Leadership management – Are you negotiating to win .. at what cost ?

In my last blog post where I wrote about the Leadership workshop I attended, I mentioned about two games that we played, one in group and other in pairs which effectively explains how the people perceive leadership as ‘GTD’ (get things done) only and the various styles the people apply for the same.

I promised in my last post that I will be writing more on the games and in this, I would attempt to do the same.


So before I start mentioning about the game, let me mention the characters in the game as follows,

Project Manager (PM) – Raj played the role of project manager

Team 1 – Myself along with 4 others

Team 2 – Rest of the 5 team members


negotiation1 The PM kept the team 2 inside the training room and gave few instructions to them and a goal to achieve. He also took team 1 outside the room and had a discussion and gave us a  goal to achieve as well.

The goal of the team 1 was as follows,

‘Team 1 needs to make the members of Team 2, stand up and walk 3 steps, without writing anything on paper i.e., name or signature’.

The goal of the team 2, that we were NOT made aware, was as follows,

‘Team 2 needs to get signatures of all Team 1 members without walking or standing up from their chairs’.

He gave both the teams time to think out our strategies on how to achieve ‘our’ goals whilst we were unaware of what the other party has to achieve.  We were asked to have 3 plans ready in case the first or second plan to achieve ‘our’ goal does not work out.


The plan we made was as follows,

1. We will request the other team to stand up and walk with us

2. We will make the other team to help us in achieving ‘our’ goal

3. We will sing national anthem so people will automatically stand up, at least if not walk towards the pseudo flag.

Obviously the other team would also have made up the plan and we assumed that they will not respond to what we request them.

So, the way the game unfolded was as follows.  We all, part of team 1, went inside the room deciding to execute the plan and saw all the team 2 members sitting on chairs in a U shape, as if waiting for us to attack. All of them had a notebook and a pen in their hands.  It was obvious that they too had made their strategy to achieve their goal.

So, as the time went on, we tried our plan 1, 2 & 3 but nothing worked. Out of the group of 5 each, few of us could take a mid way such as they stand up and walk with us while we sign for them on the paper. So both our goals could be achieved. However, few people from each team stood up to the end to ensure that they achieve their goal without compromise.

The catch of the system was no team will win unless all the members of the other do as per their goal.  Since about 2 people from each team did not manage to achieve the goal, both the teams lost eventually. Thus, none of the team ended up winning.

Now look at few facts that happened through the game that was played.

  • When the goals were explained, they were explained in such a way that the respective teams were told only ‘what’ they need to achieve, not how
  • The teams were given complete freedom of deciding the plans on how to achieve the goals
  • We were given freedom to make our own assumptions to think on how we believe the other team will react
  • Both the teams went on defensive when the first strategy did not work out and started to pull alternative plans to ensure they win
  • Finally it ended in a conflict and none of the teams won


negotiationsLets now look at few assumptions and what happened through the minds of teams during the game, as an honest reflection,

  • We, the team 1, when told our goal, assumed that the goal of the other team will definitely be NOT to co-operate
  • We assumed that they will never do what we will ask of them and eventually ended up making plans that hided our intention of goal behind the back of our behaviour (request, national anthem etc.)
  • We did not want to tell them our goal and understand what their goal is. Rather, we were never interested in knowing what their goal was
  • Finally, as a truth, we all believed that the only way for us to win is to ensure the other person loses !


So, in a nutshell, the entire negotiating strategy was based on WIN – LOSE pattern.  We made our own assumptions, without making any attempt to understand what could be our common goal be and find out a WIN – WIN formula.  In this case, could have been the fact that team 1 will sign the paper while walking along with team 2 members.


Interesting ?

So what are few key learning out of this game ?

What I understood was as follows,

  • Its very easy to make a WIN – LOSE negotiation strategy. You do not need to make any effort to create one !
  • NEVER ever make any assumptions that the other party will NOT co-operate with you
  • Even if you assume (some think of it as being practical, rational), do not make your strategy assuming you win at someone else’s cost
  • Be open to understand the intent and find out what the other party really wants from you
  • Also, be clear on what you can offer to the other party
  • Once understood the core intents, find a midway to ensure that both he teams WIN by co-operating each other, not trying to supersede each other


I am sure if you are still reading this by now, you would also have learnt few things out of this.  As usual, I am keen to learn from you so please let me know your views.


  1. in our case we played a game of a builder and RWA of adjacent society..
    It was quiet similar to the one you mentioned but they just remain the games and is played in a novice way with a very light attitude.

  2. this is cool –
    i have attend many of training sessions , but never came across this kind of learnings.. would be keen to attend these training sometime.

    thanks swapnil for sharing this experience.

    1. Thanks Mahesh for your comment. The session was kind of customized for leadership management for managers so if not now, I am sure you would experience it very soon. We can try out few of these sessions in our teams as well.

  3. My Thoughts after reading your post.

    In most situations we seek win-lose strategy – I guess because since we are toddler we have been taught that Winning is more important or we have seen that winner gets more importance. so got to win it.

    Okay So to make ourselves feel important. and now we know that to make ourselves feel important is a one of the basic need.

    We make our assumptions as next team will not co-operate with us – as I think our assumptions are as per our previous experiences.

    Okay So can we keep our previous beliefs experiences/beside? Then 1000000 Rs question is how to do that?

    So In order To complete game
    1] Shall we stick with win-lose strategy which is very easy to make && complete the game at any cost OR leave it draw and somehow seek Importance.

    2]Or propose win -win negotiation strategy (and depending upon next team’s understanding) Finish the game or else make it draw or have a patience to complete the game. But who has patience?

    So at end of the game Does it important who win the game? interestingly was it ever important who win the game?

    Or It has always been How You Played It? ~~I think so…

    1. Hey, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Its appreciated ! I agree with you to the root of the WIN LOSE mentality we have within ourselves as Indians. As you say, it comes from the old education system and the way we have been brought up.

      With regards to your 1s point, I would suggest rather than making guess work, the art is to understand the intent of the other party in order to try and align with the goal that you have in mind. One of the best example that the coach gave us during the training was of “Google”. They understood that people intended to have high quality software and services, but FREE. They made a huge organization out of giving out their software completely free, which was unthinkable before it happened.

      I would suggest, as a human nature, even if you propose WIN WIN strategy at first, it will not be perceived as WIN WIN unless the other party actually trusts you and you have been open to them fully. There will always be a suspicion in their mind on what your intent it.

      So, as a morale, its always important to share the intent and try and understand the intent of other party to try and align the goals. Its bit delicate and needs to be done carefully, but it can be done for sure.

  4. Hey Swapnil I have seen you too lopsided about the Indian mentality 🙂 or the education
    Well coming back the topic around the world everyone wants to win.. cant imagine someone playing to lose 😉
    Well the point of negotiation is that you can’t let the point go by if you have done all the efforts to finally reach to that negotiation table and the onus is on you as the result is not just limited to you there are people who are waiting for the things to happen
    The point with negotiation is that one has to weigh the options and it’s not aggressive approach but a patient hearing and responding instead of reacting would do wonders during negotiation.
    Care needs to be taken that the argument doesn’t turn offensive as any negative point could lead to a bitter taste.
    Further it’s not limited to only higher management we commonly does that in every walk of life eg. While negotiating salary from HR; fixing a price from a contractor.

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