I am becoming aware
that things just seem
to be working out in
this easy way.
Larissa Mulholland

The Key to Winning Program teaches a new perspective. With this new perspective, individuals and organizations are able to have much more agreement with their decisions and solutions than they could before.

Our perspectives play a significant role in our lives. They're formed by the ideas and perceptions in our minds. These ideas and perceptions create a perspective from which we view ourselves and the world around us.

Our perspectives also have a very powerful effect on the information and solutions that come to mind.

For example, a person with a teenage perspective might bring to mind a teenage solution for a problem, while a person with an adult perspective might bring to mind a very different solution for the same problem.

Several years ago, we were looking for a solution to the interpersonal conflicts that prevent true teamwork when we made a surprising discovery.

We discovered that the perspective that people commonly use when they are creating solutions will often prevent a solution from coming to mind that everyone involved can wholeheartedly agree with.

So when people are not like-minded (which is often the case), a compromise is usually the best solution we are able to bring to mind.

A "compromise solution," as we're using it, is any decision or solution that doesn't have the wholehearted agreement of the people involved, or isn't truly a fit for the people it's impacting. If, for example, an agreement, group decision or directive isn't truly a fit for the people involved, it's a compromise solution.

The tendency is to think that it is the diversity of viewpoints that is preventing us from coming up with a solution that everyone involved can wholeheartedly agree with.

We discovered that it's more often the perspective that people are using when they are solving a problem that is limiting them to a compromise solution.

Because a compromise has often been the best solution we've been able to bring to mind, we've tended to lose sight of the value of wholehearted agreement. So even in situations where wholehearted agreement might have been possible, people have looked for and accepted compromise solutions instead.

Because compromise solutions are so common, we tend to think of them as solutions that people are truly in agreement with. But often it's not the case.

People impacted by a compromise solution often agree to accept it, even when they are not in wholehearted agreement with it. It's usually because, to them, it's the best option available. But agreeing "to" a solution is not the same as agreeing "with" it.

Here's the problem. When people are not in wholehearted agreement with a solution that's impacting them, or when a solution is not truly a fit for them, in some measure, it's going to limit the solution's effectiveness. An example is a product that's not a complete success with customers, or a plan that doesn’t quite fit with what people need, or a policy or directive that's causing some confusion.

Also, solutions that are not truly a fit for the people involved tend to induce some form of protectiveness in the people who are impacted by them. The protectiveness that's induced can show up in many forms. For example, it can show up as defensiveness or a lack of trust. Also, it can interfere with people's thinking and performance, and can sidetrack them from the goal.

In contrast, when a solution is truly a fit for the people involved, it never induces protectiveness. So the solution is inherently much more effective.

Because compromise solutions are usually the best solution we're able to bring to mind when people's viewpoints are diverse, they are often valued, especially when the alternative would be "no solution at all."

But compromise solutions, by their very nature, are not truly a fit for the people involved, and they do not result in wholehearted agreement with the solution. As a result, they limit the effectiveness of our solutions, and tend to induce protectiveness in the people who are impacted by them.

Here's something else to consider: When a solution isn't truly a fit for the people involved, it can produce a disconnect — an unwelcome outcome we didn't see coming. We think we know what the response to our decision will be, but the response we get is different from the one we expected.

In business, we want as much control over the outcome as possible. But our compromise solutions are often inducing protective responses in the people they are impacting, preventing us from having the kind of control we would like to have. And sometimes those solutions lead to unexpected results where we’re not in control at all.

The key to increasing the effectiveness of our solutions and the control we would like to have is to stop using compromise solutions. If you reflect on it, you'll see that the use of compromise solutions has been the primary reason that the most valuable resource in business, the human component, has not been able to reach its full potential.

Just imagine, for a moment, the effect it would have on employees, customers, suppliers and others if each of your solutions could be truly a fit for them.

When we were first looking at the many problems that occur when there isn't wholehearted agreement with decisions and solutions, we discovered that there was a common element, or viewpoint, in the perspective people were using when they were creating solutions.

Aware of how our perspectives tend to shape our solutions, we wondered if people were winding up with compromise solutions because that common viewpoint we observed was preventing solutions from coming to mind that people could truly agree with. So we formed a team to determine what effect that viewpoint was having on the solutions people were creating.

We started by developing a new perspective that used an element, or viewpoint, which was the opposite of the one people were commonly using when they were forming solutions. When people used this new perspective, instead of compromise solutions coming to mind, they were bringing to mind solutions that resulted in much more agreement than they were getting before.

In fact, it was surprising just how well this perspective was able to consistently produce solutions that were much more of a fit for the people involved.

