The Seven Habits for Attraction Leaders – Part Four: Think Win-Win!


In today’s business world, winning is everything and competition is fierce. We often run our attractions as if they were a sports team rather than a business.  We've got to win regardless of the collateral damage. We sign business deals, hire employees, and interact with our Guests, with the mindset that one group is the clear winner over the other. However, in the paradigm of interdependence, winning is a two-way street. We must think Win Win in order to be wildly successful at what we do.

The philosophy of Think Win Win is about personal character and collaboration. Instead of one party prevailing over the other, Think Win Win means that we can find common ground on which both parties win. That means both parties come away having gotten something positive from the dealing.

Think for a moment about how you might expect your supervisors or managers to approach a guest conflict situation. Do you approach the guest on the defensive? Do they fall all over themselves to apologize to the guest and then issue a refund? Or does the situation resolve itself with both sides getting something out of it?


In the early part of my career, I was fortunate enough to have an internship at SeaWorld San Diego. During a shift in Guest Relations, we received a call from the Lead at Shamu Stadium that an irate family was on their way to the Guest Relations Lobby. When the family came into the lobby, Dad immediately began to yell:

DAD:              That whale intentionally soaked us!

US:                 I’m so sorry. Where were you sitting?

DAD:              Down in the first few rows. Those spots and a few all the way up at the top of the stadium were the only spots left. We didn’t want to be that far away.

US:                 I’m so sorry that you didn’t hear the splash zone warnings. We have a washer and dryer on premises and we can provide you with clothes to wear while your clothes are being laundered.

DAD:              Not acceptable. My daughter is traumatized. She cries now every time she hears the name Shamu.

DAUGHTER: Daddy, I didn’t cry!

DAD:              Quiet honey! Not only do I want you to dry our clothes, I want our money back and I want to be able to stay in the park for the rest of the day.

At that point, we needed manager approval…so we called in our manager who heard the story once more and proceeded to give the guest exactly what they wanted—a refund and the ability to stay in the park. I have always felt that we were played and that this was not the best outcome for either side.


Back in the early 90s and just after the opening of the Luxor Hotel, I witnessed an awful exchange between a guest and supervisor that I will never forget. The guest was upset about something with regards to the experience they had received. I don’t recall the details of why the guest was so upset. What I do recall is that the Guest was simply trying to explain the situation to the supervisor. The trouble was that they supervisor seemed to be unaffected, staring blank-faced at the guest. No empathy. No compassion. Almost robotic.

As the conversation grew more and more heated, the Guest’s face got redder and redder. I truly believed that because of the Attraction Supervisor’s lack of empathy, that Guest was going to drop dead at any moment from a massive heart attack. Finally, the Attractions Supervisor gave in and issued the Guest a refund for their trouble. I just remember thinking why was it necessary to let the Guest get so worked up before doing something about it. He just wanted to be heard.

Is your refund policy tied to how upset the Guest in front of you becomes?  Or is it tied to specific qualifiers as a means of keeping things a little more black and white?

Think Win Win.

When both sides can agree to the terms of the agreement, it’s called Win-Win. I believe that the foundation of Win-Win is to hear the other side out, to listen attentively, and to demonstrate an understanding of their concerns. (This is actually Habit FiveSeek First to Understand, then to be Understood--which we will go into more detail with next Monday.) As I eluded to in my SeaWorld story, I always prefer to provide the guest with tickets to return to the park at a later date than to issue a refund. However sometimes, the guest might be visiting from abroad and will not have the opportunity to return in the near future. When offering comp tickets does not make sense, find another way to WOW them.

At Jungle Island in Miami, we would often arrange for a private meet and greet with one of our Capuchin Monkeys to thrill and delight an upset guest. Finding an agreeable solution begins with listening and understanding; it ends with promising to fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again and then offering a common-sense resolution designed to flip the negative situation into a positive one.

The chart below shows how each of these different guest conflict scenarios might play out between an Organization and a Guest:

No Deal.

Not all outcomes fit into the matrix shown above. The fifth outcome—called No Deal—is what happens when neither side can agree on the solution. With no deal, both the Organization and the Guest might agree that no suitable agreement can be found. Perhaps tempers are too high and everyone is simply too close to the situation. In this scenario, both parties look to the other and say “I’m sorry, this deal just won’t work. I don’t think we can do business at this time.”

This is what Ronald Reagan did at Reykjavik during the Nuclear Arms Summit in the mid-eighties. When neither Reagan nor Mikael Gorbachev could resolve their differences, Reagan simply walked away from the table. Talks broke down and there was no deal at Reykjavik. One year later, terms acceptable to the United States and to the Soviet Union were finally agreed upon and an arms deal was signed. No Deal ultimately became Win-Win once it became clear that neither side was willing to lose.

How do you get to Win-Win in your organization?

Are there times where either your organization loses or the guest loses? In these cases, what could be done differently?

Is there ever an opportunity in a heated discussion for ‘No Deal’ where both the Guest and the Organization might agree to table the discussion to a later date?

"Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It's not logical; it's psychological."

Stephen Covey