There is a competitive aspect to every work environment. Whether it’s trying to win a sales contest, a promotion, the highest ratings, or sometimes even just keep a job, competition is everywhere. And we, by nature, are competitive creatures. Think you’re not competitive? Think again. If you really need to prove it to yourself, just ask a friend to hold your head under water for ten minutes, and you’ll see how competitive you become after about the first minute.
“What about teamwork?” you may ask. A lot of organizations spend a lot of time and money focusing on cooperation – not competition. The emphasis is on ‘teams’ – not individuals. Teamwork, of course, is critical to a productive work environment. But operating in a team doesn’t remove competition. It simply redefines it. After all, a team is best defined as ‘a group of individuals working independently and interdependently toward a common goal.’ When a team achieves a goal, they succeed. When they don’t, they fail. Sounds a lot like competition to me.
Wanting to win is a good thing (assuming that your end goal is not something nefarious), and most people have a lot of respect for competitors. But long term success is more dependent on how you win than it is just winning. Take, for instance, two sports stars being interviewed after a game. The first goes on a five minute monologue about how great he is, and all of the great things he did. The second talks for five minutes about how well the team played, and how fortunate he is to be surrounded by such great people. Which one is setting himself up for longer term success? Which one will get the endorsements, the support of the fans and the support of his teammates?
Which one becomes a better role model for youth and has a better options to stay in the sport after his playing days are over.
So, whenever you have a win, or whenever you accomplish something, always point your fingers outward to the people and conditions that allowed you to succeed. Don’t worry, you’ll still get the credit when it counts. Yes, you might desperately want to do your happy dance in front of everyone and shout “I rule!” but you’re really better off doing that when there’s no-one else around.