By: Derrick Chevalier
(Three common misnomers)
One of the most important business skills for anyone to develop is the ability to accurately determine when or if a transaction or relationship is win-win. Yet, few business professionals, executives, attorneys or politicians possess the skill or expertise to consistently and accurately make such a determination.
Many people will tell you that a win-win relationship or transaction is when the parties involved feel a sense of satisfaction. Other people will point out that a win-win relationship or transaction is when both or all parties get what they want. Still other people will tell you that a win-win relationship occurs when people are willing to do business together again. Where do you stand on these perspectives? How do you determine when or if a relationship or transaction is truly win-win?
If you are one of the many people who ascribes to any of the three perspectives detailed above one thing is certain; you’ve been had without even knowing it! In the first place if a win-win relationship could be determined on the basis of how the parties feel about an outcome, relationship or transaction then feelings would have to be facts wouldn’t they? The truth however is exactly the opposite feelings are not facts and thus while the way people feel is extremely important in a relationship or transaction their feelings often have nothing to do with determining whether or not the relationship or transaction is in fact win-win. The most obvious argument here is simply that feelings are qualitative while facts are quantitative. If someone is willing to base their business decisions solely on the way they feel then one would probably do well to concentrate on controlling the other party’s feelings first and then work on the quantitative elements of the relationship or transaction (Leading ultimately to anything but a win-win outcome for the feeling party).
If getting what you want is a reliable way of determining whether or not a relationship or transaction is win-win what happens when both or all parties want the exact same things? This was precisely the conundrum depicted in the film “A Beautiful Mind” as renowned mathematician John Nash determined that the father of modern economics Adam Smith was wrong and needed to be revised. Ultimately John’s work lead to the drastic refinement of Game Theory and eventually the Nobel as he promoted theories for eliminating the negative impacts of competition among those seeking to craft agreement and find solutions for complex issues. Nonetheless, the vast majority of people don’t know enough about Game Theory to use it or implement its principles in their daily personal or business interactions. The fact is that whether or not getting what you want is a good measure of a win-win outcome depends almost entirely on what the goals for the parties actually are and more importantly on how those goals or targets were set.
This is precisely why renowned negotiation authorities such as Dr. Chester Karrass (The Negotiating Game, and In Business As In Life You Don’t Get What You Deserve You Get What You Negotiate), includes rules or principles for how targets should be set and why they should be set using specific principles in his writing, training programs, and curriculum.
Finally, how about the people who believe that just because someone is willing to do business again substantiates that previous interactions have therefore been win-win; is this group likely to fare any better than the feelings group? In a word no this group is perhaps even more vulnerable than the feelings group because they are acting on what students of logic refer to as the straw man fallacy (Essentially when a person ignores another’s actual position and substitutes a distorted or misrepresented position in its place). To conclude that a relationship or transaction is win-win just because people return to do business with you is foolhardy at best; maybe the reason they are returning to do business with you is that they did so well the first time and you felt so good about it that it seems only fair to them to return to take advantage of you again and again is this a possibility? Yes, it is a VERY real possibility.
So when is a relationship or transaction win-win? The truth depends on who you ask, when you ask and how you (and the other parties involved) define win-win. Dr. Chester Karrass (Of the renowned program Effective Negotiating) for example suggests that win-win or Both-Win to use his terminology is dependent upon the presence of two parts within the negotiating process namely what he calls the “Distributive Part” and the “Value Creating Part” without these win-win or both-win is impossible to achieve. In my book Influence – Rapport – Results it is suggested that for personal and business relationships alike there must be an “Equity of Risk” that is to say that if the underlying risks for each involved party aren’t calibrated sufficiently achieving an equitable or balanced outcome is nearly impossible.
At the end of the day determining whether or not a relationship is win-win is best left to hindsight rather than foresight or immediate conjecture. That is to say that the quality or status of a relationship or transaction is most accurately assessed as a matter of practical reflection made as one looks back at a relationship or transaction and compares it to the sum of all other relations or transactions cumquat to cumquat.
Meanwhile, the best offence is still a great defense which is precisely why it is critical to develop and nurture a high level of skill based on a foundation or framework of proven tactics, strategies and techniques. However, taking information and developing it into knowledge and skill Do Not happen by accident. For most, the best outcomes require training and coaching coupled with professional consultation and support as well.
There are exceptions but for all practical purposes and intent there is really no such thing as win-win.
Derrick Chevalier is the Sr. Executive Vice President of Harrison-Chevalier, Inc a negotiation training, consulting and strategy firm located in the Los Angeles area. His experience includes more than 23 years in sales, management and consulting. Derrick’s books include: Beyond Negotiating: From Fear to Fearless, Influence – Rapport – Results and his third book Roadmap to Success with Dr. Steven Covey and Ken Blanchard will be published later this year.