With the group of guys I meet each week, we recently summarized and discussed some of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was first introduced to this book soon after graduating from college. Since then it has been a reference manual that I have gone back to time-and-time again.
The habit I discussed was “Think Win/Win”. Use this habit anytime you need to make an agreement with someone else. I will tell you from my experience that it is much harder to follow through in real practice than it seems. A successful win/win agreement needs full commitment from both parties.
When entering into an agreement with someone, Dr. Covey suggests that there are six scenarios that can occur.
- Win/Win – We both win and feel we have a winning agreement.
- Win/Lose – I win but the other person loses. Like in sports, one side cannot win without the other side losing.
- Lose/Win – I lose but the other person wins. I see people accept this agreement to avoid conflict.
- Lose/Lose – We both sacrifice during the process and neither one of us feel like we gained much.
- Win – All that matters is that I win. If you win or lose, it is irrelevant to me.
- Win/Win or No Deal – We both win until we are both satisfied or we agree to have an agreement.
When I first read this habit years ago, I had a Eureka moment. That scenario was something that had never occurred to me. It was such an awesome concept to me that I could hardly wait to try it.
In time I learned that, it is not so easy to put in to practice. It works best when both parties are able to bring a level of maturity and character to the discussion that ensures success. Each needs to sincerely care about the outcome for the other person as much as they care about it for themselves.
Buying a car
Last winter we were in the market to buy another car. We discovered that a friend of ours was selling their very nice looking foreign car. We approached them about their car, test drove it and did some online research to determine a fair offer. We started to discuss the agreement and the first thing we said was that we were friends and we are not interested in a deal unless they felt good about it too. If anything about it did not feel right, they could just let us know and we would fully accept that with no hard feelings. We let them know that it is more important for us to maintain our friendship rather than getting a good deal on a car.
We offered a price for the car and they accepted it. A part of our agreement was that we would not do the deal until we had our mechanic look over the car. They also didn’t want us to buy the car and then have something really bad go wrong. Our mechanic reviewed the car and found a list of major problems with the car. It would have cost us more than our purchase price to fix all the problems with the car. We of course did not purchase the car. I provided the detailed report from my mechanic to our friends and they accepted it. We are still friends today. It was a win/win agreement but no deal.
A few weeks later we found another car that was within our budget. We followed a similar negotiation process. My mechanic endorsed the car after he reviewed it. We both felt good about the transaction. It was a win/win agreement with a deal. We still love the car.
When you need to negotiate a deal, consider what a win/win agreement would look like. Decide ahead of time what would make you walk away from the deal in a way that maintains the relationship.
When have you had a win/win or no deal agreement?
When have you had an agreement that turned out not to be a win/win agreement?