Covey’s Fourth Habit: Think Win-Win

In my previous posts, I have looked at the first three of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey posits that when individuals (1) are proactive, (2) begin with the end in mind, and (3) put first things first, they move from dependence to independence. IMG_0598According to his thinking, when this triangle of ‘private’ or personal habits is achieved, we can look to move towards the higher plane of interdependence, wherein lie the next three habits.

Habit 4 is the tendency to “think Win-Win” – to look for the best outcome for all involved, in order to maintain long-term, mutually beneficial relationships in terms of family, social and business. Of course, there are other combinations of thinking involving winning and losing, all of which are outlined by Covey, and which may be appropriate in some circumstances. However, as he indicates, usually the most desirable outcomes for all come from Win-Win thinking.

Covey states that thinking Win-Win “is fundamental to success in all our interactions, and it embraces five interdependent dimensions of life. It begins with character and moves toward relationships, out of which flow agreements. It is nurtured in an environment where structure and systems are based on Win/Win. And it involves process.”

Character is the basis from which Win-Win thinking emerges, and everything else develops from the foundation. It involves integrity (the value we place on ourselves), maturity (defined by Covey as “the balance between courage and consideration”) and an abundance mentality (the belief that there is plenty out there for everybody).

Relationships develops from the foundation set by character. Through our integrity, maturity and abundance mentality, we are able to build trust with other individuals and work effectively towards shared goals and mutual benefits.

When we have formed relationships, the flow on effect is the ability to come to agreements. These “give definition and direction to Win-Win.” According to Covey, there are five elements to the Win-Win agreement:

1. Desired results – identify what is to be done and when.

2. Guidelines – specify the parameters within which the results are to be accomplished.

3. Resources – identify the support available to help accomplish the results.

4. Accountability – establishes standards of performance and the time of evaluation.

5. Consequences – specify what will happen as a result of the evaluation.

Structure and systems of the company, family unit or social group are important to the success of Win-Win thinking. If the talking is win-win, but the rewards benefit one party more than the other (Win-Lose) then there is likely to be an overall negative outcome for all.

Processes are the means by which we achieve a Win-Win end. It is how people go about understanding the other point of view, negotiating accordingly, identifying key issues and finding possible new options for achieving results.

So, Covey’s 4th habit describes the essence of interdependence – of working together to achieve positive results for all parties, rather than one party finding themselves with a profit while the other is at a deficit. This may be okay in sport, where one team wins and another loses, or in some areas of business, however generally in order to be strong and sustainable, organisations need to be able to work together. And it is certainly a way of thinking that needs to underpin our educational institutions – highly interdependent organisations where if Win/Lose thinking is the standard, then students are being impacted on detrimentally.

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