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Why competition is killing your business



Advice | Leadership Advice | Management | Managing | Managing | Staff

By Loren Webb

Byline: Wendy Born

Any kind of competition within an organisation limits the ability for that organisation to reach its full potential.

There is no place for competition within the confines of a team, function or company.  Competition should be kept to external competitors as this provides the consumer with the best possible outcome, market conditions.   

When competition exists inside an organisation the results are silo’s, protectionism, poor behaviours and nepotism.  Internal competition also poses risks to employee engagement, productivity and profits and stress levels.  At a micro level employees stop talking to each other and sharing information, they become overtly nice, not wanting to upset or rock the boat. Gossip increases, passive aggressive behaviours such as agreeing to do something and then doing nothing afterwards, backstabbing or rumours and gossip ensue.

Neurologically we are hard wired to compete, it’s at the heart of our very survival as a human race. Generated from centuries ago when we had to be the fittest, strongest and healthiest to ensure our very survival. Today, we continue to compete for everything from sport, jobs and status through to winning the heart of our spouse. Our competition also includes surrounding ourselves with our tribes to ensure we have safety in numbers while competing against the next tribe, this is often described as “keeping up with the Jones’s”.  While survival of the human race isn’t really the priority it once was, intrinsically we remain competitive beings.

Competition has also become our default automatic action and you don’t need to look too far for examples. It can be as close to home as at home. Every time my family sits down to play a board game its as though we have all been given a shot of competitive serum.  Monopoly is the board game of choice in our house where we deliberately set out to send each other to the poor house as quickly as possible and by any means, rules or otherwise, possible.

In the workplace we see people openly throw their peers under the proverbial bus at a moment’s notice to ensure the focus shifts to how good they are doing by comparison.  Other examples include meetings being held deliberately excluding some team members, and I recall being told about one salesman specifically targeting the customers of a peer to ensure his targets were met to the detriment of the other branch.

Collaboration, on the other hand, sees things like information sharing, employees speaking up and challenging others without fear of retribution or reprisal, actions for the greater good rather than individual benefits and greater innovation and creativity in problem solving and decision making (Evans, 2017).

In order to collaborate we need to firstly trust.  We lose billions of dollars each year on low productivity, profits and shareholder returns as a result of our lack of trust in organisations (Covey, 2016).  Additionally, a study completed by Brown, Gray, McHardy and Taylor in 2014, found a positive relationship between trust in the workplace and financial performance, labour productivity and product or service quality in organisations.

The best way to achieve collaboration is through a shared common goal.  The kind of goal that everyone is 100% accountable for both individually and collectively.  In other words, if one fails everyone fails.  It’s also about ensuring that the right collaborative behaviours are taught to every employee, not just senior leaders.

Behaviours such as effective communication, the ability to engage in constructive debate without fear of repercussion or reprisal and providing a solid supportive environment for people to have a go.  All behaviours that require a level of self-awareness and a foundation of trust in which to survive.

It is critical that we eliminate internal competition while establishing and maintaining a culture of trust in our relationships, teams and organisations to ensure sustainability, longevity and financial success.  Imagine an organisation where we automatically went to collaboration instead of competition.  The potential is mind blowing.

Wendy Born helps leaders maximise their talent and strengths to achieve extraordinary results. As an engaging facilitator, coach and speaker, she works with executives, senior leaders and leadership teams to create high-performance organisations that deliver that WOW-factor. She is also the author of  ‘The Languages of Leadership’ published by Major Street. 

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