End the Competition
THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS
End the Internal Competition Today for Greater Success Tomorrow
By Mark Eaton
The difference between a group and a team. In the NBA, when a player on a basketball team is playing for himself rather than the team as a whole, failure is eminent. In business, when a key player in the company has an “I” mentality, it’s only a matter of time until failure creeps into the organization.
In any group endeavor, success is not about discipline—it’s about teamwork. Without teamwork, people don’t cooperate, collaborate or innovate.
Unfortunately, corporate America has created a great deal of confusion around the concept of teamwork and how to create a team. Professional basketball teams are not confused. They know what they have to do and they do it. Now it’s time for businesses to do the same.
The fact is that many employees have a sense of “I have to look out for myself.” People think they have to constantly defend themselves and watch their space. As such, they’re more concerned about their own status or wellbeing than where the company is going, what the company’s goals are and how those goals are going to be met.
As long as people are focused on the internal competition and are using all of their energy in that direction, the company won’t go far. Sure, the organization might make some short-term gains, but over the long-term the losses will outweigh any success.
In basketball there’s a saying that no one cares if you score thirty points a night on a losing team. Think about how that saying holds true in business. If your company is going downhill fast, who cares about any short-term profits? As long as you’re just looking out for yourself and trying to just beat your teammates, you’re going to lose the biggest game out there. You’re not going to be a star at the top of your industry.
Success only comes when you play as a team. When you’re focused on the internal competition—on what this person is doing or what that person said—you have a team that’s divided. Like an internal cancer, divisiveness kills an organization and drains company profits. The key is to end such internal competition and get everybody aligned with “this is where we’re going.” Once that happens, the individual accolades will follow.
If people on your team just can’t seem to get past the “I” mentality—if they can’t stop asking, “Why should I help these guys? What are they going to do for me?”—then it’s time to create a mindset shift in your organization. The following suggestions will help.
Create a team philosophy
Management has to embrace a team philosophy that if everyone pulls together, everyone will get what they want. An employee or manager’s value is directly related to the success of the company. Who wants to promote someone from a losing department? You want to advance? Make sure those around you advance. They then have to reinforce that philosophy on a daily basis. Communicate the team philosophy on a regular basis and also meet with staff individually to explain how adopting the corporate goals and values will help them as well. Make it real. People want to help but often lose the personal connection in the midst of too much bureaucracy and focus on just hitting numbers. Remember, this is a behavior and a mindset that takes time to turn. It’s a lot like turning a battleship—slow and steady progress gets you to your goal. Yes, it’s a new direction, but it’s one that can inspire teams to perform at levels greater than they knew possible. It’s a philosophy that’s well worth the effort to put in place.
Instill a sense of camaraderie and team spirit
You can’t have a true team if everyone always stays to themselves in their office and only interacts with each other during weekly meetings. In order to consistently reinforce this sense of team, you need to have everyone come together for some group time. You can do this in a variety of ways: Take everyone out to dinner once a month, engage in a team building retreat, start a company softball team…do anything to get everyone out and together as one unit. Create the scenarios and language that reinforces the team concept. You may hit some initial resistance but keep pushing. Team spirit does not just happen, it must be nurtured. And don’t always talk shop during these social gatherings. You will find that creativity will flow much better in the days following the events, when everyone is feeling more connected.
Get Team members to commit to others consciously and verbally
Once you have your group feeling good about the team, the next step is to ask for a greater commitment to each other and to the corporate values. This is critical to gain momentum. When everyone is connected, there will be an opportunity to take the conversation to the next level. Plan this ahead of time and get everyone to sit and discuss what the next level would look like and how to get there. Also discuss what the individual benefit would be to a part of the team. Remember that not everyone is focused on money or career advancement. For many folks, gaining a greater sense of job satisfaction may be the missing link. Once there is consensus on the goals and benefits of operating as a team, ask for their promise in writing. This will give you something to refer back to when there are breakdowns. Most breakdowns occur because the team philosophy has been lost along the way. By reminding people of their promises and the benefits of team, balance can be restored.
And that is the difference between a group of people and a team!