Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life. -- Edwin Markha * * One time I was asked to work with a company whose president was very concerned about the lack of cooperation among his people. "Our basic problem, Stephen, is that they're selfish," he said. "They just won't cooperate. I know if they would cooperate, we could produce so much more. Can you help us develop a human-relations program that will solve the problem?" "Is your problem the people or the paradigm?" I asked. "Look for yourself," he replied. So I did. And I found that there was a real selfishness, and unwillingness to cooperate, a resistance to authority, defensive communication. I could see that overdrawn Emotional Bank Accounts had created a culture of low trust. But I pressed the question. "Let's look at it deeper," I suggested. "Why don't your people cooperate? What is the reward for not cooperating?" "There's no reward for not cooperating," he assured me. "The rewards are much greater if they do cooperate. "Are they?" I asked. Behind a curtain on one wall of this man's office was a chart. On the chart were a number of racehorses all lined up on a track. Superimposed on the face of each horse was the face of one of his managers. At the end of the track was a beautiful travel poster of Bermuda, an idyllic picture of blue skies and fleecy clouds and a romantic couple walking hand in hand down a white sandy beach. Once a week, this man would bring all his people into this office and talk cooperation. "Let's all work together. We'll all make more money if we do." Then he would pull the curtain and show them the chart. "Now which of you is going to win the trip to Bermuda?" It was like telling one flower to grow and watering another, like saying "firings will continue until morale improves." He wanted cooperation. He wanted his people to work together, to share ideas, to all benefit from the effort. But he was setting them up in competition with each other. One manager's success meant failure for the other managers As with many, many problems between people in business, family, and other relationships, the problem in this company was the result of a flawed paradigm. The president was trying to get the fruits of cooperation from a paradigm of competition. And when it didn't work, he wanted a technique, a program, a quick-fix antidote to make his people cooperate. 128 But you can't change the fruit without changing the root. Working on the attitudes and behaviors would have been hacking at the leaves. So we focused instead on producing personal and organizational excellence in an entirely different way by developing information and reward systems which reinforced the value of cooperation. Whether you are the president of a company or the janitor, the moment you step from independence into interdependence in any capacity, you step into a leadership role. You are in a position of influencing other people. And the habit of effective interpersonal leadership is Think Win-Win. Six Paradigms of Human Interaction Win-win is not a technique; it's a total philosophy of human interaction. In fact, it is one of six paradigms of interaction. The alternative paradigms are win-lose, lose-win, loselose, win, and Win-Win or No Deal TM Win-Win Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a win-win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win-win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking if fundamentally flawed. It's based on power and position rather than on principle. Win-win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person's success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others. Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way. Win-Lose One alternative to win-win is win-lose, the paradigm of the race to Bermuda. It says "If I win, you lose. In leadership style, win-lose is the authoritarian approach: "I get my way; you don't get yours." Win-lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, possessions, or personality to get their way. Most people have been deeply scripted in the win-lose mentality since birth. First and most important of the powerful forces at work is the family. When one child is compared with another -- when patience, understanding or love is given or withdrawn on the basis of such comparisons -- people are into win-lose thinking. Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone has to earn love, what's being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or lovable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside. It's in comparison with somebody else or against some expectation. And what happens to a young mind and heart, highly vulnerable, highly dependent upon the support and emotional affirmation of the parents, in the face of conditional love? The child is molded, shaped, and programmed in the win-lose mentality. "If I'm better than my brother, my parents will love me more." 129 "My parents don't love me as much as they love my sister. I must not be as valuable." Another powerful scripting agency is the peer group. A child first wants acceptance from his parents and then from his peers, whether they be siblings or friends. And we all know how cruel peers sometimes can be. They often accept or reject totally on the basis of conformity to their expectations and norms, providing additional scripting toward winlose. The academic world reinforces win-lose scripting. The "normal distribution curve" basically says that you got an "A" because someone else got a "C." It interprets an individual's value by comparing him or her to everyone else. No recognition is given to intrinsic value; everyone is extrinsically defined. "Oh, how nice to see you here at our PTA meeting. You ought to be really proud of your daughter, Caroline. She's in the upper 10 percent." "That makes me feel good." "But your son, Johnny, is in trouble. He's in the lower quartile." "Really? Oh, that's terrible! What can we do about it?" What this kind of comparative information