey as one of the seven habits of highly effective people).
I don’t know enough about this dispute, even after reading this and other articles, to fully grasp the issues with proper depth. I do know this: there is a long history of labor disputes, and there is a fairly long history of workers not being cared for by owners in many arenas. As I wrote in a post on Labor Day: have unions at times overreached? Yes, of course. When one asks that question, do you think it would be ok to also ask: have companies ever failed to adequately treat their workers with justice and dignity? Also, a yes…
And I know that unions do not always do all that they could and should. For example, consider this criticism of Gene Upshaw, the now deceased leader of the NFL Players Association: In Upshaw’s later years as union head, according to his obituary in The New York Times, he “came under withering criticism from a vocal band of retired players who believed he had not done enough to protect their interests, particularly those of players with health problems.”
But, if there are failures on both sides of the equation, there is also this: a “win-win” solution is what all should seek, at all times. It is the right, the human, the humane thing to do in any and every such dispute.
This is one of the volumes in the new Harvard Business Essentials Series. Each offers authoritative answers to the most important questions concerning its specific subject. The material in this book is drawn from a variety of sources which include the Harvard Business School Press and the Harvard Business Review as well as Harvard ManageMentor®, an online service. I strongly recommend the official Harvard Business Essentials Web site (ckick here) that offers free interactive versions of tools, checklists, and worksheets cited in this book and other books in the Essentials series. Each volume is indeed “a highly practical resource for readers with all levels of experience.” And each is by intent and in execution solution-oriented. Although I think those who have only recently embarked on a business career will derive the greatest benefit, the material is well worth a periodic review by senior-level executives.
Richard Luecke is the author of several other books in the Essentials series. Once again, credit him with pulling together a wealth of information and counsel from various sources. In this instance, he was assisted by a subject advisor, Michael Watkins, who is an associate professor at the Harvard Business School who does research on negotiation and leadership. Together, they have carefully organized the material as follows.
First, they examine various types of negotiation (e.g. distributive and integrative) and then introduce four key concepts: BATNA (i.e. best alternative to a negotiated agreement), reservation price, ZOPA (i.e. zone of possible agreement), and value creation through trades. Next, they shift their attention to nine steps of preparation to consummate a deal; “table tactics” when engaged in negotiation; FAQs about price, process, and “people problems; barriers to agreement (e.g. negotiating with “die-hard bargainers”); mental errors (e.g. irrational expectations); the importance of establishing and then cultivating various relationships; negotiating for others (i.e. the functions of independent and non-independent agents); and finally, negotiation skills which build organizational competence (e.g. continuous improvement and using negotiation as an organizational opportunity). I especially appreciate the fact that, at the end of each of the ten chapters, a “Summing Up” section is provided which focuses on key points and, later, facilitates a review of the book’s narrative. I am also grateful for “Useful Implementation Tools” in the Appendix.
Years ago, the eminent psychologist Carl Rogers recommended three separate but related steps when one is involved in a negotiation of any kind. First, identify the issues on which both “sides” agree and set them aside. Next, agree to concessions, compromises, etc. on other issues and then set them aside. Finally, isolate the issues that remain and focus on them. This approach usually (not always) achieves, eventually, a mutually acceptable and (preferably) mutually beneficial agreement. Experts suggest that negotiation should not be viewed as a Zero Sum Game. If at all possible, the ultimate agreement should be a Win-Win for everyone involved.
I don’t know any advice any better than this. This, of course, is one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People – #4 to be precise.
And if you think about “think win-win,” it reinforces a lot of “advice and counsel” from books we read nearly every day. For example, today I presented my synopsis of the terrific book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. These quotes jumped out at me, and reminded me of Covey’s “think win-win” counsel:
Success in any field, but especially in business, is about working with people, not against them.
I learned that real networking was about finding ways to make other people more successful.
A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need… first you have to stop keeping score.
Or, consider the concept of “generalized reciprocity” from the modern classic, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam. In it, he writes about the appeal of generalized reciprocity: “I’ll do this for you without expecting anything specific back from you, in the confident expectation that someone else will do something for me down the road.”
I think we need to trumpet this concept loudly and clearly in these tense days. There seems to be such fierce competition with others; so many people who are so quick to find fault, to even question the motives of others. It is as though there are people out there rooting for the failure of others.
And we forget that any one failure spells trouble for others – maybe for all.
I was recently re-reading part of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. (One of those, “I really encourage you to read this book” books). Here are a couple of quotes from near the end of the book:
Our own society opted long ago to become interlocked with the rest of the world…
In the Netherlands, we have another expression, ‘You have to be able to get along with your enemy, because he may be the person operating the neighboring pump in your polder.’
In one sense, there is no such thing as an enemy, but only fellow planet users. If your economy is weak, my economy is threatened. If your city is polluted, my clean air is at risk. “If the dikes and pumps fail, we’ll all drown together.’’ (Diamond).
Let’s put it another way: to think and act “win-lose” is really to think and act “lose-lose.” We really are in this together, and “win-win” may be the only path to “win” at all.