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Delve Deeper


How to Win by Losing

17 May

I recently visited Morocco which is a beautiful country with a fascinating culture.  Before I went, people suggested I visit the markets in Marrakech, or Souks as they are known locally.  The advice I received was all about bartering for the lowest possible price on any items I wanted to buy.  The Souks are an endless maze of markets.  A real delight for the senses with stalls full of colourful shawls, delicious smells from the array of spices and the noise from mopeds which come hurtling down the narrow walkways.

Remembering the stories I heard, I found myself bartering hard on the price of two small carved wooden boxes with a toy snake inside that popped out when you opened it as I thought my twin daughters would love these!

The trader started out high at a price of 150 dirhams (around £15 at the time) each.  I went in low with a counter-offer of 50 dirhams with the aim of meeting somewhere in the middle.  As I negotiated with the trader, it struck me that in the end we were bartering over 50 pence.  I realised that I’d been advised to take a win-lose approach by well-intentioned friends but who actually needed the 50 pence more? And wasn’t the final cost irrelevant as I couldn’t put a price on my daughters’ smiles when they received their gifts?

I remembered something my cousin who works in procurement said which was to achieve win-win sometimes you have to give something away that is negligible to you but invaluable to the other person.  With this in mind, I ended up paying more than I thought the items were worth because sometimes you have to really take a look at the situation from the other person’s perspective when you are negotiating.

If you always look at a situation from your own perspective, you will never fully build trust enough to get to an outcome that works for everyone.  This doesn’t mean you are backing down or being too accommodating, it’s simply about recognising that sometimes win-win can mean losing a little bit for the greater good.

No two people have exactly the same expectations and desires, so potential conflict is a natural part of our interactions with others.  We can all learn something from pausing for a moment to review the situation of others before we rush in to ‘win’.  The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Handling Modes (TKI) are a great way of understanding how to handle potentially difficult situations and you can find out more at www.kilmanndiagnostics.com.

Next time you need to negotiate, take off your own shoes and put on the shoes of the other person.  Only then will you truly understand what a win-win outcome looks like.

And yes, it was worth the extra 50 pence I ended up paying just to see the joy when my daughters received their Moroccan gift.

Delve’s system leadership programmes and coaching packages focus on true collaboration and taking a different perspective to win-win outcomes.  Winning at all costs is no longer relevant to getting business done, learning how to collaborate will ensure you are maximising your potential. To find out more, get in touch at sayhello@delveod.co.uk.

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