15 marca 2010
The art of war

According to old Chinese art of war philosophy, you don't have to be stronger to win your battles. In today's world, you have to be smarter, use your assets reasonably and have the right motives. Yet, too many of us assume that the stronger opponent wins.

When I look at successful individuals today, I can see they apply those Chinese strategies, more or less aware of the fact, on a daily basis. They all have the ability to make their strengths and weaknesses work to their advantage. Also, what is more important, they choose their battles wisely; they know when to go into a battle and when to settle. They know how to surprise their opponents by applying mixed strategies and analysing their own business position every single time.

Many of us operating in the business world are driven by ambition, inner strength and self-confidence. That often can result in being aggressive and confrontation-oriented. And of course, being the stronger and holding a higher position always gives you the advantage. But even if you win, does it always give the best results at the smallest cost?

If you are a CEO, you do not necessarily have to act on it in order to motivate your staff to the fullest. If you are competing with other companies, you do not have to always go into a price war - you may create an alliance to get higher margins. And if you are a woman in a man's world, you do not have to play the ‘victim' strategy - you may use your understanding of people and negotiation skills to work to your advantage. Sometimes you win much more by trying to understand and work with your opponent than by beating him.

I believe the key to success always lies in selecting the right strategy, properly evaluating our assets and putting them to use at the right time. The most talented business people already know that sometimes you fight, sometimes you negotiate and sometimes you simply walk away and wait for another chance to come along. To be able to do that, we have to fully know and understand our personal resources and gain as much knowledge about the other party as possible. We also have to consider whether the timing is optimal. The Chinese knew a long time ago that the one who is able to evaluate these parameters and choose the right strategy will always win. And there is one more important factor - the ‘surprise' factor. When we change our strategies, we get ahead simply as a result of surprising our opponent. Let me give you a few examples. If we always apply the confrontation and force strategy, others have the advantage of being prepared for it. If we change our standard behaviour to being cooperative and understanding, we may take the other party by surprise and persuade them to work with us. Another example - being a woman in investment banking is not a piece of cake. It is still a man's world. You are expected to be tough and aggressive to succeed. However, you do not have to become a man in a skirt to be promoted. Surprise your colleagues by using your negotiation skills and empathy for others to solve problems with no bloodshed. Look at your client from a human point of view. Who knows? They actually may appreciate this approach and let you work successfully with them.

Whatever position we hold, whatever gender we are, whatever we try to win, it is worth listening to the ancient Chinese - they won many wars wisely!


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