Winning At All Costs?
It feels good to win. Winning delivers a sense of accomplishment. A desire to win can drive us to reach, and exceed our goals, and, in a competitive business environment, winning can be seen as a reward for all our hard work.
But what about winning at all costs? When winning becomes more important than the people around you?
Last year, I took part in a four-day fundraising trek climbing Mount Toubkal, part of the Atlas Mountains in North Morocco. It was an arduous but thoroughly enjoyable experience, which combined breath-taking sunrises and stunning scenery, with a freak hailstorm and torrential rain, in a journey that would have put Indiana Jones through
Making the hike with a group of 12 friends and clients, for me, one of the most interesting parts of the whole experience was how the different personalities in the team ada
pted to the challenge. How, for some team members, being ‘first’ was more important than helping those that had become injured.
Indeed, having slipped on the way down, fracturing three ribs, I completed my journey successfully due to a lot of painkillers and the help of my less competitive team members to get me off the mountain! With no complaint or hesitation, these wonderful people supported me as, what should have been a five-hour hike turned into a 10-hour endurance test.
Just as intriguingly, once back at the village for a celebratory meal, our group automatically segmented into those who had stayed, and those driven to finishing first. The experience left me questioning: do our different personality types and behaviours unintentionally lead to collaboration or division? And, how does this translate into the business environment?
It seems that the highest point of North Africa is not that different to offices across the UK when it comes to leadership and team dynamics.
So, what type of person are you. In such a situation, would you stay back and help others, or would you have to win? And, what does this say about you, your style of leadership and your team dynamics?
There are, of course, many different leadership styles and, what works for your business and industry might not be what works for another. What’s more, a competitive attitude can result in heightened performance, and, a degree of (healthy) competition improves the standard for all of us. However, what I learned during my Mount Toubkal experience, is that in many cases, the sole driver for such behaviour is the individual themselves. That even without external goals and pressures, some people simply have an intrinsic need to ‘win’.
The truth is, where winning is your only objective, problems will arise. And, in a drive to achieve what you perceive as success, you could actually cause damage to those around you.
Against such conflict, shared working can become extremely difficult. And, if you think people need to ‘toughen-up’ it’s worth realising that the ‘winning at all costs’ approach not only jeopardises relationships, but can also have a negative impact on business outcomes. Where people feel that in order for someone to win, they, or someone else must lose, this can lead to a defensive attitude, and an unwillingness to buy into or support new ideas and initiatives. Not exactly conducive to a successful business environment!
So I challenge you to ask yourself this: is losing the hearts and minds of your employees and colleagues really worth the win?
Perhaps even more difficult for the more competitive amongst us to accept, is that failing can actually be good for us. Sometimes, to be successful we need to be innovative and take (educated) risks. And sometimes these risks will fail. However by learning from our mistakes and identifying what went wrong, we can apply this insight to build stronger individuals and a stronger business.
Ultimately, winning in business matters, but how we do this matters more. As such, I’d encourage business leaders to adopt a more collaborative approach. One that considers the needs of others. Not only will this help those around you to feel more valued, but it will also lead to increased business success.
I’d call that a win-win.