Last month I attended a networking event for SLC|SEM which featured an unusual guest speaker, fiction writer Jonathan Maberry. I say unusual because not only is he a zombie-loving fiction writer, but he’s also an eighth degree black belt in jujutsu. Crazy!
During his address I was struck by his attitude. He is a writer and has plenty of competition, yet he encourages other writers in his genre. He thinks it’s great that World War Z enjoyed phenomenal success at the box office and that The Walking Dead has tons of viewers. He things this despite the fact that some people would say this is his competition. How did he reconcile that?
Someone who watches The Walking Dead because they love zombies is a potential buyer of Mr. Maberry’s books. Someone who enjoyed World War Z is a potential buyer of Mr. Maberry’s books. Someone who reads another author’s zombie books is still a potential buyer of Mr. Maberry’s books. From his perspective, it’s not a zero-sum game. Someone who loves zombies can watch movies, television series, and read different author’s zombie books AND STILL buy/read his books. The more people that fall in love with the genre, the more potential buyers he has. So he actually praises other efforts in the space and encourages future writers.
This was the embodiment, the practice-what-you-preach, of win/win.
The concept of Win/Win involves 5 dimensions. The first characteristic is well-illustrated by the abundance mentality of Jonathan Maberry:
- Character – Before you can come to win/win results, you need a win/win character. You need to deeply believe that if you look hard enough, or get creative enough, that you can find a situation that is TRULY beneficial for both parties. Not a thinly veiled compromise or a situation where one side nets no real harm/gain, but a situation that makes both parties better off than before.
Perhaps you’ve seen someone with this type of character. The symptoms aren’t hard to identify. They are the people who are pleased when a competitor gets an industry award. They sincerely congratulate a colleague on a new job opportunity, even when it puts them “ahead”. These are people who put the comparisons & competition to the side.
- Relationships – Just as we move from independence to interdependence, the inward character must move to relationships. To arrive at a win/win you’ve got to see things from the other person’s perspective. You’ve got to know what they’re trying to accomplish. Until you know and understand how both sides define a win, you won’t be able to understand the trade-offs and roadblocks you’ll encounter.
For example, consider a new PPC client that you’re pitching. You price your services as a % of spend. You may know that you’ll adhere to their budget and that increases will only happen after you’ve presented the business case and gotten their approval. But in their mind they see % of spend as encouraging reckless spend to increase agency fees. To create a win/win you might have to pitch a flat monthly fee with several steps for different budget amounts. This way the client feels more in control and you’ll be rewarded as you find profitable expansion opportunities, pitch them and get approval for increased budgets.
- Agreements – When a win/win is constructed you’ve got to agree on all the vital points. Hearkening back to the bonus habit of delegation, you’ve got to have the 5 elements of stewardship: desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability & consequences. These have to be communicated clearly and agreed upon so that when judgment day arrives, and it always does, the judgment is fair.
Interstingly, my experience has been that if one party is under-delivering they’ll know it before the other party. I’ve experienced this firsthand where I knew the account was struggling before the client. If I was proactive, communicated clearly, and changed course early we usually averted disaster. When I let it slide, the situation gets ugly fast and you lose clients.
- Systems – I loved this line, “You get what you reward.” As I mentioned in the Relationships point above, the incentives of both parties need to be aligned for a win/win and to preserve the relationship. The systems are how you align your incentives.
- Processes – This is closely related to Systems and relies a lot on your ability to see the problem from the other point of view. When looking at the situation from their point of view, what issues or concerns do you foresee? How would you define success? As you ask yourself those questions and answer them from the other person’s perspective you’ll be inspired to see new ways of approaching the work. These new ways will enable you to deliver the win, which becomes the win for you (a happy client).
The first dimension, character, is an ongoing struggle for me. As a kid I was extremely competitive. I got a C in 4th grade PE because of bad sportsmanship. Seriously. While that’s great because I “hate to lose”, I naturally compare myself to others and find ways (even made up ways) to compete so that I can “win”. So what do I do to improve?
I only compare my current self to my past self. I want to be better than I was before and make sure I’m constantly progressing. That helps me stay grounded. Other people may progress faster (cough…Mark Zuckerberg…cough) than others, but as long as I’m improving I’m winning. It’s simple, yet hard. It takes constant effort and frequent resets on my perspective and attitude. But it’s worth it.
What do you do to think win/win?