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How to write a win-win agreement

One of the best tools I’ve found for managing the agendas of two people whether in business, missions, or marriage, is the win-win agreement. And the best explanation I’ve seen of it comes from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Too many people give in to the agendas of a…
By Seth Barnes

One of the best tools
I’ve found for managing the agendas of two people whether in business,
missions, or marriage, is the win-win agreement. And the best explanation I’ve seen of it
comes from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Too many people give
in to the agendas of another party in order to avoid conflict. They agree to lose so the other person can
win. It’s a win-lose agreement. It doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage my subordinates and partners to
dive into the details in order to ensure good partnership. I teach them to use
this model in which you cover five different areas and get to an agreement
where both parties win. Here’s Covey’s
explanation of how it works:

First, specify
desired results. Discuss what results you expect. Be specific about the quantity and
quality. Set budget and schedule. Commit people to getting the results, but
then let them determine accomplishment of your objectives. These objectives essentially represent the
overlap between the organizational strategy, goals, and job design, and the
personal values, goals, needs, and capabilities. The concept of win-win suggests that managers
and employees clarify expectations and mutually commit themselves to getting
desired results.

Second, set some guidelines. Communicate whatever principles, policies,
and procedures are considered essential to getting desired results. Mention as few procedures as possible to
allow as much freedom and flexibility as possible. Organizational policy and procedure manuals
should be brief, focusing primarily on the principles behind the policy and
procedures. Then, as the circumstances
change, people are not frozen – they can still function, using their own
initiative and good judgment and doing what’s necessary to get desired results
within the value framework of the company.

Guidelines should
also identify no-no’s or failure paths that experience has identified as
inimical to accomplishing organizational goals or maintaining organizational
values. Many a management-by-objective
program goes down in flames because these failure paths or no-no’s are not
clearly identified.

People are given the
feeling that they have almost unlimited flexibility and freedom to do whatever is
necessary to accomplish agreed-upon results and end up reinventing the wheel,
encountering certain organizational sacred cows, upsetting apple carts, getting
blown out of the saddle, and becoming increasingly gunshy about ever exercising
initiative again.

When identifying
the no-no’s or sacred cows, also identify what level of initiative a person has
regarding different responsibilities: is the person to wait until told, or ask
whenever he has a question, or study it out and then make a recommendation, or
do it and report immediately, or do it and report and report routinely? In this way expectations are clarified and
limits set.

In some areas of
responsibility, the initiative level would simply be to wait until told, while
in other areas, higher levels could be exercised, including, “Use your own
good judgment and do what you think is appropriate; let us know routinely what
you’re doing and what the results are.”

Third, identify
available resources. Identify the various financial, human,
technical, and organizational resources available to employees to assist them
in getting desired results. Mention the
structural and systemic arrangements and processes. Such systems might include information,
communication, and training. You may
want to identify yourself or other people as resources and indicate how these
human resources could be used. You may
want to set some limits on access or merely share your experience and let the
person decide how to benefit most from it.

Fourth, define accountability. Holding people accountable for results puts
teeth into the win-win agreement. If
there is no accountability, people gradually lose their sense of responsibility
and start blaming circumstances or other people for poor performance. But when people participate in setting the
exact standard of acceptable performance, they feel a deep sense of
responsibility to get desired results.

Results can be
evaluated in three ways: measurement, observation, and discernment. Specify how you will evaluate
performance. Also, specify when and how
progress reports are to be made and accountability sessions held. When the trust level is high, people will be
much tougher on themselves than an outside evaluator or manager would ever dare
be. Also, when trust is high,
discernment is often more accurate than so-called objective measurement. That’s because people know in their hearts
much more than the measurement system can reveal about their performance.

Fifth, determine
the consequences. Reach an understanding of what follows when
the desired results are achieved or not achieved. Positive consequences might include financial
and psychic rewards, such as recognition, appreciation, advancement, new
assignment, training, flexible schedule, leave of absence, enlarged scope of
responsibilities, perks, or promotion.
Negative consequences might range from reprimand to retraining to

Click here for an overview of Covey’s bestseller.

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