Friday, September 25, 2009

Guidelines for the Competitive

I am competitive. Actually, I am extremely competitive. Like as in; I really like to win. Like as in; I really have to win. Like; when my kids were young, my wife had to constantly coach and remind me to allow them to occasionally win when I played games with them. I play to win. I make mini competitions, even if only in my own head, within every project or activity. If I am alone – I compete against myself – i.e., last time I did my run in X minutes – now I'll go for less. If I am with someone else – even better – I find something, anything, to compete with them on.

You might think that I am a little extreme – I am. I play card games for keeps and have an insatiable desire to always gain the pole position at traffic lights. While I may be a little over the top, I know that I am not alone in the competitive mindset. I think that most, if not all, of us have this to some extent. I also think that there is value to being competitive. Why? It drives us to become better, to increase and improve. It causes us to stretch beyond what we would otherwise. This applies to individuals, personal relationships and organizations of any size, shape or form. Competition causes organizations to become more cost effective, more productive and more efficient. Competition is healthy and good.

However, as with anything in this world, taking a good thing too far can have negative consequences.

The "watch-out:" Competitive spirit overriding the benefit of the overall team.

Competition is good, beneficial and fun within the team only when it is fair, meaning: everyone on the team has the same equipment, knowledge and resources. When someone on the team gains a competitive advantage, which is kept to themselves – it moves from competition to selfish ambition.

The challenge for competitive people is to maintain the dividing line between the outside competitor (opposition) and teammates in check. I must keep the playing field level between my teammates and myself. If I have information that they do not have, I must share it.

In a fair competition, it is gratifying to come out on top. Winning at the expense of your own organization is destructive.


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