Are you playing to “Win – Win” Or grabbing for your slice of the pie?

“Winning” has taken on new meaning thanks to our friend Charlie Sheen. Like Charlie are you playing to win? Are you fighting hard for your slice of the pie? I was reading the Sacramento bee (yes, I still read newspapers) this week and read an opinion article by Dan WaltersSlicing pie real agenda for capital“.

In the article he describes that the real agenda of our California legislature is not always what is purported to be (i.e. doing the business of the people and compromising to do what’s best for the state today and in the future). He says that their real purpose is “slicing up the pie” according to their own self interest. And this problem has been exacerbated in recent years as the pie has gotten smaller and the fighting has gotten Fiercer.

I am big on visuals and word pictures, so this description hits home. I can visualize a bunch of me-first kids fighting over a pie were some bully cuts a bigger share first and others get little or only crumbs. It reminds me of one of my guiding life principles I call it “the bigger pie principle”. That is, if we all work together and share, we can make a bigger pie from which we can all feast and still have some left over. But if we fight over the pie, most will get less in both the short and long haul, we all lose. The first is a philosophy of abundance, that there is plenty for all. The second is that of scarcity, where there is fear that there is not enough. The core problem is that human nature is usually one of scarcity, not abundance. I’m sure that someone can trace this back to caveman days where there wasn’t enough to go around and for tribes to grow they had to keep moving and take from someone else. The path to success was to physically impose your will on another, including enslaving them if necessary. But for all the conflict, there have also been positive examples throughout history where tribes have cooperated to form villages, cities, build common infrastructure , divide labor, and thus improve the overall standard of living of the whole.

I have found that there are three distinct you negotiating styles of people that produce distinctive results. They are illustrated by the pendulum graphic below.

  • WIN-LOSE – In the “win- lose” scenario, someone is trying to gain pie by taking it from someone else. They are all about themselves with no interest in the other person’s welfare, they are transactional, not relational. A good example is when a mortgage loan broker sold a risky subprime loan to a buyer at excess costs without concern if it was the best loan or even a good decision at all for the buyer. Or the Wall Street investment banks that created, bought, and packaged these loans and then sold them to unsuspecting pension funds as triple-A securities that then became worthless. Every man for himself. Buyer beware!
  • LOSE-LOSE - The lose-lose scenario is where if I am going to lose, then I will make you lose along with me. Cutoff my nose to spite my face. For example, a teenage girl that is grounded chooses to ignore and give her mom the silent treatment for a week. Or one OPEC oil producer secretly increases production higher than agreed to take advantage of higher prices. Others find out and also increase production, causing prices to fall… resulting in all of them making less than if they had held to the original agreement. This strategy comes primarily from those who see themselves as victims and choose to blame others for their state in life. Misery loves company, and they pull others into the mud puddle with them. This is passive-aggressive behavior, but it does have power. It’s the law of subtraction, 1 + 1 = 1.
  • Both one and two are examples of child-like behavior. At a young age, children will often exhibit these two extremes to get what they want. For example, if they want a cookie, then they will either  badger (too hot) or whine(too cold) as long as one of these strategies eventually works. this seems to be a natural human tendency which is expected and tolerated amongst children. However, these are not attractive or productive traits in a 40 year old adult, or a group of adults acting as a state legislature.

    • WIN-WIN -  now to the third of negotiating style and the focus of our post today, win-win. This is where true adults operate, where they see the big picture and legitimately care more about the relationship than the ”deal” or issue. They see the long-term ramifications of their actions. They are running a marathon, not a sprint. It’s where they do the “Lazy Susan ”and look at things from the other person’s side-and care as much about the process as the result. It’s the belief that none of us is as smart as all of us and that we come up with better answers through collaboration. For example, it’s the same mortgage broker telling you not to refinance now because you won’t save enough to justify the costs. And it’s the husband and wife who talk about and resolve an issue, don’t go to bed mad, and build a stronger marriage through compromise and commitment to each other. And hopefully, someday it will be our state legislature and Congress that will come together and realize that the only way to make the pie bigger for everyone long-term is to share the pain in slicing our smaller pie now. Unfortunately, they have a high disapproval rates today largely through exhibiting the child-like behaviors above.

    This win-win philosophy is what I call “Wheeler Math”, where 1 + 1 can equal 3 (or more) and create abundance from scarcity. It’s modern-day alchemy, where the sum is greater than the parts.


    So, are you playing to win-win? Here are some characteristics of a win-win players:

    1. Attitude and gratitude-are you a person with an outlook of abundance? Are you thankful daily for what you have? Or do you focus on the other guy and what you don’t have?
    2. Accountability-do you own everything that happens in your life? Or do you blame others and external circumstances for your fate?
    3. Trust-do you naturally trust other new people you meet? Are you trustworthy? No trust, no relationship.
    4. Relationship focus-are you willing to sacrifice an issue in order to preserve the relationship? Do you seek to understand before being understood? Have you walked a mile in the other person’s moccasins?
    5. Adding value- are you adding value to your relationships? Do you make more deposits into them than your withdrawals?
    6. Consider, they may be right- Ben Franklin, Julius Caesar, and Moses, despite being brilliant and sometimes arrogant, have all admitted to being wrong. Are you open to other people’s ideas, even when they are polar opposite to yours? Can you humble yourself and admit when you are wrong?
    7. Forgiveness-no one is always right and no one is perfect at this negotiation process. It is a learned skill and an art. As humans, we all slip into child-state sometimes .Lead and teach by example. Do you forgive others that slip occasionally or do you hold grudges?

    Quote of the day:  “For me to get what I want from life, I have to help a lot of other people get what they want” Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker

    So, if you want to be a true winner, forego the techniques of Charlie Sheen and our legislature and find a lot of people to help, and you will find your reward- and maybe make a bigger pie at the same time.


    In what areas could you improve your win-win philosophy? In what ways could our elected leaders exhibit more win-win techniques?

    I look forward to hearing from you.



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