The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers–Habit 4: Think Win-Win

1. Introduction to Habit 4:   How to create a team that is teeming with ideas

Habits 1 through 3 are below the center of the diagram and are those habits leading one from being dependent to being independent, to being both an effective and efficient project manager. Habit 4 is above the center of the diagram and it starts you on the road towards being interdependent and creating a great project team.

To do this you will have to deal with stakeholders—customers, suppliers, project sponsors, other functional managers, and your team members. What spirit you use in negotiating will them determine how successful your team will be.

2. The Human Interaction Quadrant

Everybody going into a negotiation WANTS to win. But what happens when you interact with someone ELSE who wants to win? Then the psychological approach you take matters in deciding the outcome. Here are the four possibilities:

Figure 1. Human Interaction Quadrants

i. Win/Win (green)

This is a cooperative frame of mind, which goes beyond competition to reach a mutually satisfying outcome. This is the best interaction, both in the short run and it is also the most stable in the long run.

ii. Win/Lose (orange)

This is an authoritarian, “my way or the highway” approach which is used in situations of high competition or low trust. This may get its way temporarily, but it will build up a counterforce of resentment from the other party in the long run.

iii. Lose/Win (yellow)

This is capitulation, when you allow the other side to win. This may keep the peace temporarily, but the resentment it builds up leads to it being an unstable interaction in the long run.

iv. Lose/Lose (red)

This is “mutual assured destruction”, or when both parties are so willing to see the other side lose, that they are willing to forgo winning themselves. This is also unstable in the long-run because will engender resentment on both sides of the interaction.

Those committed to the process of win/win, but who cannot reach an agreement will often prefer to disagree agreeably, which is described by Stephen Covey as a “win-win or no deal” paradigm, an even higher expression of the “win-win” mentality.

3. Creating a Win-Win Culture

How does one create a win-win culture on the project and in the organization?

By creating

Fig. 2 Five elements of a win-win culture

The five elements of a win-win culture are the CHARACTER of its members, their RELATIONSHIPS, and the AGREEMENTS they make with one another. These elements are supported by SYSTEMS and PROCESSES which encourage the win-win culture. Let’s take a look at these five elements in turn.


Let’s expand the CHARACTER triangle to see the elements it contains.

Fig. 3. Elements of the win-win character

  • INTEGRITY is the character you get when you have a sense of self-awareness and self-worth. These are cultivated through habits 1 through 3.
  • MATURITY is the balance between personal courage of your own convictions and the consideration of the needs of others.
  • ABUNDANCE MENTALITY is the creative vision that sees one’s success coming out of one’s own efforts rather than at the expense of someone else.


Stephen Covey uses the metaphor of an Emotional Bank Account to emphasize the importance of trust. If you keep making deposits of trust and acknowledgement of the other side’s viewpoints, you will be able to withdraw on that bank account in case of need. This is the essence of networking, in effect, with a “pay it forward” mentality taking priority over “what’s in it for me?”


Fig. 4. 5 elements of the win-win agreement

How does one reach an agreement that allows BOTH parties to win? Stephen Covey says the following five elements need to be included:

Desired results—what is to be done and when

Guidelines—principles and policies within which results are to be accomplished

Resources—support available to help accomplish the results

Accountability—standards of performance and evaluation

Consequences—what will happen as a result (good or bad) of the evaluation.

This achieves a clear understanding which allows the members to be responsible for bringing the results with a minimum of supervision or coercion.

3.4. Systems

One can support win-win culture through

  • training that emphasizes cooperation and brainstorming
  • performance agreements, where the team members create some of the evaluation criteria themselves
  • supporting cooperation in the workplace that bring rewards to groups rather than competition and contests that pit one individual against one another

3.5. Processes

Taking a principled approach to bargaining helps you get to a win-win result easier than a positional approach, because a positional approach is based more on what the other person does and makes you more reactive. A principled approach, on the other hand, helps you get to recognizing a common interest with the other side.

Here’s how to get to that principled approach according to Stephen Covey:

Fig. 5. Principled negotiation process (as opposed to positional approach)

These five elements will create a win-win culture. Everyone likes to think of business being like the wild, wild west. But just think of those gunslinger movies you watched when you were younger. All of those wild west towns that the movies took place in only existed because of the cooperation of all the settlers that came out there to establish it.

If there were ONLY competition in society, there would be no society. Cooperation is as important, if not more important, a principle in keeping a company culture one in which everyone has a chance to share in the victories, because they all are responsible for creating those victories in the first place.

The next post is on Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

One Response

  1. Reblogged this on danielleewillis and commented:
    Thinking win-win is liberation from the scarcity mindset.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: