Low trust societies find it hard to imagine the possibility of win-win relationships and outcomes. Here zero-sum games are assumed, where the more you have the less I have. It’s a world of scarcity rather than abundance, so I’d better grab what I can before you do; work to exert my power and outwit you before you outwit me. Little wonder therefore, in such scenarios, that it’s hard to build great teams that deliver great results, as so much time is spent neutralising the antagonistic energy of others. In high energy countries like Kenya it’s particularly unfortunate, as so much energy goes to waste.
So must one be fatalistic? Just accept we live in a place of only win-lose or lose-win, where it is only the more powerful and the less inhibited who gain the upper hand? And where many such short-term victories merely result in longer-term lose-lose, as the vanquished either withdraw their energy or seek revenge?
Must we just smile and breathe deeply as we watch an insensitive boss demotivate an intimidated subordinate (like at left!), or as the matatu (privately owned minibuses) driver recklessly overtakes on the wrong side of the road merely to create a bigger traffic jam for us all?
It doesn’t have to be this way, and in the recent quartet of GIZ- supported leadership development workshops for County Health Management Teams run by Stepwise Management / The DEPOT, participants were introduced to simple but effective techniques to transform gloomy win-lose encounters into rewarding win-win ones.
The health managers were first exposed to the essence of Transactional Analysis (TA), the framework originally developed by Eric Berne (and popularised by Thomas Harris in his 1967 book I’m OK – You’re OK) that distinguishes between four “ego states”: “I’m not OK – You’re OK”, “I’m OK – You’re not OK”; “I’m not OK – You’re not OK”; and “I’m OK – You’re OK”. It is easy to associate each of these states with its counterpart expectation of winning and losing, with the last of the four, “I’m OK – You’re OK” mirroring the win-win option.
The other element of TA that was introduced by the facilitators related to different types of “Parent” and “Child” behaviour. One can, for instance, be a strict or supportive parent, one who spoils their child or abuses them. And children can on the one hand be fun-loving and spontaneous, full of the joys of life – “childlike”; or rebellious or irresponsible or in other ways “childish”. Parent-Child types of transactions are those that take place between “Parent” figures and “Child” ones – not least between seniors and juniors, between elders and young ones, between the more educated and the less educated… and between men and women.
Berne introduced a third component in our personalities, the “Adult”. When this part of us is switched on we are respectful and solution oriented, learning from the past in order to build a better future. We like relating to the “Adult” in others, and work to bring “Parent” and “Child” behaviour to this level. “Adult-Adult” interactions work well with underlying “I’m OK – You’re OK” ego states, and are far more likely to result in win-win outcomes.
With the participants suitably introduced to the frameworks, they were invited to come up with sketches where the conversation launched in a “Parent-Child”, “I’m OK – You’re not OK” fashion but managed to end in a win-win for both parties. In the five outstanding performances that followed the leaders showed great emotional intelligence, in each case allowing for a happy renegotiation of positions. No face was lost, and the parties found amicable solutions that sent them away energised and motivated.
Harsh bosses found their human sides, bringing out the “Adult” in their hitherto childish juniors. Amid the professional acting and much laughter from the audiences, serious skills were learned, filling those present with the conviction that win-win is possible in many more situations than they had imagined. This was indeed the purpose of including the “Leadership for Alignment” perspective in the workshops, complementing the more technical work on process improvement and allied to the perspective that stimulated boldness.
The family of leadership development workshops for the County Health Management Teams funded by GIZ’s Health Sector Program sits alongside its other capacity building initiatives, to support quality management and financial management.
*Mike Eldon, the author of this article, is the founder, chairman and lead consultant of THE DEPOT (The Dan Eldon Place Of Tomorrow), a management consultancy that focuses on leadership, strategy, team building, performance management and coaching.
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