Thinking win-win is above all to prefer constructing common interest over predatory or destructive practices. It is a question of harnessing one’s combative energy towards partnership and alliance configurations to reap the benefits of synergies. Each configuration is the result of potentially conflicting stake holders’ interests, designed so that each partner wins without losing. The concept in question has been developed through a methodological approach by the American psychologist Thomas Gordon and described in his book “Leader Effectiveness Training – The No Lose Way to Release the Productive Potential of People” (Bantam Edition, 1977).
Admittedly, win-win agreements, relationships and mindset are not immediately intuitive. Initiating, building and sustaining them requires a lot of determination, listening and empathy. We often focus on our own, immediate gains and not of the gains that could be made with others. In fact, the real questions are: Is a fight really worth it? And, if so, Who does it deserve to be fought with? Learn also how to lose to win better, and how to sometimes avoid competition to neither lose nor win. Indeed, conflict avoidance or alliance with competitors towards building a mutually beneficial agreement is often a matter of intelligence and wisdom.
The fundamental challenge of win-win relationships and agreements is not limited to initial wins but in winning sustainably. The trap is that we often overestimate the importance of creating a win-win balance, while we underestimate the need to maintain it over time. The celebration of balance for balance’s sake is the tree hiding the forest of tensions, any of which could reach a boiling point at any moment. To triumph through balance is satisfactory, to do so sustainably is fulfilling!
Regardless of the honesty (or not) of stakeholders and the nuisance of hidden agendas, always bear in mind that the constellation of each stake holder’s expectations is constantly evolving, sometimes predictably but often unpredictably so. You may find the right answer but also discover the question had changed. Or find the win-win balance only to realise it is now obsolete because the territory has evolved so much.
Long-term win-win relationships also mean communicating regularly, honestly, with no taboos. Trust is the cement that allows the bricks of relationships to hold and form a solid wall against disturbance and commotion. Recognizing and expressing changes in expectations is better than continuing to assume that others automatically understand them. This does not spontaneously renew win-win agreements, but can calmly and constructively update them in response to changing circumstances.