doesn't tell you is that perhaps Johnny is going on all eight cylinders while Caroline is coasting on four of her eight. But people are not graded against their potential or against the full use of their present capacity. They are graded in relation to other people. And grades are carriers of social value; they open doors of opportunity or they close them. Competition, not cooperation, lies at the core of the educational process. Cooperation, in fact, is usually associated with cheating. Another powerful programming agent is athletics, particularly for young men in their high school or college years. Often they develop the basic paradigm that life is a big game, a zero sum game where some win and some lose. "Winning" is "beating" in the athletic arena. Another agent is law. We live in a litigious society. The first thing many people think about when they get into trouble is suing someone, taking him to court, "winning" at someone else's expense. But defensive minds are neither creative nor cooperative. Certainly we need law or else society will deteriorate. It provides survival, but it doesn't create synergy. At best it results in compromise. Law is based on an adversarial concept. The recent trend of encouraging lawyers and law schools to focus on peaceable negotiation, the techniques of win-win, and the use of private courts, may not provide the ultimate solution, but it does reflect a growing awareness of the problem. Certainly there is a place for win-lose thinking in truly competitive and low-trust situations. But most of life is not a competition. We don't have to live each day competing with our spouse, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors, and our friends. "Who's winning in your marriage?" is a ridiculous question. If both people aren't winning, both are losing. Most of life is an interdependent, not an independent, reality. Most results you want depend on cooperation between you and others. And the win-lose mentality is dysfunctional to that cooperation. 130 Lose-Win Some people are programmed the other way -- lose-win. "I lose, you win." "Go ahead. Have your way with me." "Step on me again. Everyone does." "I'm a loser. I've always been a loser." "I'm a peacemaker. I'll do anything to keep peace." Lose-win is worse than win-lose because it has no standards -- no demands, no expectations, no vision. People who think lose-win are usually quick to please or appease. They seek strength from popularity or acceptance. They have little courage to express their own feelings and convictions and are easily intimidated by the ego strength of others. In negotiation, lose-win is seen as capitulation -- giving in or giving up. In leadership style, it's permissiveness or indulgence. Lose-win means being a nice guy, even if "nice guys finish last. Win-lose people love lose-win people because they can feed on them. They love their weaknesses -- they take advantage of them. Such weaknesses complement their strengths. But the problem is that lose-win people bury a lot of feelings. And unexpressed feelings never die; they're buried alive and come forth in uglier ways. Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly of the respiratory, nervous, and circulatory systems often are the reincarnation of cumulative resentment, deep disappointment, and disillusionment repressed by the lose-win mentality. Disproportionate rage or anger, overreaction to minor provocation, and cynicism are other embodiments of suppressed emotion. People who are constantly repressing, not transcending, feelings towards a higher meaning find that it affects the quality of their self-esteem and eventually the quality of their relationships with others. Both win-lose and lose-win are weak positions, based in personal insecurities. In the short run, win-lose will produce more results because it draws on the often considerable strengths and talents of the people at the top. Lose-win is weak and chaotic from the outset. Many executives, managers, and parents swing back and forth, as if on a pendulum, from win-lose inconsideration to lose-win indulgence. When they can't stand confusion and lack of structure, direction, expectation, and discipline any longer, they swing back to win-lose -- until guilt undermines their resolve and drives them back to lose-win -- until anger and frustration drive them back to win-lose again. Lose-Lose When two win-lose people get together -- that is, when two determined, stubborn, egoinvested individuals interact -- the result will be lose-lose. Both will lose. Both will become vindictive and want to "get back" or "get even," blind to the fact that murder is suicide, that revenge is a two-edged sword. 131 I know of a divorce in which the husband was directed by the judge to sell the assets and turn over half the proceeds to his ex-wife. In compliance, he sold a car worth over $10,000 for $50 and gave $25 to the wife. When the wife protested, the court clerk checked on the situation and discovered that the husband was proceeding in the same manner systematically through all of the assets. Some people become so centered on an enemy, so totally obsessed with the behavior of another person that they become blind to everything except their desire for that person to lose, even if it means losing themselves. Lose-lose is the philosophy of adversarial conflict, the philosophy of war. Lose-lose is also the philosophy of the highly dependent person without inner direction who is miserable and thinks everyone else should be, too. "If nobody ever wins, perhaps being a loser isn't so bad. Win Another common alternative is simply to think win. People with the win mentality don't necessarily want someone else to lose. That's irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want. When there is no sense of contest or competition, win is probably the most common approach in everyday negotiation. A person with the win mentality thinks in terms of securing his own ends -- and leaving it to others to secure theirs.