Winning with People

Winning with People

Winning with People, John C. Maxwell (Nashville: Thomas Collins, 2004).

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Winning with People Synopsis

In John C. Maxwell’s Winning with People, readers learn of the 25 principles around relationships that are the foundation for success. These principles are broken into five general categories of self-reflection, connecting with others, cultivating trust, investing in others, and building relationships. Following these principles can lead to more rewarding and enriching relationships with those around us. And arguably, the richness of our relationships is what is truly the cake of life.


The first set of principles focus on guiding individuals to turn inwards to understand whether they are ready for relationships. They require self-reflection on one’s past experiences and biases.

Lens principle – Who you are will determine the way you see things. For example, if you are a trusting person, you will believe others are trustworthy until proven otherwise. The reverse works the same. Thus, if you want to change the way you view people, you must look to change yourself first.

Mirror principle – To avoid damaging relationships with those around us, we need to build a level of self-awareness. To do this, we must develop the truths about ourselves within our self-awareness, self-image, self-honesty, self-improvement, and self-responsibility.

Pain principle – People who lash out at others are often dealing with something within themselves. This principle is important, both as a self-reflection of how you may react in times of distress and how you treat others when they are in their time of distress.

Hammer principle – When facing a problem, recognize that there may be more than one solution to solve the problem. Instead of reacting in the same fashion to each problem, take a step back and think about your reaction.

Elevator principle – Lifting up those around you requires that you intentionally give yourself to those people. Be purposeful with when you do this, and people will respond.

Connecting with others

In order to build relationships, we need to be open to connecting with others. This means focusing on their needs and desires rather than our own.

Big picture principle – This principle is for those who want to be less self-centred and self-serving. It requires people to check their ego at the door and get out of their own little world.

Exchange principle – Practicing empathy is how we develop a deeper understanding of our relationships. Therefore, instead of putting people in their place, one should try to put themselves in the other person’s place.

Learning principle – Always practice curiosity when meeting new individuals. Taking a genuine interest in others will help open them up to connecting with you.

Charisma principle – Being interested in others will draw them to you. Taking steps from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People will teach you the keys to connecting with others. Some examples the book teaches include remembering people’s names, smiling, and making other people feel important.

Number 10 principle – This principle holds that we should treat everyone as if they are at their best potential. Believing in people is the best way for them to reach their potential.

Confrontation principle – Leaders should spot and resolve conflict as soon as they see it. This is because conflict can spread like cancer within an organization. Confrontation is a good option, but only if you genuinely care about the person. Otherwise, one should seek other methods to resolve conflict.

Building mutual trust

Trust is one of the key cornerstones of all relationships, even in business relationships. Without trust, our relationships are merely connections that dwindle at first conflict.

Bedrock principle – In order for a leader to function, they need trust from their followers and or their colleagues. As a result, leaders need to focus on how to earn and build trust with those around them. The best place to start building trust is by being honest with yourself. It is also important to note that trust requires constant maintenance to upkeep. You need to actively engage with your relationships in order to maintain bonds of trust.

Bob principle – Some organizations have a problem starter – someone who seemingly has a problem with each person. For these individuals, exercise empathy and demonstrate concern. Nudge the individual to resolution, especially if you are one who has an existing relationship with them that is strong.

Situation principle – This principle, simply put, is relationships over principles. Situations, such as disagreements and conflicts, can resolve and will usually blow over. Relationships are more valuable and take longer to cultivate. Those who find themselves prioritizing situations over relationships do so because they may have lost their perspective. Always take a step back to see the bigger picture. And always remind yourself of why your relationships are valuable in the first place.

Approachability principle – To connect with others, one must be able to put the other person at ease. To cultivate approachability, one should try to take a genuine interest in people and appreciate people’s differences. Moreover, they should be consistent in their mood and sensitive to other people’s feelings.

Foxhole principle – This principle talks about having friends who will go to war with you (and who you would go to war for). The reality is that not everyone you befriend will become a “foxhole friend.” Instead, you will only ever truly have a few allies like this. Invest in these friendships as they bring comfort and are priceless.

Investing in Others

You have to cultivate your connections in order for them to become meaningful relationships. Here are the principles for investing in others.

Gardening principle – Like the name, this principle refers to the idea that you need to cultivate your relationships for them to be fruitful. Not all relationships require the same levels of energy to grow. Pick the ones that are important to you and commit, communicate, and make memories.

101 percent principle – The reality is that not everyone is meant to connect. In the face of working with someone that you do not naturally gel with, find one or two things to agree on. Do this in place of finding things to disagree on, which is the natural and competitive response.

Patience principle – Any good relationship takes time to build. Prioritize patience with your relationships to allow them to flourish. Respect that everyone goes at their own pace, which may mean having to wait.

Celebration principle – This principle encourages one to be excited about another person’s success. Recognize that any other emotions will breed resentment along with envy, jealousy, and insecurity.

High-Road principle – Quite simply, sometimes it is important to treat others better than they treat us. In comparison to the low or middle road, the high-road is what builds relationships. It is also what will draw others into us.

Building the relationship

Boomerang principle – Thou who gives shall also receive. Thus, helping others is a great way to help yourself. Those who have a desire to help those around them become great and tend to become enriched themselves.

Friendship principle – Never underestimate the power of friendship. The strongest business relationships come from those who like your business, and more importantly, like you.

Partnership Principle – There is the saying if you want to go fast go at it alone; if you want to go far go together. Finding a group of like-minded individuals to take your journey with you will not only improve the experience it will also improve the output.

Satisfaction principle – Great relationships are the relationships where being together is simply enough. These relationships start as healthy relationships. The four factors that contribute to a great relationship include: sharing moments to create bonds, growing together, mutual respect, and unconditional love.

Key takeaways

  • Individuals who invest in connecting, building, and maintaining their relationships are often successful and are satisfied with their lives.
  • In order to have healthy relationships, one must be willing to perform the self-reflection needed to overcome personal biases and fears.

Winning with People Author: John C. Maxwell

John Calvin Maxwell is an American public speaker and pastor. He is also the author of multiple books, including The New York Times Best Seller 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Maxwell has spoken at multiple notable events, such as the National Agents Alliance (NAA) Leadership conference. He was named, by Inc. Magazine, the No.1 expert in leadership and management in 2014.

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Professional Leadership Institute (PLI) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical leadership education. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional PLI resources below will be useful:

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