In business and in life, we talk a lot about winning in the context of competition or contests—of beating others to show we’re better at something. Winning means that someone else loses. It’s a “zero sum game.”
While a “win-lose” proposition has its time and place, I’ve found that most situations require a different approach. I recall something Coach John Wooden, a great man and influence in my life, once said: “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”
Sure, winning can prove that we’re good or even the best at what we do. But to win in a meaningful and lasting way, we need to have character. For me, this means finding “win-win” opportunities that rely on cooperation and collaboration, rather than on competition and contests.
Covey’s fourth habit tells us just this—to “think win-win” by seeking mutual benefit from our interactions. While the first three habits are about mastering the “private victory” of independence, Habit 4 moves us into the realm of “public victories” or interdependence. It’s about developing effective interpersonal leadership, which is fundamental to all successful relationships.
Covey, like Coach Wooden, says that character is the foundation of winning. People and organizations with a “win-win” attitude have three key traits:
- Integrity: Sticking with their true feelings, values and commitments
- Maturity: Expressing their ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for others’ ideas and feelings
- Abundance mentality: Believing there’s plenty for everyone
By practicing Habit 4, we can be true winners who work cooperatively with others to achieve mutual solutions, satisfaction and success. In situations where we can’t achieve a “win-win,” we must have the integrity, maturity and conviction—the character—to walk away agreeably without burning bridges. “Win-win” or no deals, rather than “win-lose” or “lose-lose” deals, are the best ways to be effective in our lives, work and most valued relationships.