W is for Win-Win

Steven Covey should be given the credit for popularizing an important thought in good management, good business and good human relations:

… we are all stronger and more effective when we strive to accomplish an outcome where we BOTH win.

In his book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he calls this “Win-Win”. He goes on to say that this is so important that the only other outcome highly effective people will go for is either Win-Win … or NO DEAL.

After 4 decades in the world of business and organizations, this notion is validated by my personal experience. It is what works.

When I try to promote this concept with other people, I often get a lot of push back. What about a war or fighting a disease or SPORTS!?

People can be deeply troubled by the thought that you can have more than one winner.

General George S. Patton, JR.:

“When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers … Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.”

Vince Lombardi’s comments on the Pro Football “Playoff Bowl”:

Vince Lombardi detested the Playoff Bowl, coaching in the games following the 1963 and 1964 seasons, after winning NFL titles in 1961 and 1962. To his players, he called it “the ‘Sh-t Bowl’, …a losers’ bowl for losers.” This lack of motivation may explain his Packers’ rare postseason defeat in the 1964 game (January 1965) to the St. Louis Cardinals. After that loss, he fumed about “a hinky-dink football game, held in a hinky-dink town, played by hinky-dink players. That’s all second place is – hinky dink.”

Woody Hayes (of Ohio State football fame):

“Football represents and embodies everything that’s great about this country, because the United States of America is built on winners, not losers or people who didn’t bother to play.”

With quotes from legendary Americans like that, I suppose it is no wonder that I get the push back with I promote the “Win-Win” philosophy.

Here is a video though, that illustrates that “Winning, is not always defined by the Win”.


In a war, if you want to survive, you’ll “play to win”. I will remind you though, that after WWI, the allies punished Germany severely after losing and it sowed the seeds of disaster in WWII. After WWII, the United States and its allies rebuilt the economies of its former enemies; which then became valued and trusted allies.

When it comes to partnering with human beings, I’m still promoting the Win-Win.

Here is a little piece on Wikipedia about Win-Win: