Monday, April 4, 2011

Think Win - Win

I was raised in a very competitive environment. I played sports all through high school and prior to. Even today when I line up with my good buddies to play golf, my goal is to beat them. It was just the way I was raised.

When I sold for thirty years my goal was to beat the competition and win the business. I always played fairly but my plans and implementation of same were to one end, beat the other guy.

When I lobbied the legislature, my goal was to win on any issue I faced. I wanted the vote to go my way. Hang the other side. I win. You lose. That is the way I have always been taught to perform at any level.

I was at war with the competition. Either I kill you or you kill me. What's the point of building that FAA-22 Stealth fighter if we don't intend to win? I have no mixed feelings about the war we fought in Iraq. We lost 3000 innocents in the twin towers event. My philosophy is that someone has to pay for that and so we go to war. Not to make a statement but to WIN.

I find myself in real estate negotiations where someone has to win and someone has to lose. However, as I have tried to apply this Coveyism of win-win I have softened my approach somewhat. That does not mean that I don't represent my client as hard nosed as I ever have. I just try not to leave the blood trail strewn with dead bodies.

Covey suggests that one of the main elements of win-win is character. We need to elevate the feelings of the other side as much as possible. We may take the negotiation right down the path that we wish but we do so with diplomacy and compassion. I am learning those lessons a bit late. I would have been much happier as a lobbyist if I had been a bit more diplomatic and less warlordish. I never lost an issue but I did lose more than a few friends along the way. My attitude was it is my way or the morgue, you choose. I used to see people running away from me in the halls ahead of me. That was a period in my life where my character changed. I did not particularly like the person I had become. I can certainly see why others would feel the same way.

Even now, I find myself going to def-con 2 & 3 positions in discussions that don't amount to a hill of peas. We have to soften our approach. Is it really all that important to win the argument? Is it really possible to play win-win? Yes it is ! Negotiation is what diplomacy is all about. We must take the position that we will do all we can to influence the outcome but we are not going to all out war over the event. I used to report to an EVP who used the following quote often, " You know, sometimes that hill is just not worth the climb." He's right. It is possible to get into a mindset that you are always right and no other perspective matters.

I learned that on into my career when I had to represent my company in the marketing of HIV/AIDS products. I roamed around the country meeting with gay advocacy groups, pre-selling our product to them. Now, I am a conservative, 60 yoa and very heterosexual. Here I was thrust into a culture that was completely foreign to me. I had to be processed through sensitivity training with a consultant firm hired by my employer for the purpose of helping me and numerous others to understand a culture completely beyond our comprehension.

The process of relating to this new group of customers pushed me to my limits. I soon learned that I had to compromise or I would surely fail. In the end I became a little softer, a little more understanding and more importantly a lot more tolerant. I don't feel that I have any stronger understanding of the gay lifestyle but I do have an understanding of the emotional and hellish life that the people who live in this arena endure. I believe that there is something going on in the inner workings of people who take on that lifestyle that we just don't completely understand.

Win-win. I am still working hard to not arm my missiles in certain situations I am forced into. It is possible for an old dog to learn new tricks. I cannot claim to be Christian and take an unmoving, intolerant position against any of my fellow human brothers and sisters, regardless of what their lifestyle might entail. The Master Himself was criticized by the authorities of his time for taking bread and drink with the sinners and publicans. I remember he said, " The whole hath not need of the physician." I need to try and be more like Him and I am not going to give up trying.

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