The problem with win-lose is that even if you win, it doesn’t take long for the loser to try to get even or move on. Whereas win-win collaboration offers sustainable joint returns. It delivers better results over the longer term. Why then do so many ignore it?
Let’s explore two possible answers: collaboration is not fully understood and even when it is, mindsets get in the way of it happening.
If you’re asked what does collaboration mean how do you respond? For many it’s something ‘soft and fluffy’: a nice ‘add on’ if there’s time to fit it in.
Define it as ‘working towards mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties’ and it’s anything but soft or fluffy. Weighing the interests of customers’ against other stakeholders’ self-interest has an edge to it. It involves speaking up, being transparent, advocating clear yet sometimes differing positions and finding solutions. Without this edge it’s difficult to:
Really understand clients’ pain points and how your solution relieves them.
Know why managers and teams sometimes feel de-motivated and unproductive.
Understand a supply chain’s resistance to innovation.
Raise capital with investors that ‘get’ you.
As any mum will tell you, when something needs doing win-win matters. The mutuality on which collaboration rests is central to any relationship.
Conceptually at least, many ‘get’ this idea of mutual benefit. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is not something new. Nor is it difficult to achieve when in a helpful frame of mind. When you feel good you do well. Advancing your self-interest whilst also helping others do the same comes easily. If you encounter a setback, you calmly flex what you think and adapt what you do as needed. In this mental space few challenges seem insurmountable.
The problem is many are not in this space all that often. Minds get busy, they form habits of thinking - or mindsets – that get in the way. And unless these are understood, the concept of collaborating doesn’t get translated into practice.
Mindsets that get in the way
When we’re in auto pilot, our mindsets automatically shape what we feel and do. This is especially the case when we think we’re under pressure. For example; what do you notice about people's behaviour when there's a tight deadline to meet, or they're negotiating a ‘must win’ deal or are likely to not make a financial target they’re expected to deliver on?
Under pressure we can all behave in ways that serve our self-interest before we even consider the idea of mutual benefit. Not wilfully. Innocently. We instinctively protect ourselves first in response to a perceived threat. It’s not that mutual benefit is unimportant, it just doesn’t occur to us to be an efficient way of getting through the pressure.
Mindsets however aren’t…well…set. Everyone has the capacity to understand them and realise whether they’re working in their favour or not. Including when under pressure.
Some leaders and their teams thrive on pressure: it increases levels of collaboration. They have open, honest and problem solving discussions. Others get caught up in the downsides of pressure and find win-win difficult.
The difference between the two? Their mindsets.
We hope you found this helpful. What do you think about why people don't collaborate as often as they could?
Discover more about unhelpful mindsets that hinder win-win in our short Insight Paper and how development programmes can change them in our Informational Picture Essay.