The Positive Energy Workplace Innovating Through Collaboration, Not Competition


In my last post about preparing for leadership in the year 2020, I talked about shifting your culture's mindset from "jobs" to "callings" and tapping into purpose to energize, fuel, and bring out the best thinking and intrinsic motivation in your employees. I also mentioned that part of the secret sauce to building a meaningful highly energized team (and organization) is to tap into the mindset of collaboration vs. competition.

Not only is this shift necessary to create great results and optimize the energy of your culture, it's essential in supporting your employees (and yourself) in clearing the mental energy required to do all the things that go with a mindset of competition and covering one's butt. After all, if I'm focused on competing with my peers and covering my butt, I'm likely spending a lot of mental bandwidth on how to do that and not focused on creating the best result. No one wins.

Competition can be healthy, but not at the expense of collaboration and contribution and creativity. Here are 3 ways to address facilitating the shift from competition to collaboration and contribution in a healthy manner.

Compete with yourself vs. others

Cultivate an environment that encourages people to compete with themselves instead of each other. How might you do this? Create structures that allow an employee to self-assess how they're doing against themselves at this point, and then this point, and then this point. Encourage self-reflection. Have them set intentions for what they want to do differently, where they want to be, what they want to learn over the next year (or month or week, you get the idea). Offer coaching and conversations to help them craft their own internal metrics.

Check your energy and intention in comparison discussions

Don't encourage external competition by comparing them to others with an energy of competition. If you must compare, do it by using a benchmarking mindset. "Ah, here's what George did with this year, what about this inspires you, and what would you like to step into? What would you like to learn from George?" In this case, George is being compared to another employee, but the tone, energy, and intention of it is about learning, benchmarking and curiosity vs. judgement, make wrong and competition. Whether these discussions are with your employee--or your leadership team talking about the employee, check the energy and intention you're holding as you dialogue. It will set the tone.

Build competition (with a side effect of contribution) intentionally into your success metrics

Competition can be a healthy thing when it's used as an intrinsic motivator or in service of others. Perhaps the competition is about how many people you (or your employee) helped be successful on your team. Instead of how successful were you and how much did you shine, what if the metric was "How many people did you help succeed, how many people did you help shine?" Oddly enough, when you put the attention there and the employee continues to show up, both end up shining brighter. And both have more mental and physical energy to focus on the right things, build a stronger team, and create healthy impact and the results that will likely exceed what you'd hoped for in the first place. Another bonus? It becomes an interesting competition when everyone is looking to make everyone else successful. Not bad.

Next week: Moving from abdicating ragged runners to accountable nourished spirits.

This article first appeared on on March 23, 2015

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