Understandably, leaders want to know the benefits of the No-Lose Method before they make the effort to learn how to use it effectively. At the outset, I must emphasize that this method involves trade-offs: while it is easy enough to conceptualize, it is not easy to acquire competence in applying this method; it often takes more time to apply than the two win-lose methods; and there are special problems leaders will encounter when they use it. I will deal with these problems shortly. What about the benefits of the No-Lose Method?
Increased Commitment to Carry Out the Decision
Everyone has had the experience of feeling a strong commitment to carry out a decision because of having had the chance to participate in formulating that decision. With a voice in the decision-making process, a person somehow has more motivation to implement the decision than if someone else unilaterally makes it. Psychologists call this commonsense idea the “Principle of Participation.” It affirms the well-known phenomenon that when people participate in the problem-solving process and develop a mutually acceptable solution, they get the feeling it is “their” decision. They were responsible for helping to shape the decision, so they feel responsible for seeing that it works.
This heightened sense of responsibility or commitment usually means that less effort is required from the leader to enforce compliance—less need for the leader to play the cop, as I pointed out earlier [L.E.T. book]. Obviously, this yields a distinct saving of time for the leader and makes available more “productive work” time. A related benefit is greater organizational efficiency: when decisions are made, they get implemented; when conflicts are resolved, they stay resolved.
Method III enlists the creativity, experience, and brain-power of all parties involved in a conflict. It follows that this method would often produce high-quality decisions. And so it does. “Two heads are better than one” makes particularly good sense in conflict resolution because the needs of both (or all) parties must be accurately represented. Also, with both parties participating in the-solution-generating, the odds are that they will brainstorm a larger number of creative solutions. Finally, the presence of both parties is necessary so each can judge which solution best meets their needs.
It would be inconceivable to me, for example, to try to resolve a conflict between myself and one of my children (or my wife, or one of my group members) without their active participation—stating their needs and understanding mine, offering their solutions and hearing mine, evaluating each solution against their experience and considering my evaluations based on my own experience. When I find myself in conflict with others, I want their help so we can find our way out of that conflict, with nobody losing. With such help I’ll trust the quality of the solution much more than I’d trust one that I selected entirely on my own.
One of the most predictable outcomes of the No-Lose Method is that the parties to the conflict end up feeling good about each other. The resentment that usually follows either of the win-lose methods is absent in Method III. Instead, after a successful No-Lose decision, there emerges a positive feeling of liking each other—yes, even loving each other. It probably comes from each person appreciating that the other was willing to be considerate of their needs and took the time to search for a solution that would make each happy. What better proof of caring?
Have you ever experienced getting into a conflict with someone and then having that conflict go unresolved for weeks or months because you couldn’t for the life of you figure out a solution? Then you found the courage to approach the person and invite him to join with you to try and resolve it. Much to your surprise, you reached an amicable and mutually acceptable solution in a matter of minutes.
This is not unusual. The No-Lose Method often helps people in conflict get their feelings and needs out in the open, honestly face the issues, and explore possible solutions. Once started, the problem-solving process can lead quickly to a no-lose solution because it helps bring out a lot of data (facts and feelings) unavailable to either of the parties operating separately.
Then, too, many conflicts between people are very complex, particularly in organizations where differences arise over complicated technological matters, sensitive financial issues, and sticky human problems. Often these conflicts are resolved much more quickly by involving everyone who possesses relevant data or who might be affected by the decision.
No “Selling” Is Required
You will recall how Method I usually requires that leaders spend time selling their decisions to those who must carry them out, over and above the time involved in simply making the decision. This second step is seldom required in Method III, obviously, because the final decision, once accepted by all the parties to the conflict, needs no selling afterwards—everyone is already sold.