The full quote: ‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win’. The art of War, by Sun Tzu. Of course.
We spend a fair amount of time in organizations fighting wrong wars, or engaged in futile battles to obtain minor benefits, often to comfort our unsettled ego.
‘Winning first’ has a direct translation in organization and management life.
For example in our cult of meetings and Management Committee Meetings, we have created a culture of presentationism in which what matters is the contest, the performance, the ‘one off shot at it’. The model is The Apprentice, or Dragons’ Den, or any of the myriad of ‘contests’ that have proliferated on TV.
‘Winning first’ would mean this: to avoid convincing 20 execs in one go, in a group situation, with its own group dynamics, exposing the ‘presenting person’ to those dynamics that often have nothing to do with the topic. In a group situation, people are compelled to say something, compelled to issue a warning, compelled to be cleverly sceptic, compelled to show off.
Whether you are an internal employee or external consultant, resist the temptation, the flattery, to present to the entire top group, and go to war only when you have won. Spend as much time as you can individually with each member of the group, or, if not possible, most of them, or the most influential ones. That investment will pay off.
Also, read The Art of War. Prioritize it against ‘The 10 strategies of successful executives and their 20 habits’.
PS: ‘There is nothing new under the sun’, sorry, another coaching manual, this time a bit more modern, circa 400 or so BC’. Ecclesiastes 1:4-11