Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Good and Bad of Competition

One of my favorite feeds is the Connected Principals site.  This site has lots of weekly ideas from prinicpals around North America.  The other day I came across a bit by Johnny Bevacqua, call Collaboration and Competition, and I was intrigued by Johnny's thoughts about the detriments of competition in a collaborative environment.

Competition without collaboration promotes closed systems.  It closes classroom doors and prevents innovation and new ideas.  A focus on competition can lead to an undermining of the common good, the narrowing a common vision and atrophy the growth within schools (and organizations).  Competition at all costs, can undermine the efforts between those who actually share a common purpose.

Leaders must be in tune to the emotions, confidence and needs of the people within the organization.  If trust is an issue on the campus, leaders must construct competition in a way that forces people to rely on one another rather than compete with one another.  If teams lack confidence, leaders can't create competitions where these same teams can be labeled losers at the end of the race.  When people are at different places in their knowledge and experience, results can't be the way to determine who wins.

Here are some thoughts that I have about competition.

Competition is BAD for the Organization when:

  • Being THE Best is the Focus of the Competition
  • The Result is the Gauge
  • Losers are Labeled
  • Bitterness and Resentment become the emotions of the competition
  • Players become more isolated as a result.

Competition is GOOD for the Organization when:

  • Being YOUR Best is the Focus of the Competition.
  • Growth is the gauge.
  • Everyone has the Opportunity to Win
  • Satisfaction and Pride are the prevalent emotions of the competition.
  • Players become closer and more supportive of one another.
Throughout my life, I have been one of the most competitive people that I know.  I always strived to be the best at what I do and as a result, winning built my confidence while losing fueled my passion to improve.  Here's the reality.  Not all people are motivated by losing.  In fact, they are turned off by being labeled a loser.  The agony of defeat drives people out the door.  Leaders can't assume that the mantra of friendly competition helps everyone grow.

As leaders reflect on their own motivation behind competition, they often overlook the discouragement that others find in it.  In their attempt to build people up, they unintentionally shut them off .  By taking time to know the emotional needs of the people within the organization, leaders can create competitive situations that bring people together and keep them focused on the ultimate goal, actualizing the mission of their work. 

In short, competition is good when everyone becomes better at what they do and closer to the organization.  Competition is bad when it alienates people for not being the best at getting better.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed John. I always feel the need to check myself for this as well. I was an athlete that could easily find myself motivated by a loss or the need to be better. My coaches saw this in me and would often use it to motivate me. But I have come to realize that not everyone works that way and that sometimes a competitive state, especially within an organization can create fear and mistrust, and yes, even put a halt to collaboration. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here and I absolutely agree.