7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Does your organization think Win/Win? In most organizations their employee reward systems are hurting sales, fulfillment, profit, employee satisfaction and their brand reputation because their reward systems are designed to have employees compete against each other – not compete as a team in a Win/Win environment.


Imagine we have 10 sales people. The yearend reward system is structured as follows:

  • The Top sales person gets an all expense paid vacation. He/she feel great.
  • Next two sales people get a weekend away. Unfortunately, they still feel like they’ve lost.
  • The remaining 7 people (who still performed well), receive a standard raise, unfortunately they really feel they’ve lost.

In addition:

  • The Top sales person likely reached their goal early so stopped selling… or put off sales to help ensure they win Top prize next year.
  • Winner 2 and 3 might have also stopped selling early if they knew they could not catch the Top sales person.
  • The pride and morale of the remaining 7 has certainly taken a significant hit. In addition, they likely knew they were not going to be in the top three early on which means they stopped working on their stretch goal early on.
  • And finally… there are now between 7 and 9 people who likely feel under-valued and who might be looking for an employer who does make them feel valued (and the Top person might feel they deserve better).

There are many challenges with this all too common scenario including two often-overlooked disadvantages:

  • The company didn’t win; in fact the company lost because most if not all of their sales people held back sales or lost motivation.
  • The customers didn’t win because sales people likely delayed important sales or provided unmotivated customer service.

Imagine the benefit of a Win/Win environment where everyone wants to do their best. Imagine the success and the influence the Top 3 sales people could have had if they acted as mentors… not competitors… where they taught best practices to the other 7 members while utilizing their energy, excitement and creativity. Imagine the long-term benefit and brand reputation that develops when customers experience a fully integrated organization that is clearly focused on their satisfaction.

When the internal organizational structures are in place to support a Win/Win approach, personal ability and team performance are magnified. The success each individual – team – and organization experience are greater than if they were working against each other – not trusting each other.

Dimensions of a Win/Win Solution

Clearly when it’s Win/Win everyone benefits except the competition. When it’s Win/Lose there is someone who will not be 100% invested… which means employees, customers and the business are the losers while your competition benefits.

Stephen R. Covey describes the principle of a Win/Win relationship requiring 3 mutual experiences for all involved.  Those being:

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Bruce Speaking On Global TV about Millennials

  1. Mutual Learning
  2. Mutual Influence
  3. Mutual Benefit

Stephen R. Covey also describes the principle of a Win/Win relationship needing to be supported by 3 personal / interpersonal and 2 organizational traits. I would suggest that All 5 of these foundational traits need to be nurtured by the organization… not just the last 2. Therefore, allowing room for my interpretation these Win/Win personal and organizational traits can be broken down as follows:

  • Character (Personal / Interpersonal and Organizational)
    • Integrity
    • Maturity
    • Abundance Mentality
  • Relationship (Personal / Interpersonal and Organizational)
    • Trust
    • Respect
    • Credibility
  • Agreement to Cooperate (Personal / Interpersonal and Organizational)
    • Goal
    • Guidelines
    • Resources
    • Responsibility / Accountability
    • Consequences
      • Financial
      • Psychological
      • Opportunity
      • Responsibility
  • Support Systems (Organizational)
  • Processes (Organizational)

The Win/Win paradigm believes that everyone can fulfill their dreams / goals because team success will provide enough for everyone to share.

Implementing a Win/Win Solution

One of the first steps when integrating an innovative Win/Win corporate environment is to align all internal reward and recognition systems. This is critical! Good faith and trust are paramount and can overcome previously existing structural and cultural barriers, however, if one department or Leader rewards Win/Lose (internal competition), then the whole organizational ecosystem and success is in jeopardy.

Win/Win cannot exist in an environment of internal competition

Win/Win can thrive in an environment of external competition 

External competition is good as long as it does not create competition internally – even between one team and another.  It can be used to help identify a goal – even a stretch goal for the team / organization to reach. Internal competition is not a friend of Win/Win – it undermines the trust required. One of the rare circumstances a variation of internal completion can be used would be to compete against last years results, market norms or other business / products / services in the market.

For Win/Win to work, the systems have to support it.  The training system, the planning system, the communication system, the budgeting system, the information system, the compensation system – all have to be based on the principle of Win/Win.” Stephen R. Covey.

Stephen suggests individuals / teams can align their objectives for mutual benefit by using a 4 step approach. I offer these 4 steps below – with my expanded insight:

  1. Look at the problem [assignment / situation] with an open [creative] mind [that considers what can be done – not what can’t be done.  This positive approach to thinking is called affirmative action]
  2. Identify [and agree upon] objectives
  3. Identify [and agree upon] approaches, [process, threats and resources]
  4. Identify [and agree upon] tactics to meet your objectives

In the end – living within a Win/Win paradigm requires individuals and organizations to embrace a culture of honesty, integrity, maturity and abundance. A Win/Win solution balances efforts on both the P (Production), as well as the PC (Production Capability)… caring for the output while also ensuring the process that creates the output is cared for. Stephen calls this investment ‘sharpening the saw’ in habit #3.


Having a business culture of Win/Win is within reach and quite inexpensive – especially when considering the financial benefits. The key ingredients of a Win/Win organizational culture and brand reputation is to design all access to information, reporting and rewards to ensure everyone when there is a win that everyone (the individuals, teams and the organization) win; hence the Win/Win paradigm.

Happy communicating, creating workplace harmony and reducing employee turnover.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Reference Material:

  • Stephen R. Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ©
  • Michael Bungay Stanier: Do More Great Work ©
  • My experience

About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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