Competition In The Work Team By Dawn Sward Pastores
Human beings are competitive by nature. Psychologically we are driven to compete with ourselves and others as a way to survive. Competition in many ways, serves us well, and has for millennia helped us to create the civilized cultures of modern civilization.
Competition can be fun. In fact, athletic contests are centuries old and give great pleasure to millions of people around the world. We have created knowledge based competitions such as spelling bees and trivia games that bring great excitement to the participants and most every child has experienced some form of organized competition…so this is valued in our culture and it is important in many respects and yet I submit to you that a highly productive work environment is created best where competition amongst the team members is limited.
Limited intra-team competition creates a stronger team because people can actually depend on one another as an ally. TV reality shows are often examples of competition running amok. People create “alliances”, when in reality people are secretly (or in the case of these shows not so secretly) vying for supremacy. They build fake relationships that get each person further along in the game, but then use those same relationships to create strategies against one another.
Competition is created by developing a sense of power imbalance, by giving someone the impression they will have more than the other…more of anything. More time, money, attention, material goods…etc. This perceived imbalance, when exploited, amongst a group of people that MUST perform their work function together, over the long term, has a negative effect on morale and therefore productivity.
The two employees standing at the coffee counter gossiping about the 3rd employee are not creating an alliance; they are creating a common enemy. This kind of communication amongst people is common place and as such often gets over looked, however, if employee 2 needs employee 3 to get their job done, how effective is this? Not very. Unfortunately they do this because it serves them. As a leader, we have to stop allowing that behavior to succeed, stop encouraging an environment where this behavior succeeds.
Creating a team of collaboration, where EVERY person on the team holds equal value, requires strong leadership. By creating equal value, the leader has eliminated the power imbalance. The release of the imbalance creates a serenity to simply do the work. A leader who can instill this sense of serenity is a special leader indeed.
Many workplace incentive programs are based on the success of one employee over another, the creation of the power imbalance. The question a strong leader needs to ask is what is the desired outcome? Is the desired outcome to have 1 exceptional employee or the achievement of the mission?
In this work environment, a collaborative leader will:
- Be an exceptional listener
- A sharer of knowledge
- A communicator
- A coalition builder
- A passionate communicator of the vision
- Conflict mediator, negotiator
- A person willing to make mistakes; and a person who allows others to make them too.
- A person who believes in doing the RIGHT things
- A person who believes in the value of each person on the team for each contribution made.
Watching a sports talk show I noticed how often a team was reported to have won the competition and then 1 MVP was picked for the game. The MVP generally did some great things on the field of play. There is no doubt they showed some skill and determination, they probably scored the points, although once in a while a defensive player will get the MVP too. Here is the point, in a team sport; the 1 great player couldn’t do their great stuff if it wasn’t for the support of the team. The thing to think about is the person who made the assist, the tackle that made the game winning run possible, the cyclist who drafted for the MVP and so forth. These things made the MVP’s success possible.
Your work team is the same. Create a sense of personal competition, competing to best themselves in performance, but not against another employee. Lead them to recognize that every person has strong and weak attributes. Allow them to trust that a weakness doesn’t mean they are vulnerable to attack, but that the team will support them and shore up that weakness. In that trust they can develop the relationships they need to collaborate, to create and innovate. The leader sets the tone, are you competing or collaborating?
Who is Dawn Sward Pastores, M.A? Dawn is a mother of two young girls, 11 and 9, wife to one. She lives in the Portland Metro area and operates DSP Consulting from her Sherwood Office. She has worked for over 20 years in organizational development. Dawn has a Masters degree in Management, is certified to mediate workplace conflict and is a certified referral coach. Dawn can be reached via email. You can also contact Dawn at her website as well as on Twitter. Dawn is also a contributing author to the bestselling book Masters of Sales.
Thanks, Dawn, for contributing to our continuing #bealeader Real Leaders, Real Issues Series.