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Washington needs a win-win mentality

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By Jim Rohrer

I can’t remember precisely when I first read Steven R. Covey’s 1987 bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The book changed the way I view life and success. As I look at the number of addresses in my Amazon account, I can see that I have sent the book to lots of people who I thought could benefit from its wisdom.
Habit No. 4 is “think win/win.” Covey points out that win/lose thinking (I win, you lose) or lose/win (I lose, you win) outcomes are temporary in nature. The only permanent solutions are win/win outcomes. Any professional negotiator will verify that win/win solutions do, in fact, work.
The central idea, of course, is that everyone can participate and everyone can get at least some of what he or she needs to win. Zig Ziglar said it this way, “You can get anything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want.”
Some examples of win/win outcomes are a successful marriage or a good job in which you are well-paid and you are also making important contributions to your company. Our U.S. Constitution was the product of years of negotiation in which various states were given what they needed to win. This win/win agreement has stood for 230 years. Successful businesses employ collaborative environments and avoid internal competition. Having the sales or operations departments defeat one another hardly facilitates overall success of the company.
So why is it that Washington seems oblivious to this well-accepted concept? The parties seem to focus singularly on defeating each other like it was the Super Bowl. Famous football coach Vince Lombardi said, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This may be true in football, but not in life. I also point out that even in football, at the end of the season, there is a reset and the competition starts anew the next year. So even in sports win/lose is temporary, although temporary was a very long time for Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs.
The American people are the losers because of the lack of a win/win philosophy. I recently heard former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott and Democratic House Leader Tom Daschle being interviewed on this subject. These two couldn’t be further apart politically, but they told stories of past Democrats and Republicans working together to co-develop solutions to solve serious national problems. When asked why this doesn’t happen today, they agreed that there are no personal relationships between politicians of different parties.
They agreed that today it’s not good to be seen talking to members of the other party. How sad is that? A friend pointed out to me that my favorite Republican pundit sat with a famous Democrat at the recent presidential speech to Congress. Good for them.
The president’s recent speech was noticeably less about defeating the press, Mexico or Democrats and more about solutions to important priorities. Hopefully, this is a sign that the bluster about winning is giving way to the reality that the Americans he pledged to put first will benefit from a win/win approach to problem solving.
Maybe I should send Dr. Covey’s book to everyone in Congress.

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line ... Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job ... Become a More Valuable Player.”