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End the Internal Competition Today for Greater Success Tomorrow

By Mark Eaton

In the NBA, when anyone on the basketball team is playing for himself rather than the team as a whole, failure is eminent. In business, when anyone 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, many people are confused about what a team is and how to create one. Realize that a group of people working together is not a team. NBA 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.

So what’s the difference between a group of people and a team? Groups are committed to an ideal, goal or person; teams are committed to each other. Where are the commitments in your company?

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 well-being 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 internal competition, 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 30 points per night on a losing team. Think about how why that saying holds true in business, too. 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 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. The key is to end 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?” – it’s time to create a mindset shift in your organization. The following suggestions will help.

1. Create a team philosophy: Management has to embrace a team philosophy that if everyone pulls together, everyone will get what they want. Realize that an employee or manager’s value is directly related to the company’s success. Think about it …who wants to promote someone from a losing department? If you want to advance, show your commitment by making sure those around you advance. Additionally, management has to reinforce this ideology on a daily basis by communicating the team philosophy regularly and by meeting with staff individually to explain how adopting the corporate goals and values and sticking together will help everyone. Equally important is to make the communication real. People want to help but they often lose the personal connection in the midst of too much bureaucracy and end up focusing on just hitting “numbers.” Since this is a behavior and a mindset shift, it’ll take 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.

2. Instill a sense of camaraderie and team spirit: You can’t have a true team if everyone always stays to themselves in their offices 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 reinforce the team concept. You may hit some initial resistance to this idea, but keep pushing. Team spirit does not just happen; you must nurture it. 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.

3. Get team members to commit to others consciously and verbally: Once your group feels good about the members of the team, the next step is to ask for a greater commitment. Remember, to have a true team, people must be committed to each other, not just an ideal, goal or person. 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. This is critical to gain momentum. Discuss what the individual benefit would be if the team succeeds. Keep in mind 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 commitment in writing. This will give you something to refer back to when there are breakdowns. Most breakdowns occur because the commitments to each other have been lost along the way. By reminding people of their promises and the benefits of committing to helping others, you can restore balance and move to the next level.

Remove Obstacles – Create Success: While a little external competition with outside companies is healthy and keeps your employees on their toes, internal competition among team members and departments is a sure path to challenges and setbacks. So if you want your company to succeed now and in the future, end the internal competition once and for all. Foster a sense of team commitment that goes beyond a promise to “hit the numbers.” When you get people committed to each other first and foremost, you pave the way for future profits and create a company culture that breeds success.

Read other articles and learn more about Mark Eaton.

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