Win Ugly!

Published: Oct 21 , 2011
Author: Alan Smith

If, like me, you have been following the rugby world cup finals, you will have spent the last few weekends glued to the TV at an ungodly hour watching the world's best teams knock the hell out of each other in an attempt to lift the greatest prize in Rugby, the Webb Ellis trophy.

If also like me you are a supporter of the England team you will also be familiar with the phrase 'win ugly'. The phrase comes from Brad Gilbert, previously a mediocre tennis professional, who won ugly by disrupting his opponents using a variety of techniques from gamesmanship to relentless targeting the opponents weaknesses. Gilbert famously became the coach of Agassi and Sampras and helped them gain the psychological advantage in their game.

Martin Johnson the England coach had said in the build-up he wouldn't mind winning ugly as long as his side got the win - sadly Johnson has created the sort of England game even a mother would struggle to love.

You may or may not agree with this philosophy in sport. I have to admit a bias here. If you play with style (look at the Welsh glory in defeat with 14 men against a woeful and boring French side) I think you appeal to a very British sense of triumph despite defeat. Look at the relative success of Scott to Shakleton, a glorious ultimate defeat against an ugly tale of survival, and how that played in the British press during World War 1.

For the negotiator to win ugly may very well create problems further down the line. Beat your opponent to a pulp. Lie, cheat, misrepresent, have several bites at the cherry, and don't be surprised if you win the battle but lose the war.

There are surprisingly few negotiations in a business context where the outcome is purely transactional. Even the car purchase has repercussions in servicing and trade-in values.

Moreover winning ugly suggests a deal that means one of the parties is unhappy, unlikely to be creative in helping the relationship live and build value for the whole life of the contract or deal.

Win brutally if you must, but winning with style just might be a better long-term option.

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith
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