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The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Social Media – Think Win/Win

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Think Win/Win is the first of 3 outwardly focused habit Covey presents in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  These are known as habits of interdependence.  These habits are designed to build lasting and meaningful relationships with other people – relationships that are mutually beneficial, based on principles, and that result in the creation of new ways of thinking and understanding our world.

Think Win/Win is a habit that requires trust.  It requres self trust, which is build through the first 3 habits, and trust of others which is built through communication, interaction, and experience.  With trust in place, solutions to problems can be approached in new and exciting ways.  Rather than the idea of Win / Lose or I am right and you are wrong, think win/win seeks to find creative new solutions to problems.  This “third alternative” as described by Covey is the belief that it is “not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”

With ongoing relationships in your life, you can’t truly win, unless all parties benefit.  Otherwise trust erodes, and the foundation of the relationship crumbles with it.  Covey summarizes this idea with the statement that “if both people aren’t winning, both are losing.”  Results in life depend on people working with one another.  Win/Win is the mentality that life is not about the power that comes from being right or proving your point, but rather it should be about a willingness to address the needs of all parties involved.

Covey then proceeds to describe win/win in the context of 5 dimensions, which are listed as follows:

  1. Character – The foundation of the habit of win/win.  This involves integrity, maturity, and an abundance mentality.
  2. Relationships – The idea that because there is high trust and high value placed in an maintaining an ongoing relationship, there can be open discussion.
  3. Agreements – The creation of shared expectations by identifying desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences.
  4. Systems – You get what you reward.
  5. Processes – Using a principled approach rather than a positional approach.  Trying to use empathy to understand the other side of the story, identifying key concerns, and then agreeing to examine new solutions collaboratively.

Think win/win is a mindset.  It is a new way of approaching human interaction, with a belief that our uniquely human gift of creativity can be levered to create new ways of doing things – ways that are thoughtful, mutually beneficial, and sustainable.

So how does this apply to social media?

I view much of the interactions that take place in comments or threaded discussions as the perfect example of how a win/win mentality can be utilized.  Suppose one of your customers comments about a problem they would like you or your company to address.  It may not be as easy as just saying “OK.”  You may have financial considerations, personal philosophical differences, or policies and procedures in place that determine your actions.  Alternatively it is probably not a good idea to simply dismiss the request with a firm “no” response.  This would alienate the customer and erode the trust you have with them.  It might also wind up on the customer’s blog, or Jeff Jarvis’ blog,  or youtube, or Facebook, or Twitter or all of the above – creating much larger problems for you.

A win-win mentality would seek a deeper discussion with the customer – one that was transparent and honest.  One that sought to solve the issue at hand and the root cause of the problem, without compromising principles on either side.  Social media enables this discussion.  In fact it can engage external actors to assist in the development of new solutions.  If the customer trusts that you have their best intersts at heart, and you trust that they are tyring to help you improve your value proposition, you can collaboratively seek new ways of doing business.  This is at the heart of innovation.

Apple does this masterfully with their forum sites.  Comcast and Dell are doing it through Twitter and blogs.  By seeking out communication through the paradigm of win/win, these companies are converting problems into opportunities.  They are seeking to create wins.  They are not just surfing the web to “give the store away” but rather trying to collaboratively solve problems.  They are bulding trust. Social media enables this trust to be built on a large scale.

By following the dimensions outlined by Covey as to how to approach win/win employees can act with confidence, and freely work to build trust.  The alternative to this is the dreaded “I’m sorry sir but our policy clearly states… (insert something illogical).  The policy may have been written for good reason, but might not always make sense.  Win/win recognizes that people might see things differently.  It is the belief that people and their ideas are valuable.      Using social media as a means of communication brings these ideas into the fold, builds trust. creates loyalty, and fosters innovation.  But to do it right, requires you to think win/win.