We knew we were on the right track, but we also knew that for this perspective to have widespread acceptance, it would have to work consistently with a broad range of people. Because everyone is unique, it required several more years of development to perfect it.

Now that this perspective has been developed, individuals and organizations have a new option — the ability to replace compromise solutions with wholehearted agreement.

For example, we taught the perspective to Jean Harris (Vice President of Operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee) and her managers. There were 700 employees in their division. In just a few days, this new perspective turned the group into a fully integrated team.

The extent of the transformation was so surprising to them, Jean said in her feedback to us:

This class is outstanding! In a few days of training, it put me and my managers completely on the same page.

During the next ten years, their meetings were much shorter than they had been before, problem solving became much easier, and their solutions were much more effective.

With the perspective, they were able to develop procedures and policies that were much more of a fit for the people they impacted. As a result, they substantially increased efficiency throughout the division, significantly reduced staffing, and maintained very high levels of employee satisfaction.

Also, they were able to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction in an industry where customers were becoming increasingly dissatisfied.

In truth, wherever there is consistent wholehearted agreement, it's going to result in more efficient and effective operations. What policy, plan or interaction wouldn't benefit — and in most cases, benefit substantially — from the people involved being truly in agreement with it?

Even long-standing problems can quickly resolve with this perspective. An example of this is Dave's story. Dave was a software developer for a company that made voice mail systems for hotels. Soon after he learned the perspective, he was able to successfully resolve years of deadlock between him and his company.

It's easy to think that it just wouldn't be possible to have wholehearted agreement with decisions and solutions when people's viewpoints are diverse. This is because it hasn't been a common experience.

It's also easy to think that it just wouldn't be possible to have wholehearted agreement in areas where it's been difficult to have agreement in the past. This is the perspective participants often begin their Key to Winning Program with.

Participants quickly learn that this new perspective can produce wholehearted agreement where it wasn’t possible before. It's not theoretical. During most of the program, participants practice using the perspective at work.

From their experiences at work, participants learn for themselves that they can know with certainty that their solutions will be truly a fit for the people involved.

This opens an entirely new realm of possibilities for them. They are able to dramatically increase the effectiveness of their initiatives, plans, and other solutions by creating them from this perspective.

Once a person learns this perspective, it tends to reinforce itself. This is because we retain, and deepen, the perspectives we value. With this perspective, participants are getting much more agreement than they were before, and the agreement is producing much better outcomes.

Over the years, a great deal of care has gone into the development of the perspective and The Key to Winning Program. The perspective and the program were redesigned several times. As a result, virtually all of the participants complete the program with gains that are truly significant.

For example, after Jerlene Wallace completed her program, she was successfully promoted from the part-time seasonal labor pool of a Cleveland department store (now Macy's) to Supervisor of Customer Service.

She had no applicable work experience, and had not applied for that job, or any other job at the store. When she asked, "Why me?," she was told that management’s attention was drawn to her because she had the customer service and interpersonal skills they were looking for. Since then, Jerlene was promoted again to a position in Human Resources.

What makes her story so remarkable is that before her program, Jerlene could have easily been described as a loner and somewhat rebellious. Today, she is an award-winning, key member of Macy's Human Resources team.

Individuals in organizations are often concerned whether a program is going to be worth their time. Because of the years we invested in developing The Key to Winning, this doesn't have to be a concern. The way the program is designed, it would be very difficult for a participant to finish it and not have significant, sustainable benefits that they would truly value.

For example, here's an e-mail we received from a woman during her program who was certain, beforehand, that The Key to Winning wouldn't work for her.

I seem to be having really profound awarenesses and, indeed, a real shift in my frame of reference. Go figure!
Larissa Mulholland, Director of Early Childhood Education, Columbia College

Because participants are learning a new perspective, there are many surprises during the program. This is because of the effect our perspectives have on the solutions that come to mind. For instance, it's often surprising to participants that in a difficult situation — when they are the only one with the perspective — they are able to bring to mind a solution that everyone involved can wholeheartedly agree with.

For example, in the following e-mail, the participant was surprised that she was able to easily come up with solutions that were satisfying for two other people. Also notice what a quick and positive impact this new perspective was having on them.

At work, two people came to me asking my opinion on how to handle a difficult situation each was in. I made specific suggestions to find a way to come to a solution that would make all parties satisfied.

I actually gave them some examples I thought might work.

I could see their expressions change from frustration and negativity to ones of hopefulness and thoughtfulness.
Jamie Cummings, DLA Piper

In the case above, the participant used the perspective for two other people. The management team at Blue Cross Blue Shield used it for their division.

Wherever there is wholehearted agreement, it's going to result in a better outcome. This is why a few people with the perspective can have a significant impact on a division or organization.

