Dr. Matthew X. Joseph – Follow on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph
The ability to find a win-win situation is an important strategy when building a positive collaborative community. The definition of a win-win situation is working toward a mutually beneficial solution. Individuals in leadership or classroom roles are striving for “win-win” situations all the time. It is rare that you will find a win-win situation where everyone gets exactly what they want. However, the goal in working toward and finding a win-win situation is to find a solution which is acceptable to both (or all) parties. When you identify and, implement, a win-win solution, everyone leaves the situation with a sense of accomplishment about the decision. It is a rarity that there is only a singular solution to a problem. Cohesiveness in shared vision, clear expectations and decision-making are all apart of win-win situations.
Anytime there are decisions to make or when individual needs are slightly different there may be times when there is disagreement. Typically, when one person or a group attempt to impress upon their ways upon others, stress and/or displeasure soon set in. When this happens, it can damage a collaborative community and diminish any collaboration. This unnecessary pressure or misuse of positional power is not necessary because in most situations, there can be a solution where both parties can reach an understanding or a “win-win” situation. You have heard the old saying “you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.” When you strive to find a win-win situation you are part of the solution and in the process, you build trust and earn respect from colleagues and stakeholders. Also, when your staff or students see you consistently work to find a win-win situation, they will be more understanding when you must make swift decisions without asking for input. For example, in a discipline case or around a time sensitive budget need.
In a collaborative community, teachers, students, administrators, and families are all on the same team working toward the same goals. It may not always feel like you are on the same team, but we all want the students to learn, grow, and succeed. When working toward a win-win situation start by trying to understand the other person’s concerns or perspective on the topic being discussed. This could be a staff member or members, students, or families depending on the situation. Explore or discuss what the administrator, parent, teacher, or student wants and believes. With this information, you can explain your reasoning or position and start to build a solution that will benefit all and not just talk about the same issues over and over. It is imperative for a successful win-win situation to happen that all viewpoints and solutions are heard and shared in an efficient, timely manner. Saying you’re on the same team is one thing, acting like it is another.
Once you have understood the other person’s concern or perspective, ensure you separate the concern or perspective from the participant. If the person feels like you are questioning them individually, rather than challenging their concern or perspective; they are likely to feel backed into a corner and not communicate fully due to the lack of trust. If you need more information, ask probing questions to allow the other person(s) the opportunity to explain and you listen. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them directly what they want or strive to achieve. The more information that you have, the easier and clearer it becomes to resolve the situation with a win-win decision. Once both parties have had the chance to share, it is important that you refocus the conversations on the key points or agenda item. This shows all involved that you understand the other person’s position while also restating your position as you take the next step toward a solution.
Once you have agreed on the key points, make it clear the next steps are finding an agreement that works for both. If you are at a point that a win-win situation cannot be reached, agree to a later time to come back to the discussion allowing you both more time to generate ideas and reflect and evaluate how to take the next step in creating a win-win situation.
Other tips to develop a collaborative community that strives toward reaching win-win situations are:
Revisit goals often: Continually focusing on the key points of the meeting/discussion is critical to keep the dialog on point. During the discussion, you can review steps already taken, tweak suggestions when needed to create solutions that support and foster win-win scenarios. The more you stay focused on the goals, you will create opportunities for solutions.
Visit possible solutions: As you review goals, discuss possible compromises. Always be open to these possibilities because they might lead to solutions. Talk about solutions because they may be closer than you expect. You will not know this until you visit possible solutions early in the process.
Do not take things personally: YES – this is easier said than done. But by avoiding taking it personally, we separate from our ego and pain of the working memory of decisions gone awry and stay focused on the key points.
No assumptions: Assumptions have no place in a win-win situation. When you assume…then well you have heard it before -You make an A** of U and ME. Assumptions waste time and energy, create confusion, diminish trust, lead to disappointment, and undermines the decision-making process. All efforts put forth should focus on enhancing the next steps in the decision-making process and be direct, open, honest, and transparent in the process.
Believe there is a solution: If you enter a decision-making meeting or conversation without the belief you can reach a solution, there is no reason to have the meeting/discussion. You will reach frustration fast if you don’t believe there can be a solution.
Put aside “winning” the win-win situation: You can’t have a mindset of feeling the need of wanting more when working toward a win-win situation. When the win-win is mutually benefiting (even if the other party “gets” more) you will achieve an increase in positive results.
Working in a community that strives toward win-win situations is an environment built on trust and focused on the common good. Our goal is educating our students and no one can do that alone. By collaborating we can bring a well-rounded education to our students.