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Four Way Wins

28 March 2023

Geof revisited Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, by Stewart D. Freidman. Freidman’s book introduces an alternative to “work- life balance” called Four Way Wins. Geof participated in a leadership workshop based on Total Leadership last week, deepening his understanding of the framework.

Tags: balance, geof read, leadership

Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, by Stewart D. Friedman of Wharton’s School of Business was published more than 20 years ago, however, the message still resonates today. I had the pleasure last week of participating in a Total Leadership workshop in Barcelona with a group of senior leader clients from around the world. For those not familiar, Total Leadership is a framework for “creating sustainable change to improve performance in all parts of one’s life: self, family, work, and community.”

Four Way Wins

The goal of Total Leadership is to create value across all four domains of our lives, including self, family, work, and community. This is a shift from “work-life balance” which is often a zero-sum gain. While one may balance “life,” it will come at the expense of “work” and vice versa. Instead, Four Way Wins creates harmony and value across all four of a leader’s domains.

My Four Way Win

A Four Way Win I celebrated years ago was when I coached field hockey for a youth club in Richmond, Virginia. My daughters both played, and I volunteered to coach the younger of my two. Coaching created Four Way Wins across all my domains. In terms of my family domain, I was able to spend time quality time with my daughters at weekly practices, monthly regional tournaments, and annual national tournaments. If you have teen kids, you know how hard it is to maintain and nurture meaningful relationships, competing for time with their friends and interests. Field Hockey was the foundation of our relationship. In terms of my community domain, I had the pleasure of coaching (and hopefully positively impacting) the lives of hundreds of kids in the club. Nurturing and encouraging their skills with a focus on development and teamwork. I still run into the families of players years later. In terms of my self domain, I joined an adult club to better learn the sport, which helped me get into shape, learn a new sport and enhance my own athletic skills. And finally, from a work domain, the leadership skills I learned engaging teens were transferable to work.

The Total Leadership system introduces an approach to create Four Way Wins, including Be Real, Be Whole, and Be Creative.

Be Real

Being real is “acting with authenticity by clarifying what’s important.” This phase of the approach includes an exploration of your values and personal leadership vision. According to Total Leadership, by articulating your own values you can clarify what is important to you and help focus and provide direction to your actions. Returning to my field hockey Four Way Win, coaching aligned with my values of continuous self-improvement, teaching others and learning. My values provided direction and focus to the activities I chose. 

Think of an important event in your life and its impact.  How did the event shape your values today? Reflect on which values are most important, how you are upholding them, and what choices you make to align with your values.   

Be Whole

Being whole is “acting with integrity by respecting the whole person.” This starts by identifying those people who matter the most to you across your domains. Who are the most important people to you in your family domain, your community domain, and your work domain? Once you’ve identified those people most important to you, you can consider their compatibility with your values and vision (from the “be real” reflections).

This was, for many of the participants during our session last week, one of the most powerful parts of the approach. We began by identifying our most important stakeholders then reflected on what we believe they expected from us. By starting from an outside in view, and a place of empathy, we considered what our stakeholders expected from us. What did we believe our spouses, partners, kids, or parents expected from us? What did we believe our direct reports, peers, or managers expected from us? What did we believe members of our community (friends, fellow club members, etc..) expected from us? We were encouraged to put ourselves in the shoes of our most important stakeholders. Then we were asked to rate ourselves on how well we believed we were doing on meeting their expectations. 

We then took an inside out view and reflected on what we expected from those same stakeholders. Comparing and contrasting these two points of view, inside out and outside in, helped the group evaluate compatibility and alignment of our stakeholders across our domains. We had greater insight into how well aligned we were with the stakeholders in our family, work, and community domains and found opportunities for greater alignment.

Be Innovative 

Being innovative is acting with creativity and continually experimenting with ways to create Four Way Wins. Experimentation is key during this phase of the approach. Big changes are an accumulation of small wins. Experiments allow us to create small, measurable activities that lead to Four Way Wins.  For example, a participant in the session last week wanted to begin preparing meals with their family to teach themselves how to cook (self), enjoy meals with their kids (family), and relax after work (work). The first step in the experiment was to begin researching recipes with their family. By starting small, the participant could adjust their learning with minimal risk as well as start to evaluate the benefit to their other stakeholders. For example, does cooking at home serve the interest of their kids (an important stakeholder)? 

I encourage you to reflect on the phases of the Total Leadership approach, and:

  • Consider your personal values, and how they contribute to your personal leadership vision and “being real.”
  • Engage with your important stakeholders and find ways to “be whole” and align and respect one another’s expectations.
  • Experiment with Four Way wins, and “be innovative” in how you practice leadership not just at work, but across all your domains.  


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