During The Key to Winning Program, participants develop an understanding that perspectives are fundamental to thinking — that when we change our perspective, it changes the information and solutions that come to mind.

When a person replaces a perspective with a more effective one, the improvement in the information and solutions coming to mind often produces a wide range of benefits.

For example, when participants learn this new perspective, in addition to being able to come up with solutions that are truly a fit for the people involved, they are able to communicate with others more effectively.

Participants also find that it's easier to solve problems with this perspective. Thinking is clearer. Where all of the individuals in a group have this perspective, like the Blue Cross Blue Shield group, effective problem solving can often take a fraction of the time it did before.

Another important benefit we see with this perspective is that it significantly reduces or eliminates assumptions when people are making decisions or creating solutions.

From the viewpoint of this perspective, when a person doesn't know something with certainty, it is much more obvious to them. The logic of this perspective is to fill the gap with reliable information, instead of an assumption. It significantly increases the likelihood that decisions and solutions will have the effect that was intended.

Once a participant has the perspective, it gives them much more control of the outcome. The perspective smooths the way, even when there are strong competing interests and even where there's negativity. Unlike compromise solutions, wholehearted agreement draws people together.

The story that follows demonstrates this. And it also demonstrates how a person with the perspective can get a much better outcome in situations that have been historically difficult to manage.

Bill Farber was the Executive Vice President of Guaranty National Title, which specializes in commercial property transactions. About seventy percent of the company's business is routine — insuring title, and coordinating the buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders and their respective attorneys to the close of escrow.

Bill was responsible for the transactions that were not routine — escrows that were difficult to complete because of issues with the elements of the transaction, issues insuring title, or issues with the parties.

The parties to these transactions could have very diverse agendas. And often they could be contentious in the pursuit of their interests. They may also have had a history of negativity between them that could make it even more difficult to complete the escrow.

Revenues from these transactions were often lucrative, but the company only earned a fee if the escrow closed. If Bill wasn't able to come up with solutions that were acceptable to each of the parties, the transaction would collapse, disappointing his client, and costing his company a substantial fee.

Before his Key to Winning Program, Bill coordinated these transactions by skillfully looking for compromises. But when any of the parties were unwilling to compromise, it would cause the transaction to fail.

In his Key to Winning Program, Bill's viewpoint changed significantly, which changed the quality of the solutions he could bring to mind. Instead of compromises, he could bring to mind solutions that were truly satisfying to the people involved. With this perspective, he began to get much better outcomes from these difficult escrows.

More of the escrows were closing. And they were closing more easily, more harmoniously and with much more satisfaction among the parties.

As a result, Bill's company increased its revenues from these transactions, reduced its risks, and attracted more clients and more repeat business.

Also, Bill was much more relaxed coordinating these difficult transactions. It was an important gain for him. He's been more relaxed since then, because he doesn't have to rely on compromise solutions to solve complex issues with people who have diverse agendas.

Overall, this perspective we've developed makes it possible to achieve an entirely new level of efficiency and effectiveness. It eliminates the many problems caused by compromise solutions and disagreements. It greatly increases the reliability of information, makes problem solving much easier, and has a very positive effect on group dynamics.

Another benefit to learning this perspective is that participants can begin using it immediately. As the perspective is forming during the program, new information and solutions are coming to mind, creating better outcomes. Because of the new information and solutions coming to mind, it's common for participants to report substantial gains in their business and personal lives during the program.

Probably the most important benefit we've seen from the perspective is that individuals, groups and organizations can effectively move forward without inducing protective responses from the people they're impacting.

These protective responses place limits on what we can achieve and increase the resources we require to achieve something. They increase assumptions and mistakes, affect enthusiasm and loyalty, and often spark competing interests and agendas. They impair thinking, the ability to be focused, and productivity.

These responses have been costly. For example, in the absence of these protective responses, the Blue Cross Blue Shield group was able to reduce the size of their division by 13 percent, maintain very high levels of employee satisfaction, and build customer satisfaction to an amazing 97 percent.

And they were getting these results even as the number of insureds they were servicing was growing rapidly.

Why does this perspective work so well? You can boil it down to this: From one perspective, the solution we come up with is a compromise. It's not truly a fit for everyone involved. From the perspective taught in The Key to Winning Program, the solution we come up with results in wholehearted agreement. It's a very different outcome.

It takes us to a new level. When there's wholehearted agreement, any objective is simpler and more efficient to achieve.

Just imagine what a positive effect it would have on your operations, teams, environments, product development, marketing, customers and suppliers if solutions could better embrace the diversity of viewpoints, and were more of a fit for the people involved.

Next >>